By Delle Willett
Landscape Architect Patricia Trauth said it’s the “coolest, most demanding and exciting project of my career.”
She is talking about the re-creation of San Diego International Airport’s Terminal One, originally opened in 1967 with renovation begun in 2020 and scheduled to open in May, 2028.
Trauth explained that while Terminal One and Two will have many unifying elements, they also have their own identity—Terminal Two symbolically represents our beaches and the ocean, while One celebrates San Diego’s treasured canyons and riparian areas.
“We are focusing on the canyon,” she said. It is the busiest area where people will be going from point A to B, as they get dropped off and picked up.
Just east of the canyon area is a low point in the landscape with a retention basin for stormwater management—a perfect location for a riparian area where visitors can experience San Diego’s native plants and birds and admire three large and colorful bird sculptures. Forty to fifty feet tall, and celebrating the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds, the birds are created by artist Walter Hood.
Travelers, both coming and going, often have anxieties and concerns. It is Trauth’s focus to make them as comfortable as possible. “Anything we can do intuitively to help travelers feel more comfortable while getting them to their destination is our goal,” she commented.
“We are working with Gensler Architects to create intuitive directional design,” explained Trauth. Some of the tools are way-finding signs, color-coded lobbies and levels in the parking structure, lighting, clusters of trees as a focal point, and color pattern and texture in the concrete pavement.
And for traveling pets, there are three pet-relief areas at Terminal One. “San Diego was one of the first airports in the country to have pet-relief areas. Now you see them everywhere. It’s something we’ve integrated into the design in a wholistic manner that celebrates our canyon concept.”
San Diego is a destination airport. People who come here have expectations of visiting paradise. “We want the experience of San Diego to begin at the airport where visitors walk outside and hear seagulls cry nearby and see sailboats in the near distance.”
No matter how distracted travelers may be, they won’t miss a gigantic purple jelly fish, indigenous to San Diego, and created by artist Matthew Mazzotta. Placed at the arrival curb, it’s made of steel, with parts that move in the ocean breeze.
Instead of entering the airport via Harbor Drive, travelers will enter near the intersection of Harbor Drive and Laurel Street on a new roadway that parallels Harbor Drive, lined with trees and other drought-tolerant and native plants. Additionally, there will be a bicycle lane and pedestrian path to reduce traffic on Harbor Drive and improve access to the airport. Travelers will know they have arrived.
For security, a 12-ft.-high wall will be adjacent to the entrance road to discourage climbing activity, but it’s not so high that it blocks the view of parked jets and airplanes. “Travelers to our airport will be closer to the planes than most other airports. I can’t think of another airport where you have that type of experience;” she said.
The wall will have a multi-textured surface to simulate the waves as seen on the façade of the parking plaza. Currently they are looking at all of the local rocks to choose from, keeping it local.
And along the access road, thorny types of plants with cool silhouettes, such as Prickly Pear, Ocotillo, and Desert Spoon will be planted to visually soften the wall and further secure the airport.
With a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Arizona and 35 years of work experience, Trauth is a principal at Rick Engineering where she manages the landscape architecture staff at Rick’s ten offices.
Terminal One’s venture team includes Turner, Flatiron, and Gensler.
— Read other stories about Patricia Trauth’s landscape architecture projects at the San Diego Airport in previous issues of Downtown News at tinyurl.com/29eyew4d and tinyurl.com/bvut9bbv. — Delle Willett is marketing and public relations consultant for the American Society of Landscape Architects, San Diego chapter, sponsors of Art on the Land. She can be reached at email@example.com.