Portland International Airport (PDX) was famously known for its teal, geometrically patterned carpet, which was sadly removed back in 2015. But now, PDX will be known for its recently completed, unique timber ceiling. ZGF Architects worked closely with PDX for 50 years and designed this transformation to last another half century. The Portland airport is becoming one of the first to be seismic-resilient and produce low carbon emissions, thanks to the 9 acres of native Pacific Northwest hardwood used in building the terminal’s ceiling. The lightweight hardwood will not collapse with high seismic activity, but will sway.
Gene Sandoval, leader of the project’s design team at ZGF, found many avenues leading to locally sourced wood. “We were able to discover [tree] farms that [have] sustainable practices, and Native American sustainable farms,” he says. Sandoval believes keeping it all local became important to the process, both for sustainability and for community. Sandoval wanted to show inclusivity and unity through the airport’s architecture. “[Wood] unites the urban and the rural,” he says. Under this ceiling, everyone is equal.
The construction team is currently assembling the ceiling over the main terminal, but you won’t see them if you’re catching your flight. According to PDX’s spokesperson Kama Simonds, the construction team only works at night to avoid inconveniencing baggage handling.
The renovation to PDX is energy efficient, sustainable, and decidedly local. It is on schedule to be completed and open to the public by 2024. When the main terminal does reopen, Sandoval advises travelers to take a deep breath and smell the wood.