New Airport Terminal Will Reflect Pittsburgh’s DNA

For concept design, visionary architect adopts region’s best qualities: nature, technology and community

By Alyson Walls

Published February 20, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


Luis Vidal came to the Pittsburgh region the way many parents do – visiting colleges with his sons.

That was in 2015. Now, four years later, Vidal is the visionary architect behind Pittsburgh International Airport’s Terminal Modernization Program.

“I was impressed by how vibrant the city felt, how green it was, and how lively and welcoming the people were,” said Vidal, founder and executive president of luis vidal + architects. “I knew I would be back.”

In July 2018, Vidal, along with joint venture architectural and engineering firms Gensler and HDR, was selected to design the new terminal, which will consolidate PIT’s landside and airside operations into one facility adjacent to the current Airside Terminal.

Expected to open in 2023, the new terminal will be built between Concourses C and D and will improve the airport experience for nearly 10 million annual passengers.

To guide their work, the firms have been studying the region and taking inspiration directly from its rolling hills, rivers and green spaces, neighborhoods and communities, and the new economic diversity driving Pittsburgh’s renaissance.

Architect Luis Vidal, Founder and Executive President of luis vidal + architects, developed the concept of NaTeCo (nature, technology, community) to guide design of the new terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

The team adopted a uniquely Pittsburgh philosophy to guide their design: NaTeCo, which represents “nature, technology and community.” The concept will be revealed to media, airport employees and the public today as part of the annual State of the Airport event in Downtown Pittsburgh.

“This new terminal, inspired by the beauty, tech renaissance and people of our region, will integrate seamlessly into the brilliant design of the existing Airside Terminal,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis.

“In considering this design, we looked at function first, then form, to construct a building that will be both iconic and practical and that can be easily adapted as the technology and transportation needs of our community change.”

Specifics of the concept design, including square footage and precise building features, will be refined over the next phase of the project – Schematic Design – which is expected to run through summer 2019.

Though subject to change, the concept design currently features:

  • Separate levels for departing and arriving passengers and a non-public level for building systems, such as baggage belts
  • Additional space for an expanded TSA checkpoint
  • Shorter walking distances for arriving and departing domestic and international passengers
  • Indoor and outdoor green plazas and gathering spaces
  • Additional space for concessions, artwork and other amenities
  • Planning for technological improvements and more automated systems
  • Emphasis on sustainability

Engaging with the local community was a priority for Vidal and the design team.

“When you look at Pittsburgh, you can see it has a very strong heritage and that it has undergone a huge transformation to embrace a diversification of industries, including medicine, education, technology and robotics,” he said. “Those elements of nature, technology and community grabbed me during a number of visits, and very quickly, I understood that it was the DNA of the region.”

Vidal, who was the designer of London Heathrow Airport’s award-winning Terminal 2, noted that today’s airports are the front doors to regions – the first and last impression for visitors and those returning home. The most memorable facilities, he said, are tailor-made for their communities and cannot be “cut and pasted” from somewhere else.

“It’s important that we capture and embrace all those values and have them reflected in the building,” Vidal said. “We are committed to participating in the community in the construction of this new terminal to make a legacy for the region for many generations.”

Generations that could include his eldest son, now considering a graduate engineering program at Carnegie Mellon University.

For more on Pittsburgh International Airport’s Terminal Modernization Program, visit 

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