Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority


Asheville, NC


Architecture, Interior Design, Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering, Planning, Experiential Design and Wayfinding


2019 SEC-AAAE Commercial Airport Architectural Project of the Year

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Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) is not only one of the fastest-growing airports in the country, but is also one of the fastest-recovering post-COVID airports in the U.S. With growth outpacing the capacity of AVL’s existing terminal building, Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority called on Gresham Smith to design a new, larger terminal to keep up with the rapid demand. Our design more than doubles the square footage of the current terminal and will provide flexibility in design to allow for enhancements and innovations as air travel evolves while serving the air service needs of western North Carolina for decades to come.

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lane security screening checkpoint
jetbridge gates
rendering of the new concourse at Asheville Regional Airport

A Modern Makeover

Originally built in the late 1950s, the AVL terminal building has undergone multiple additions and several interior remodels over the years. Our design expands and modernizes the existing single-story, seven-gate terminal into a two-story upper-level concourse, 12-gate terminal building spanning 280,000 square feet, which provides ample room for passenger flow and additional aircraft parking space.

a group of people standing and looking at inspiration images on poster boards

Determining the Vision

The program represents a major reimagining of the entire passenger experience at AVL. Therefore, our design solution needed to define the airport’s brand identity and vision for its future while also capturing the essence of western North Carolina.

To help achieve this, our team hosted a series of Design Visioning workshops featuring image “Mood Board” exercises with a variety of stakeholders, including our core airport leadership group, Friends of the Airport, community leaders, TSA, rental car agencies, airlines and more. We also worked with airport leadership to publish an online Public Engagement Survey, which generated 3,600 responses from AVL passengers.

Feedback from these sessions along with the Public Engagement Survey ultimately helped us to arrive at an overarching design principle: Create a modern gateway, humbly rooted in timeless natural beauty—which guided decisions throughout the entire design process.

a rendering of the new ticket counter at Asheville Regional Airport

Enhancing & Complementing

Our design includes an expanded, rightsized ticket lobby that supports emerging technologies, future airlines and much-needed queuing space for passenger check-in. An enhanced curbside creates a welcoming and exciting front door to the new terminal.

Expanded holdrooms and airside amenities such as new restrooms, club space, powered seating, and passenger boarding bridges at all gates will enhance the passenger experience. Materials and finishes will be selected to complement the building’s facade and the views to the surrounding mountain landscape.

aerial view of Asheville Regional Airport’s terminal before construction aerial view rendering of Asheville Regional Airport’s terminal after construction

Vistas & Improved Operations

The comprehensive expansion also includes a six-lane security checkpoint and a concessions court that will offer scenic views to the west of the airport. An expanded baggage claim area with new “sloped plate” devices, a reworked baggage system that includes new Check Baggage Inspection Systems, and an outbound baggage sortation system all round out the modernization of the terminal building.

Although our design focuses on AVL’s public-facing elements, the airport’s operational spaces were not forgotten. A new loading dock used for shipping and receiving will help organize and enhance airport operations by moving delivery vehicles off the public roadway. An energy-efficient central energy plant will support the new terminal building, along with the planned future expansion of the facility.

Our civil engineering team was responsible for creating the dedicated service road separating delivery routes from the traveling public. Their scope of work also included a stormwater drainage analysis of the entire site while creating a solution to maintain stormwater quality and flow, as well as modification to the ground transportation lot to enhance passenger flow, and a rework of the airport’s underground utilities to support the expanded building footprint and the new Central Energy Plant.