The Green Build at San Diego International Airport

Project Awarded

The airport is a gateway to many places but also reflects the entire city and the jury felt that the Certified LEED® Gold Green Build Terminal 2 at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field was atypical, progressive and worthy of Orchids in two categories: Interior Architecture and Public Art. The jury appreciated the way the airport treated the retail and restaurant spaces; the creative incorporation of pet spaces; and the extensive use of glass, maximizing natural light. They were particularly impressed by the glass curtain wall, which provides stunning views of the runway and the city beyond. However, the jury was equally impressed by the breadth and brilliance of the art installations, which they describe as: “incredible,” “mesmerizing,” and “beautifully executed.” They applaud the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s commitment to art and how it was made a priority during the planning and design of the new Terminal. “This is the beginning of a new era of fresh thinking about public art; by commissioning art of this magnitude, a government organization sets an extraordinary precedent that can and should be expanded and duplicated.” The jury also appreciated the fact that they engaged local businesses to be represented at the airport, but hopes that in the future more is done to engage or commission local artists for inclusion

  • Project Address: San Diego International Airport, Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA
  • Project Owner/ Developer: San Diego County Regional Airport Authority
  • Owner Contact Name/ Email: Diana Lucero/
  • Project Architect/ Designer: HNTB

The most significant construction project in the region – The Green Build at San Diego International Airport (SDIA) is breathtaking from a distance, up close, outside and inside. The interior design of the Terminal 2 expansion – along with a refresh of the existing Terminal 2 – creates a sense of place, provides an awesome esthetic journey, and combines the very best of form and function.

Upon entering Terminal 2, passengers will be struck by how open, airy and light it is. Extensive use of glass takes advantage of natural light for energy efficiency. The centerpiece is the new concessions core – Sunset Cove – where a glass curtain wall 51 feet high and 317 feet wide provides stunning airfield and sunset views, and new dining and shopping concessions offer more and better options with enhanced local flavor.

More than $6 million in public art adds a dimension of beauty that elevates the experience. Pieces range from a 6-by-700 foot light ribbon of small spheres that create a fluttering image, to a linear transparent cloud-form with rain shower, to a “performance cube” multi-functional space that is unexpected and memorable, to inspiring artworks at restroom entries and much more.

Seeing truly is believing when it comes to the interior design of the “new and improved” Terminal 2 at SDIA. Beginning August 13, more than 40,000 passengers a day will see and will know are in one of America’s finest airports.

San Diego International Airport’s Green Build provides many amenities to passengers, but the airport is more than just a place to catch a plane. It’s the first thing people see when they land, or their last glimpse of the region as they leave. To that end, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority has worked to ensure there is a positive atmosphere, and integrated vibrant artworks into the new expansion. As such, the Authority Art Program policy earmarks for Board approval 2 percent of the amount of construction costs of eligible projects in the Authority's annual Capital Program and Airport Master Plan budgets to fund the Public Art Program.

The Green Build was a design/build project, so the Airport Authority brought artists onto the team at the beginning of the design/build process. This afforded a unique opportunity for the artists and architects to collaborate on building and design that would maximize the reflection of the art installations.

Although the selected artists hail from around the world, much of the art at the airport focuses on the ideas of home and the San Diego environment. Those qualities in turn make the art unique to San Diego, and provide an atmosphere you won’t get anywhere else.

Artists: Living Lenses, San Francisco (Po Shu Wang and Louise Bertelsen)
A single elevator known as, The Relativator, takes concession patrons on a short flight between the second and third levels. The Relativator explores Einstein’s theory of relativity in the sequence of elevator glass. It is essentially a gravity meter that calculates weight and movement effected by speed while traveling between floors. It shows the relation between people riding in the elevator and the movement of the elevator. The calculations are different every time and displayed in binary code.

The Journey
Artist: Jim Campbell, San Francisco
The Journey is both the Airport Authority’s largest commission and largest scale artwork. It is also the artist, Jim Campbell’s largest piece. Campbell came on board with the Airport Authority five years ago during phase one of The Green Build public art implementation. The Journey is a light ribbon made of 38,000 LED lights spanning six feet wide by 700 feet long. The light ribbon has low resolution images fluttering throughout the sculpture. As one looks up, several sequences of simple images such as people swimming, dancing and walking, and birds in flight, flutter along the way.

The Taxonomy of a Cloud
Artist: Stuart Keeler, Toronto
How is a cloud made? Cloud Taxonomy explores the linear architectural creation of the cloud form – creating a sculptural drawing in the air. The cloud formation is made of aluminum tubing with a shower of Swarovski Crystals floating above Sunset Cove. The shower of rain is a study on the color of San Diego’s blue sky. The 365 strands of crystals (one for each day of the year) are a custom color known as “Arctic Crystal” made especially for the Airport Authority by Swarovski Crystal. Cloud Taxonomy is 65’ x 45’ wide and 27’ long.

Artists: Merge Conceptual Design (Franka Riehnelt and Claudia Reisenberger), Los Angeles
Sublimare, on the underside of the elevated departure roadway and flanking the ends of the elevated walkways, is a physical interpretation of a giant kelp forest that alludes to the industrial kelp harvesting in the 1940s and its significance to San Diego’s environment and economy. The kelp fronds and schools of fish are illuminated aluminum cut-outs that transform the ceiling into a “kelp canopy” of sorts. In the not too distant future, the glass on the elevated walkways will be transformed to reflect an abstract projected light. The light projection will be developed from real time wave data received from a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoy located in San Diego Bay.

Artist: CoLAB Studio (Matthew Salenger), Phoenix
The inspiration for the six outdoor and nine indoor (hanging) acid etched stainless steel houses containing sculptural objects came from interviews with service men and women who all had something in common – a longing for home. The etchings on the houses represent the geography of the neighborhoods of the people interviewed, with each house having a special designation such as “Texas.” The theme of Connectocray is individuality, community and connectivity, which is symbolic of Americans love of neighborhoods. The floating luminary house sculptures inside the USO are essentially a neighborhood. Playful objects live in the houses that represent baseball, holidays and other things that remind us of life in the neighborhood.

Dónde Está
Artist: Erik Carlson, Rhode Island
With a new building comes new restrooms. Eight new restroom entry walls created an opportunity for Erik Carlson to create an interactive experience with videos of local beaches. The video displays are encased in special glass that is etched with the longitude location of the beach.

© Darren Bradley
© Darren Bradley
© Darren Bradley
© Darren Bradley
© Darren Bradley
© Darren Bradley
© Darren Bradley