Cultural Movement

Vital Modernization Brings the Spirit of the Bay Area to the Region’s Largest Airport

Harvey Milk Terminal 1, Boarding Area B

Comprehensive upgrades to the outdated 1960’s facility encompass both its reconstruction and the addition of a 25-gate concourse to serve international and domestic operations. Incorporating next-generation building systems, the design anticipates forecasted leaps in traffic, aviation trends and the potential effects of rising sea levels. True to the values of its locale, the project is the world’s first LEED Platinum airport terminal. The design elevates the passenger experience and the very idea of how an airport can perform.

Boarding Area B creates a calm and curated journey from security to airside with improved passenger circulation and access to gates. Framed by high ceilings and abundant natural light, the generous central concourse features a new arrangement of intuitive wayfinding, advanced acoustics, controllable LED fixtures, art galleries, integrated technology, comfortable furnishings and food halls.

Talk to Katy Mercer about Harvey Milk Terminal 1

Project details

With a focus on local restaurateurs and regional products, the concessions program deploys a human scale in the concourse to replicate a street market. The mezzanine above offers sweeping views to the airline lounges housed on that level. A corridor allows international arrivals to proceed seamlessly to the adjoining wing of the International Terminal.

In addition to Zero Net Energy use, the airport’s leadership has set an ambitious goal of also achieving carbon neutrality and zero waste going to landfills. To that Triple Zero end, the project takes advantage of every innovation available, beginning with repurposing the existing Boarding Area B. Materials and systems were selected to have the least environmental impact, like carbon-sequestering concrete and nontoxic carpet tiles and finishes. Other features include a sophisticated baggage carousel and photovoltaic panels on the roof, which has been beta-tested at the airport’s other structures to generate the energy required for operations in the future. Radiant heating and cooling and five-carbon filter air filtration are both more efficient and make for a more comfortable environment. Integrated Building Management infrastructure will track these elements together, measuring energy and water use and adjusting equipment to optimal levels. When completed, the project will achieve a 70 percent reduction in energy use compared to other airports while accommodating 70 percent more passengers than the previous facility.

Emphasizing hospitality, the plan reimagines what a hold room can be. Instead of the traditional rows of identical seats, comfortable chaise lounge chairs are placed next to the main thoroughfare, beside groupings of chairs and high-top worktables—giving a range of seating choices. Floor-to-ceiling windows across the boarding area have sensors to change tint depending on light conditions, boosting comfort at all hours and reducing the need for air conditioning or artificial light.

Invoking the theme of “Bay Area Naturalism,” crafted materials like wood and stone flank passenger paths to conceive a tactility that is unmistakable of its place. In addition to celebrating the terminal’s namesake Civil Rights leader, Harvey Milk, site-specific murals and sculptures throughout showcase the region’s diverse culture. Those bolder interventions contrast with the neutral background color palette, helping to orient travelers within an overall sense of spaciousness.

San Francisco, California
San Francisco International Airport
46,000 square meters; 500,000 square feet
LEED v4 Platinum
HKS, ED2, and KYA
  • 2021 – Center for Active Design’s Fitwel “Best in Building Health®” Award
  • 2022 – AIA San Francisco’s People’s Choice Award
  • 2022 – International Partnering Institute’s Award 
  • 2022 – AIA California’s Climate Action Award
  • 2023 – America ByDesign Lumion People’s Choice Awards Finalist
  • 2023 – IIDA Northern California Honor Awards, Summit Award Winner

Talk to Katy Mercer about Harvey Milk Terminal 1