ZGF gives Portland International Airport, America’s best airport, the timber treatment

ZGF gives Portland International Airport, America’s best airport, the timber treatment

By Emily Conklin • December 4, 2023 • Architecture, Development, West

The new terminal at Portland International Airport balances the opacity of the timber with generous glazing.(Courtesy ZGF)

The Pacific Northwest is thoroughly mass timber–pilled. The region is known for its great expanses of forest and has been the beating heart of the American lumber industry since its earliest heyday, but has transitioned in recent decades to more holistic understandings of its forest assets. This is on full display in the work of ZGF at the Portland International Airport. Named “America’s Best Airport,” it’s getting even better with the addition of a mass timber terminal that wows with ceilings outlines in sinuous lines of wood, punctured by ethereal skylights.

The linear qualities of timber beams are embraced in a repetitious ceiling that opens up into a central skylight. (Courtesy ZGF)

Designers are regionally sourcing more than 2.6 million board feet of glulam beams and heavy timber, as well as 400,000 square feet of mass plywood panels—all locally from Oregon and Washington State forests. When complete in 2025, the new terminal will cover one million square feet. ZGF’s new terminal design highlights the rhythmic, linear quality of timber elements, but still makes space for warm and curvaceous details. Renderings show corridors flooded with natural light from the dramatic ceilings and bold y-shaped timber columns complemented by oases of plants and even live trees.

More than 2.6 million board feet of locally sourced glulam beams and heavy timber is being used. (Courtesy ZGF)

Living trees and other vegetation create a forest-like environment within the terminal. (Courtesy ZGF)

After more than 70 years of constant and ad hoc additions, expansions and renovations, ZGFs new roof and supporting timber structure unites PDX literally under one roof. Combining material responsibility with timeless warmth and beauty, the project raises the bar for infrastructural work and showcases the potential of mass timber to help even the largest technical projects meet aesthetic and sustainability goals.