MU students aim to improve Columbia airport's terminals

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | 4:34 p.m. CDT; updated 6:16 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 11, 2010
MU senior Amber Schuster listens as MU assistant professor Michael Goldschmidt critiques her design for a new Columbia Regional Airport. Although there is not funding available for a redesigned airport, Airport Review Board chair Greg Cecil said that the airport will be expanding in the future.

COLUMBIA — “Wide Open Spaces” is no longer just a refrain from a Dixie Chicks song.

MU architecture students presented their final thesis projects on proposed Columbia Regional Airport terminal renovations to the public Tuesday afternoon.


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Friends, family, airport advisory members and former students crowded the room to meet and greet the students and ask about their designs. Design concepts ranged from tunnels, to prairie grass, to ceilings designed as propellers, to birds in flight.

John Riddick of the board said he doubts any major renovations will be made to the terminal in the near future, but he saw some fantastic ideas in the displays.

Inspiration struck designer Matthew Reed in an unlikely place.

“I got the idea in a Walmart parking lot,” he said. “It was a truck’s bumper sticker that said ‘A Flock of Birds.’”

His design creates the outline of birds on the terminal’s floor that move with the sun through bird-shaped windows on the ceiling.

Reed said his design’s size and simplicity makes it viable. “It’s like a fancy box store, like a Walmart,” he said.

Alanna Smith incorporated the shape of a plane engine’s propeller into the ceiling of her model.

“I think this gets good shadow and light into the building, but I wanted to keep it primarily transparent so you could follow your way easily through the building,” she said.

The project took a year, from the “problem seeking” segment of the programming lessons in the first semester to the “problem solving” segment in second semester leading up to the final display, course professor Benyamin Schwarz said.

“The last week or so we basically lived in the lab, but the end result made it worth it,” Smith said.

While concepts and inspiration differed, all the designers seemed to agree on enlarging the size of the terminal. Student Bar Yarkoni referred to the current size of the terminal as “claustrophobic.”

Airport Superintendent Don Elliott said the terminal is 15,299 square feet. The students' designs ranged from around 29,000 to 40,000 square feet.

On the heels of a new “master plan” laid out by the airport to extend runways to accommodate larger planes, Greg Cecil, chair of the airport advisory board, asked Schwarz if his students could create new terminal designs as part of their course.

“With a design company, we may have gotten one or two ideas, but here we got 18,” Cecil said. “It’s just awesome, these fabulous designs show me what Columbia could be."

The big challenge facing the airport, he said, is because of increased security measures in the past decade, and the terminal needs an update. He said the airport needs a huge secure area to hold those waiting for flights.

“I usually don’t anticipate someone will take these designs as is," Schwarz said. "But some of the ideas and concepts are more than acceptable.”

Cecil said that after a dip in customers last year, he expects the airport to rebound to about 30,000 passengers this year. He said that amount of passengers catches the eyes of airlines that don't already fly into Columbia and that the advisory board is looking to team up with a second airline.

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