Designs Revealed for $300M Santiago International Airport

MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2022

In an emailed press release, international firm luis vidal + architects has recently revealed design concepts for the $300 million expansion of the Santiago International Airport in the Dominican Republic.

Reportedly inspired by the surrounding Dominican landscape, the new space is slated to feature green spaces, timber materials and updated, modern technologies.

“This new terminal was inspired by the beauty and culture of our region,” said Félix García, President of the Santiago International Airport’s Board of Directors. “As one of the region’s largest airports, we are pleased to be working with the team at luis vidal + architects to construct a building that will be sustainable and meet the needs of our community.” 

Santiago International Airport Background

Located a short distance from Chile’s capital, the Santiago International Airport—also known as the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport—was first inaugurated in February 1967. The airport is currently operated by the SCL Aeropuerto de Santiago.

In October 2008, a $7 million terminal improvement project was approved by the Chilean Department of Public Works. The project involved the construction of a new gate at the national terminal, a new bus terminal and waiting room expansions. Other works completed during the expansion included the construction of an aeronautical museum, a terrace at the fourth level and additional access areas.

At the time, the airport was reported to be the ninth busiest airport in Latin America, seeing over nine million passengers.

In 2009, an additional expansion was approved and, at the time, was slated to cost between $800 million and $1 billion. For this project, the main terminal building was expanded from 90,000 square meters (about 968,752 square feet) to 200,000 square meters, which included 25 new gates. Other work involved the installation of a new baggage system, construction of a third runway, expanding another terminal and the introduction of a new train transportation system.

When the expansion was announced, officials predicted that the airport would be able to accommodate 19 million passengers by 2024 and 50 million by 2045.

In 2010, it was reported that the airport was operating two terminals: international terminal l, which had 10 gates at the time, and the national/domestic terminal D, which had seven. Additionally, the airport was also reported to have 21 food and beverage options, more than 70 shops and several spacious VIP lounges.

Fast-forward to January of this year, reports announced that the airport was gearing up to open its new international Terminal 2 (T2) facility by February. Through a $990 million investment from the Chilean Ministry of Public Works, crews converted the original airport into a renovated domestic terminal with a new 17,300-square-meter pier and a new 214,000-square-meter T2 building dedicated to international and regional flights.

Additional details regarding the project revealed that the airport’s total number of gates was increased to 67 and that a new, four-level parking garage and two surface lots were also constructed. All the updates were reportedly designed by United States-based engineering and architectural firm Stantec, and were created in partnership with local architects Amunategui Barreau Arquitecto.

“As Santiago expands this busy airport hub, we are honored to help transform the experience of travelers as they come through or stay in Chile,” said Cecilia Einarson, Sector Leader for Airport Terminals at Stantec, at the time. “Together with our partners at Amunategui Barreau Arquitectos, we created a place that embraces the beauty and splendour of Chile while welcoming visitors and residents to the country.”

Latest Plans for Expansion

Late last week, luis vidal + architects unveiled design concepts for Santiago International Airport’s new $300 million expansion. The 592,000-square-foot project is slated to incorporate state-of-the-art technologies and be constructed using local resources.

“With our international experience designing world-class airports that are unique to each region, the Santiago International Airport is quickly becoming the one of the most modern airports in the Caribbean,” said Óscar Torrejón, partner and Director of the Dominican Republic office at luis vidal + architects. 

According to the press release, updates will involve transforming the current building into a mixed-use space featuring an office park, business center and hotel. The project also calls for a new terminal, which will include expanded check-in and ticketing, advanced security and baggage operations and outdoor green areas. The project also plans to expand aircraft parking and extend the airport runway to 9,800 feet, which will be better accommodate larger aircrafts. 

Additional features of the new terminal include:

  • Nine contact stands: Designated areas in the airport’s apron where an aircraft could use a passenger boarding bridge if desired by the airline, designed on two levels to segregate the flow of departures from arrivals;
  • One mile of new roads;
  • Over 150,000 square feet of green areas;
  • A raised parking area connected to the new terminal; and
  • An elevated and independent access road that leads to the check-in on level two, while another access road will connect everything to the pre-existing building and the arrivals hall on level one.

Inside, the region’s backdrop will be recreated within the terminal, offering an interior-exterior continuity that brings the gardens indoors. The ceilings will over shade from vegetation and more than eight million pounds of timber is expected to make up the roofing structure.

“We wanted to ensure effortless navigation through the new terminal to accommodate the influx of passenger traffic, while still interweaving elements of the region’s surrounding natural landscapes in the project’s interior,” said Luis Vidal, President and Founding Partner of luis vidal + architects. 

Inspired by El Cibao’s expansive panorama, the nature-friendly design aligns with the Santiago International Airport’s value in being an ally of the local, regional and national community in the preservation of natural and environmental resources.  

The project is expected to reach completion in 2026

Other Recent Airport Projects

Back in 2019, the Allegheny County Airport Authority Board of Directors approved a concept design for the estimated $1.1 billion overhaul of Pittsburgh International Airport.

The design for the “Terminal Modernization Program at Pittsburgh International Airport” was unveiled to the public on Feb. 20 by the design team joint venture of architectural and engineering firms Gensler and HDR association with luis vidal + architects.

Based on the idea of combining nature, philosophy and community, the design featured high ceilings and large windows, which will equip the facility with greenery and natural light.

While subject to change, the concept design at the time included:

  • 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; and
  • Emphasis on sustainability.

The next phase—schematic design—was slated to run through the summer and construction was supposed to start later that year.

At the time, officials estimated that more than 6,000 temporary design and construction jobs will be created, along with 4,500 “spin-off” jobs to support the purchases of supplies and services as well as spending wages earned by the workers.

In July 2021, the airport’s microgrid went live, which powers the entire facility with natural gas and solar energy. The Allegheny County Airport Authority billed the venture as a “first of its kind.”

All updates and renovations are expected to reach competition by the end of 2024, with the opening of the new terminal in 2025.

Editor's Note: This article was corrected at 6:37 p.m. on March 28, 2022, to reflect the location of the Santiago International Airport in the Dominican Republic.


Tagged categories: Airports; Architects; Architecture; Color + Design; Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; Design; Design - Commercial; Design build; Expansions; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; SA; South America; Terminals

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