26 Oct 20

The new age of airports

During this fall’s Architecture + the City Festival in San Francisco, Woods Bagot had the opportunity to participate on a panel exploring the future of airports and how design can improve airport experiences in the age of a global pandemic. Woods Bagot’s SF-based principal and regional interior design leader, Katy Mercer, joined fellow collaborators, Ryan Fetters, principal and design director of Gensler, and William S. Duff, Jr., founder and managing principal of William Duff Architects. The panel was moderated by Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Sydnie Kohara.

The panel focused on their collaborative design of SFO Terminal 1, the Harvey Milk Terminal, and their ambitions to build on the pioneering efforts of SFO to design for future passenger experiences. Katy Mercer and panelists discussed some of the unique ways in which SFO invested in the local food and artist communities and how that contributed to the airport’s success.

In the 1970s, SFO set a new standard for the passenger experience with its launch of its now world class public art program and the airport’s dining amenities showcasing the Bay area’s best cuisines. SFO’s art and retail initiatives were credited for an increase in customer satisfaction and spending.

SFO’s recent work continues to build on its earlier success by reducing the barriers to entry for local artisans and retailers to showcase their wares at Harvey Milk Terminal by investing in the upfront costs of refurbishing the retail facilities. In doing so, this minimizes the out of pocket expenses for the local artisans.

The panel of designers also addressed notable aviation trends, such as the blurring of the delineation between food retail and the overall passenger experience, and how the global pandemic has served to accelerate the adoption of contactless purchasing technologies to create a stress-free passenger experience.

The Harvey Milk Terminal is proof of how good design and effective planning for the longevity and sustainability of the terminal has established the seventh busiest national airport as an important flagship for the region.