Phillip Koski at Miller Dunwiddie’s new shimmering $293m Silver Ramp parking expansion at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport showcases the possibilities for a more multi-module future that is not yet here.
“Airport architects are lucky in that we only really consider high-quality materials that can stand up to crowds of people 24 hours a day,” states Phillip Koski at MDA.
“The challenge is to use the materials to shape spaces people want to spend time in, not just walk through.”
Phillip Koski and his design team at Miller Dunwiddie Architects (MDA) have completed the newest, and one of the tallest, structures at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), has gained recognition for engineering and design feats that have created a modern iconic structure for the airport while greatly improving parking capacity and ground transportation services.
The Silver Ramp is a mixed-use, multimodal transportation hub located in the heart of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s Terminal 1 campus.
Silver Ramp provides approximately 2.1 million square feet of structured parking, approximately three miles of expansion joints, five acres of exterior façade, and 180,000 square feet of conditioned floor space.
Topping out at 11 stories, the Silver Ramp is the new shimmering transit facility catching the eyes of arriving MSP passengers from the view of their aircraft window seats as well as motorists on nearby highways.
After opening in August 2020, the Silver Ramp added 5,000 additional public parking spaces to the airport campus.
Silver Ramp also serves as the new Terminal 1 transit center, a more sustainable approach to bring together many modes of transportation, including auto rentals, buses, shuttles, the regional light rail system, and even bicycles.
The ground floor lobby features the tallest escalator in Minnesota (56-feet), one of the several escalators connecting customers directly to one of four auto rental levels where customers pick up and return vehicles.
Built to address increasing parking demand and replace outdated car rental and transit facilities, the project is the capstone effort of a multi-year program to repurpose and optimize real estate within the airport’s land-locked center.
The project program includes 5,000 parking spaces; new car rental customer service counters and pick-up and drop-off facilities; a transit center for local bus service, passenger and employee shuttles, ground transportation options, and new secure bicycle facilities; and direct connections to the blue Line LRT station as well as an existing underground people mover to the main terminal.
Designing and building the structure brought about tremendous challenges.
Achieving the goal of maximizing the multi-modal connectivity and pedestrian access to existing Terminal 1 infrastructure required building in a space between existing facilities, bordered by the airfield and adjacent roadways, and over the existing Metro Transit light rail station, located underground.
“We had to develop some very innovative engineering solutions to tackle the challenges presented by this once in a lifetime project,” said Ben Henderson, Vice President at KimleyHorn, the program manager for the project.
“One of the biggest challenges was designing and constructing a foundation solution that no one would ever see, which spans across the light rail station cavern to safely support the 11-story structure above.”
The engineering solution included designing foundation load transfer beams as long as 90 feet long and 15 feet wide to preserve the structural integrity of the roof of the light rail station cavern below the Silver Ramp.
Engineering and design partners for the airport also worked to incorporate sustainability throughout the facility, such as the use of long-life construction materials that are recyclable, LED lighting, HVAC and lighting occupancy sensors, low flow plumbing fixtures, electric vehicle chargers, native landscaping, and a universal access design.
The structure can also accommodate a future solar installation that would expand MSP’s solar generation capacity beyond its current 4.3-megawatt capacity from existing rooftop solar panel systems.
The shimmering beauty of the parking structure was born out of another design and engineering challenge.
To gain design acceptance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), project engineers and architects had to design a façade that would not negatively impact airfield navigation communications.
Traditional precast concrete or metal panel facades could not be used. The solution was the creation of a facade system consisting of 2” square terra cotta baguettes (tubes) spaced five inches apart (on the center).
The designers enhanced the visual impact of the structure by creating a custom palette featuring darker colors toward the ground and lighter colors at higher levels.
The building appears to fade into the sky on sunny days.
The exterior cladding of ombre-patterned terracotta baguettes – black, blue, grey, and white – were chosen to harmonize with the existing terminal architecture, and to evoke a structure that is both rooted to the ground while reflecting the moods of the sky.
As ethereal as the building exterior is, the building’s interiors are based on a candid expression of the weight and orthogonal logic of the supporting structure.
Consisting of a neutral palette of exposed concrete, aluminum frame glazing, and dark masonry walls, the building’s public spaces operate as a neutral background to the colorful ebb and flow of carts, people, and travel gear.
A lower portion of the west-facing façade also includes a 15,000 square foot aluminum perforated art mural, “Interrupted Landscapes of the Incomer,” by Minneapolis-based photographer Steve Ozone.
The 40-foot-high mural, which can be viewed from the ground and by passengers through the glass windows along the G-C Connector Bridge, features seven portraits that illustrate the stories of newcomers to Minnesota.
MSP is the 17th busiest airport in the United States.
Project: MSP Airport Silver Ramp Transit Center
Architects: Miller Dunwiddie Architects (MDA)
Design Leader: Phillip Koski
Program Manager: Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
Construction Coordinator: Kraus-Anderson Construction Co.
General Contractor: PCL Construction
MEP Engineers: Michaud Cooley Erickson
Client: Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC)
Photographers: Peter VonDeLinde