Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport was conceived on a Herculean scale when it opened in 1974. On a 27-square-mile site, the engineering / architecture firm of TAMS designed four terminals (of a once-planned 13), each with close to 40 gates, each intended as the ultimate in intermodal convenience. You motored to your terminal along a dedicated superhighway bisecting the airport and parked practically in front of your gate.
That great vision didn’t last. Airplane hijackings led to higher security, ending that easy passage to the gate. Later, those long, single-loaded terminals proved poorly adapted to the great numbers of transferring passengers that flooded DFW after American Airlines established its primary hub at the airport in 1981. Distances (both within and between terminals) proved to be too long.
Since almost three quarters of passengers arriving at DFW change planes, the $1.2 billion Terminal D represented the first opportunity to fix what has long ailed America’s fifth-busiest airport.
According to R. Clay Paslay, the airport’s executive vice president, Terminal D consolidates international arrivals and departures scattered previously in three terminals. Some of its 28 gate positions can be arranged to accommodate the new Airbus A380 superjumbo. Since 70 percent of international passengers will connect to domestic flights, the terminal programmed generous concession space, airport lounges, and even a 289-room Hyatt hotel for between-flight relaxing or business meetings.
The airport brought together three firms: architect/engineer HKS, which had a longtime relationship with the airport; the Dallas office of engineer/architect HNTB, with its decades of airport master-planning experience; and architect Corgan Associates, associated with American Airlines, still DFW’s dominant carrier. Concerned that such a forced marriage might not take, DFW instructed the firms to come up with an acceptable design in six months or be fired.