Charlotte Douglas International Airport


Charlotte, NC


Architecture, Interior Design, Planning


Two Green Globes

2020 AIA Richmond Design Award

2020 AIA Tampa Bay Design Award

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Over the past 20 years, Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) has become one of the busiest airports in the world. As a cornerstone of its long-term initiative to meet continued growth, CLT sought a 370,000-square-foot expansion and renovation of its main terminal lobby. Gresham Smith’s innovative solution marries a sense of place with smart design to accommodate passengers’ needs while helping the airport deliver a touch of Southern hospitality—Charlotte style.

square-foot expansion and renovation of main terminal lobby
square-foot curbside canopy
passengers surveyed about wayfinding
the steel canopy over the curbside outside the Charlotte Douglas International Airport terminal at dusk

Curbside Connections

One of the iconic design features of the expanded terminal experience is a soaring 150,000-square-foot curbside canopy. Lending a bright, airy feeling to the curbside area, the canopy keeps both loading and unloading passengers protected from the outside elements by covering the entire upper-level roadway. It also connects the terminal curbside and the existing rental car/hourly parking garage.

rendering of the expanded terminal lobby at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Capturing the Spirit of Charlotte

Designed to meet the needs of travelers with an emphasis on convenience, clarity and comfort, the terminal lobby expansion captures the unique spirit of Charlotte and its surrounding region. Doubling the size of the existing terminal to reduce congestion, the new terminal offers grand spaces, as well as enhanced wayfinding, circulation, baggage operations and technologies that meaningfully elevate the passenger experience at CLT.

rendering of the security checkpoint in the expanded terminal lobby at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Streamlined Security

The expansion is accented by clearly identified, open and acoustically treated environments to help reduce stress. Designed to make their presence known, the two primary security checkpoints eliminate any question of where they are or how busy they are. The reduction of five security checkpoints to three will not only increase TSA staffing at each point, but will also lead to greater efficiencies in passenger processing.

rendering of arriving passengers’ view when entering the expanded terminal lobby at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Emphasizing the Arrival Experience

Our concept for the new, expanded terminal uses converging pathways and strategically placed floor openings to provide a grand arrival experience designed to appeal to Charlotte residents and visitors alike. The focal point of the experience is the existing statue of Queen Charlotte—a prominent fixture at the airport that provided inspiration for the design. This regal landmark will be combined with comfortable seating and new concessions resulting in a relaxed meeting place for families and friends.

rendering of the renovated baggage claim area at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Enhanced, Intuitive Wayfinding

As more than 44 million passengers travel through CLT annually, we listened to a few of them—2,000 passengers to be precise—about what’s important to them when it comes to navigating the space. Based on surveys from customers, we came up with a wayfinding master plan to help travelers find their way without getting lost or confused, addressing the entire wayfinding experience—from the gateway to the gate areas.

mechanical equipment inside the central energy plant at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

An Airport Going Green

The terminal lobby expansion is designed to align with the Green Building Initiative’s (GBI) Green Globes for New Construction Certification: Two Green Globes, which focuses on environmental sustainability, resilience, and health and wellness. Our work on the airport’s central energy plant (CEP), which provides additional heating and cooling capacity to the expanded terminal lobby and will maintain comfortable temperatures while reducing energy consumption, already achieved Two Green Globes —the first CLT project to achieve this certification.

The design of both facilities includes a variety of sustainable features, such as interior lighting that reduces energy use by 39%, prefabricated, preassembled and modular products, a large canopy over the roadway that reduces heat island effect, and glazing on the north façade with low solar heat gain. Additionally, the construction process is diverting 95% of construction waste from landfills, reusing an estimated 24-40% of the interior structural system and an estimated 66-88% of the non-structural system.