Late last week, Telstar Logistics was invited to explore the new Terminal 2 at San Francisco International AIrport, a structure that will soon serve as the local base for Virgin America and American Airlines.
Construction of Terminal 2 is proceeding apace, and the building is expected to open in April 2011. From what we saw, it should be a very nice place to take to the skies. Designed by the Gensler architectural firm, the new Terminal 2 has registered to achieve LEED Gold certification for its high energy efficiency and low environmental imact.
In no small part, that sterling green rating comes from the fact that Terminal 2 recycles a pre-existing building that is actually the oldest terminal at SFO.
First opened in 1954, the Central Terminal (as Terminal 2 was called then) was a giant leap forward in SFO's evolution as a modern airport, as it replaced a quaint but inadequate terminal from the 1930s. Here's how the Central Terminal looked when it was new:
During the 1980s and 1990s, Terminal 2 served as the departure and arrival point for SFO's international flights. But with the opening of the airport's new International Terminal in 2000, Terminal 2 was shuttered for almost a decade. Now it is set to reopen, and we got a preview of what's to come.
When you arrive at the terminal, there will be an airy lobby awaiting you for ticketing and baggage check:
From there you'll enter the security screening area, where our friends at the TSA will give you an experience to remember, top to bottom, inside and out:
In the languid afterglow of your TSA encounter, you might find yourself craving a cigarette. Unfortunately, smoking is prohibited in all SFO terminal facilities. So instead, Gensler created a soothing "Recomposure Zone" were passengers can put themselves back together before proceeding to their gate.
When you again feel as fresh as a daisy, passengers will depart the Recomposure Zone and pass through a "Retail Street" to pick up a magazine, newspaper, or high-end personal hygiene product:
The Retail Street then opens onto a central atrium en route to the boarding gates. SFO veterans will recall that this part of Terminal 2 used to be a triangle-shaped outdoor courtyard. That's now been roofed-over, with lots of windows installed, to create a magnificent space drenched in lovely, natural light.
There will be restaurants located around the perimeter of the atrium.
In a disappointing bit of news, Terminal 2 will NOT feature a revived outlet of the Pancake Palace, which offered air travelers at SFO fourteen varieties of pancakes served in a "regal early San Francisco setting." From this very location!
Oh well. Such is progress, we suppose. Instead, we'll get an Andalé Mexican restaurant and a Pinkberry frozen yogurt outlet, among others:
In a thoughtful touch, the flow of the space in the new atrium will direct diners toward a Y-shaped Communal Table located at the center of a shared seating/dining area.
One of Gensler's architects told Telstar Logistics that Virgin America played an advisory role in the design of the new passenger waiting area, and that Virgin had explicitly requested that this part of the terminal exude a "club-like atmosphere."
Upon hearing this, we tried to resist, but could not: "Does that mean there will be loud techno music and young people on ecstasy getting sick in the bathrooms?" we asked innocently.
The Gensler architect shot us a look, then smiled. "No." he said with scrupulous politesse.
To feel club-like, he explained, Terminal 2 emulates the schwanky (and private) Red Carpet Clubs enjoyed by frequent fliers. There will be lots of comfy seating, with free Wi-Fi and power outlets aplenty, and most of the boarding gates will be visible from the central lounge area, so passengers will find it easy to know when its time to put down their drinks and get on the plane.
Indeed, we were told that the lounge area will even include a 10,000 square-foot cocktail bar, which suggests that we were not entirely off-base in our interpretation of what that "club-like atmosphere" will be all about.
For aviation geeks (like *ahem* us), the cocktail lounge will be a particularly ideal place to hang. As you can see, the bar's location affords a close-up view of every airliner that taxis past Terminal 2, as well as the rotation of aircraft departing from Runways 28L and 28R. Wheee!
The bathrooms will be attractive and unairport-like too, which will be nice in the unlikely event you do happen to have a bad ecstasy experience prior to departure:
And from there, you will proceed to your gate...
... and into the Wild Blue Yonder.
We can't wait!
IMAGES: All photos by Telstar Logistics. Renderings courtesy of Gensler