City of Atlanta Department of Aviation


Atlanta, GA


Architecture, Interior Design, Planning, Experiential Design and Wayfinding, Civil Engineering, MEP Engineering, Program Management, Landscape Architecture, Site Development


LEED Gold Certified

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When Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), one of the busiest airports in the world, needed a new modern international terminal and garage, Gresham Smith designed a timeless gateway to their world-class city. As part of a firm-led joint venture, we envisioned a fluid design, focusing on creating a space that was open, functional, efficient and environmentally conscious, while adhering to a tight budget and schedule. The LEED Gold certified, fast-track, multi-package project involved a 1.2-million-square-foot international gateway and concourse; a highly complex connector constructed more than 40 feet underneath the existing Concourse E; and a 1,300-space parking garage.

square-foot international gateway and concourse
space parking garage
reduction in energy consumption
the façade of the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with the air traffic control tower in the distance

Elevated Design

Creating a pleasant and memorable environment for passengers, the terminal is bright and airy with fluid design representing the natural path of travel. This is evidenced in its sleek, curved exterior and carries over into the gentle ceiling curves in the airport’s departure and arrival levels, as well as other areas of the facility. Along with creating a timeless gateway to the city, the team designed the terminal to accommodate future expansion to support anticipated passenger demand.

The Passenger Experience Reaches New Heights

International flight can be exhausting. The design helps move people quickly, efficiently and comfortably into the customs hall, which is a multistory, grand arrival hall, and the first space that passengers experience. To energize the terminal, we introduced design elements into secure passenger corridors that make travelers feel like they’re actually in a daylit space. Additionally, because this is an international terminal, there was a strong emphasis placed on concessions.

the ticket counter and bag check area at the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Helping Passengers Find Their Way

Our comprehensive signage and wayfinding program touched every aspect of the customer experience from gateway to gate. Working as a unified design and engineering team as well as with stakeholders, we created an intuitive and cohesive space. Even in one of the busiest airports in the world, we addressed the complex issues of passenger circulation and connectivity with a clean and minimal design. The project included roadway signage, entry pylons, parking garages, curbside, terminal wayfinding, gates, code-compliant ADA signage, baggage information systems, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection areas.

Went for Silver, Won the Gold

Despite the requirement to pursue LEED Silver, we went for the gold. The terminal achieved LEED Gold certification, with an estimated reduction in energy consumption of more than 14 percent from a baseline building. Large windows and skylights on the terminal’s upper floors help lower electricity costs and reduce heat buildup from light fixtures. Strategic high-performance glass placement, continuous insulation applications and superior roof insulation also increased energy efficiency. The baggage handling system uses sensors to continue operations only when needed and to condense the number of belts running when volumes are low. The new terminal reduces water usage by more than 50 percent through the use of low flow faucets with automatic sensors, low flow toilets with sensors and waterless urinals. An exterior cistern collects rainwater from the terminal roof and provides a more gradual filtration system back into the local river.

We are extremely pleased with the various sustainability initiatives utilized throughout the design process, and proud to give the City of Atlanta a terminal that is both aesthetically impressive and environmentally conscious. Jim Drinkard Assistant General Manager, Planning and Development, City of Atlanta Department of Aviation