At the time San Francisco International Airport opened
as Mills Field Municipal Airport of San Francisco in
1927, most of the San Francisco Peninsula was pastureland.
Over the years, new terminals and hangars
were built to satisfy the demand of increased air traffic.
Beginning with a small administration building of
residential character including horizontal wood siding
and red cedar shingles, the airport advanced to the
larger San Francisco Airport Administration Building.
After continuous growth, in 2000 the airport was reorganized
and expanded into the vast, structurally iconic
new International Terminal.
The new building acts as a gateway between land
and air, offering a recognizable image to arriving and
leaving passengers. It is organized over five levels,
making it America’s first mid-rise terminal. It receives
multiple modes of transportation – linking cars, busses,
the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system and
the internal light-rail system.
According to Craig Hartman, design architect with
SOM, the terminal is 'founded upon the qualities of
light and lightness'. He says of the new roof: 'We
conceived of it as a floating, sheltering plane and as
a symbol.' The building’s position above several lanes
of traffic required a 380-foot long span between the
central columns – essentially the building is a bridge.
Thus the building itself is in a state of lift-off, offering
the first step into the air for departure or a transition
space for arrival before the traveler really gets back to
the ground. The terminal is built on friction-pendulum
base insulators that allow it to swing in the event of
an earthquake. The roof trusses’ shape evokes many
possible associations, the rolling Bay Area hills, the
wings of airplanes, a bird in flight – all images not unusual
inspirations for airport designs, though in this
case especially elegantly achieved.
Anne-Catrin Schultz studied architecture in Stuttgart
and Florence, and earned a Ph. D. in architecture
theory at the University of Stuttgart. Following postdoctoral
research at the MIT, she relocated to the San
Francisco Bay Area and worked for several years with
Turnbull Griffin Haesloop and Skidmore Owings &
Merrill. She has taught at the University of California
in Berkeley and is currently teaching at the California
College of the Arts and at the City College of San
Francisco. Timothy Joseph Hursley is an architectural
photographer living in Little Rock, Arkansas, whose
works have been featured in architectural journals
and museums around the world. At age sixteen, while
still attending Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield,
Michigan, he became a photographic assistant and
apprentice of Balthazar Korab, a pioneer in modern