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Airport Expansion Includes New Artwork

Evening Edition

Above: The 1 billion dollar expansion of the San Diego Regional Airport - dubbed the Green Build - will open in early August. It’s the largest construction effort in the airport’s history. Adorning the new gates and food court will be carefully chosen artwork. KPBS culture reporter Angela Carone gives us a preview of the art you can expect to see.

Aired 8/1/13 on KPBS News.

The $1 billion expansion of the San Diego International Airport opens in just a few weeks. The largest construction effort in the airport’s history will include new artwork for the expanded gates and food court.

Hurry up and wait. That's how most people spend time in airports. Travelers rush to gates, then search for ways to occupy their time until boarding.

Since 9/11, moving through an airport is more cumbersome and stressful. Constance White believes putting art in a bustling airport can make a difference. She manages the art program at San Diego International Airport.

"Art," White says, "creates a calming distraction."

Whenever there’s new construction at the airport, 2 percent of the budget goes to art. Ten new gates and a food court in terminal 2 are set to officially open to the public on August 13, and there will be art in all of them. There are a total of ten new pieces, the budget for which totals $6 million and is funded through airport user fees.

A Ribbon of Light

Jim Campbell's "The Journey" lights the way through Terminal Two at San Diego International Airport.

Lighting the concourse across multiple gates is "The Journey," by San Francisco-based artist Jim Campbell. White, the airport's art program manager, calls it a light ribbon suspended from the ceiling. It's composed of 37,000 LED light pendants hanging row after row for 1,000 feet. That might seem like a lot of wattage, but Campbell assured me via email that it's not. He says the output can be handled by one circuit and uses as much energy as one and a half toasters. Campbell, it turns out, studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Shadows of birds fly intermittently along the light ribbon — It's a surprising feature. The first time I saw them, I stopped in my tracks, waiting for them to repeat their flyover. Soon, additional shadows will be added to the piece.

"People will dance all the way through the ribbon. People will swim through the ribbon, and you’ll see the birds playing with the people as they're interacting with the light," White explained.

A Cloud of Crystals Over Food Court

Stuart Keeler's "Taxonomy of a Cloud" will hang over the new food court in Terminal Two.

Construction in the new food court, dubbed Sunset Cove, is just winding down. That’s where Canadian artist Stuart Keeler has hung his chandelier-like sculpture called "Taxonomy of a Cloud." A series of short, connected steel pipes form what looks like an airborne erector set. Hanging from its center is a shower of 35,000 Swarovski crystals that capture and reflect light.

"The artist was thinking about light and air. It’s so special in San Diego. People are mesmerized by the atmosphere and the environment here," White said.

Keeler was also inspired by clouds. "Stuart would come to San Diego and sit, and look at the sky, look at the clouds," White explained.

Keeler was especially enamored of lattice clouds, which are found in warm coastal climates. The lattice formation in his sculpture emulates the structure of those clouds. It's especially impressive to stand directly under this piece. How often do you get to stare up into a stream of Swarovski crystals?

Art For The Bathrooms?

One of the video mosaics in Erik Carlson's video installation titled "Donde Esta?"

There’s even art in the unlikeliest of places — the bathroom entrances. Rhode Island artist Erik Carlson has created a series of video mosaics that respond to movement. A layer of "smart glass" covers each video piece. When there's no one moving around it, the glass become opaque; shrouding the video behind it. When someone approaches, the image appears. "I wanted to create an artwork that has a sense of reveal to it," Carlson explained.

He chose iconic San Diego scenes to film, which naturally included surfing. "I’m not a surfer and I’ve never filmed surfers before," he said.

After watching a few surf films, Carlson wondered how he would capture the surfers with his camera. Finally, he discovered a solution.

"I went out onto one of the piers where I was parallel to where the surfers were," he said. "I immediately noticed this really interesting back and forth. The waves were coming in, the surfers were paddling out. I’m also a musician, so I tend to look for rhythmic things that loop and cycle like that."

There are video mosaics featuring skateboarders and a sunset scene. Each hangs in the center of the bathroom entrance, with the video blurring and crystallizing as passengers enter and leave.

Carlson hopes the series called "Donde Esta?" will remind passengers what the environment and community is like just beyond the airport walls. "I think the artwork represents what it’s like, in a compressed way, for a visitor or someone who’s just moved here, to discover these details about San Diego," Carlson said.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention a popular spot in between the restrooms featuring Carlson’s pieces. It's a different kind of bathroom - what the airport has called a "pet relief station" for traveling dogs. It looks like a regular bathroom, except for the patch of fake grass with the bright red fire hydrant in the middle. That fire hydrant has become a popular photo op.

It’s just one more visual surprise, among all of the artwork, that passengers will discover in the newly expanded airport.

KPBS news assistant Dillon Scalzo contributed to the video report for this story.

Comments

Avatar for user 'tbsdca'

tbsdca | August 1, 2013 at 8:10 a.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

The one sticking point for me is that San Diego artists were not used to showcase the terminal art project. San Diego has many great artists. Had the Port Authority used LOCAL talent, it would have had a double benefit: showcase art of San Diegans, but also would have kept the $6million here in our local economy instead of watching go to someone else who doesn't even live here.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | August 1, 2013 at 9:01 a.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

Sure, the new airport has it all:

Shiny new chairs to sit and wait in

New parking structures to park so your car will be safe and cozy while you wait

New local restaurants to dine in while you wait

New art to look at while you wait

New transport to take you to the airport so you can sit, eat, and look at art while you wait.

Yup, the new airport has everything !!

Oh, wait ......

Actually, there is one thing that won't be new -

NO NEW RUNWAY SPACE FOR THOS THINGS CALLED PLANE TO TAKE OFF AND LAND ON.

The city is idiotic for spending billions on a doomed airport that at some point in the next few decades will need more runway space.

This is a joke and will make San Diego the laughing stock of the aviation world.

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Avatar for user 'Marvoles'

Marvoles | August 1, 2013 at 9:06 a.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

I think the Airport Arts Program offers a huge cultural, and hence economical, value to San Diego. And let's face it, in light of SD making recent national headlines for less than positive political reasons, we should embrace something we can be proud of. Great art, and great reporting. Thanks!

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Avatar for user 'Marvoles'

Marvoles | August 1, 2013 at 9:07 a.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

PS... I do agree that it would be great to see more local artists in there...

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | August 1, 2013 at 9:43 a.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

Some of these are really beautiful, I'm so glad some of my tax dollars are going for these kind of purposes! Right on!

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Avatar for user 'InformedCommentor'

InformedCommentor | August 1, 2013 at 2:24 p.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

Peking - Duck - The only thing I see as idiotic are your ill-informed and narrow-minded comments. THE PEOPLE of this fine city voted long ago NOT to move the airport to any larger location. Given that mandate, the Airport Authority has worked hard to make this, OUR airport, as efficient and pleasant an experience for the travelling public as possible. In contrast to your contention that SDIA is, or will be, "the laughing stock of the aviation world," our airport is known internationally among those who judge airports, as well as the traveling public, as one of the top airports in the world for its size and throughput. If you would set aside your attaking agenda for just a moment and actually take a look at what is being accomplished by Thella Bowens and her staff, you might be pleasantly surprised.

RegularChristian - Just and FYI, not a single tax dollar, yours or anyone else's, is used in running or expanding the airport. The airport is run as a self-sustaining business, and consistantly wins awards for its fiscal responsibility and careful management of its funds. The Green Build was actually completed on schedule and $45 million UNDER budget. Try finding that kind of accomplishment in a tax-funded project.

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Avatar for user 'Eddie89'

Eddie89 | August 1, 2013 at 2:49 p.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

Nice looking art pieces. That much I am glad for. Yes, it would have been better to use local San Diego artists. Why was that not the case here?

But, this is still an issue of style over substance. This is a more of a destination airport and it should have adequate infrastructure to handle additional planes and passengers. Hopefully this issue will also be addressed by the airport authority.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | August 1, 2013 at 3:11 p.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

"Informed" Commentor:

"our airport is known internationally among those who judge airports, as well as the traveling public, as one of the top airports in the world for its size and throughput".

Our airport is known as one of the most ill-placed airports in the world.

It's notorious for being one of the most difficult to land at due to the terrain and steep descent required (even featured on the history channel's programme "World's Most Extreme Airports").

The location is so close to our downtown that buildings cannot be erected in downtown San Diego beyond 500 ft., causing our skyline to take on a plateau effect and inhibiting our urban core from being able to maximize density as the city keep growing larger.

The location makes it impossible to add another runway or extend the existing one.

Part of the reason we are the last city of our size to get international flights is because our airport is not equipped well for them, and this hurts international business from coming into our city.

It's the second busiest one-runway airport on earth (after London's second airport, Gatwick).

It is a joke, but individuals such as yourself who think it's "convenient" and who think having cute restaurants matters more than actual runway space are the reason we are in this pickle.

It may not happen for another 10 or 20 years, but the airport WILL need more runway space, and we WILL need to move to a different location. It would make more sense to be investing in that now instead of throwing billions at an airport that has an impending expiration date.

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Avatar for user 'InformedCommentor'

InformedCommentor | August 1, 2013 at 3:24 p.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

Eddie89 - That is exactly what the Green Build was designed to do. The added 29,000 square feet of security check point area will allow incoming passenger to get through the TSA screening much more quickly and efficiently. The 10 new boarding gates will facilitate a much more efficient turn-around of arriving and departing planes, and allow new flights to be added, giving the flying public more flight options and destinations. One feature which hasn't been discussed much in the press is the large new "Remain-Overnight (RON) parking area for planes that arrive late and cannot depart until the next day because of our curfew. In the past, those planes had to be relocated, either by their own power or tugged, across the runway to the north side of the airport, and then be brought back to a gate in the morning. This was a very inefficient and fuel-consuming practice. Now the jets will be positioned right near the new gates and can quickly get into position to take on passengers when scheduled to depart. The new gates also feature auxiliary power units for the planes to connect to instead of having to keep the on-board APU running while sitting at the gate. This saves on fuel and reduces pollution. All of these added new features will help in making the most of our single runway airport, the second-busiest single runway airport in the world!

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | August 1, 2013 at 3:33 p.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

Hey "Informed"Commentor:

You seem to know a lot about the airport. Do you work there?

Can you please, with all your expertise, tell us how much RUNWAY SPACE is being added in this MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR expansion?

Thanks kindly,

PD

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | August 1, 2013 at 3:41 p.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

"Informed Commentor" :
"Now the jets will be positioned right near the new gates and can quickly get into position to take on passengers when scheduled to depart".

_________________

That's nice. But, since runway space is not being expanded they won't be able to take off any quicker. They will, in your own words, be able to "position themselves" better to sit and wait their turn on our single, short runway.

"Informed Commentor" :
"The new gates also feature auxiliary power units for the planes to connect to instead of having to keep the on-board APU running while sitting at the gate".

____________________

That's nice. What about the fuel that would be saved if we actually had a two-runway airport that could accommodate heavier air travel so planes don't have to sit in queue burning fuel for al long time?

"Informed Commentor" :
"All of these added new features will help in making the most of our single runway airport, the second-busiest single runway airport in the world!"

____________________

That's sweet - but why do we have to settle for second best?

Why can't we move the airport so we don't have to "make the best" out of a runway-insufficient airport?

Your own words indicate our airport is flawed.

"make the best".

Make the best out of a terribly located airport with only one runway is what you mean .

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Avatar for user 'InformedCommentor'

InformedCommentor | August 1, 2013 at 4:21 p.m. ― 1 year, 4 months ago

PD-
You seen to think you know a lot about the airport and all of its purported flaws. Are you a disgruntled former employee? There are very few times during the day when the planes sit in queue burning fuel. That is usually in the early morning when there is a rush to get out all the cross-country business flights.

Look, I will grant that a second runway will increase efficiency of any airport, but as was stated earlier, SDIA is not a hub, but a destination. Rapid turn-around is not as critical here. I'll make a deal with you - you find the ideal spot for the airport, convince those who are already occupying that space to vacate, and I'll join you in your quest to move our "terribly located airport." Until that happens, we need to make improvements on what we have, where we have it. Failing to do that would indeed make SDIA a laughing stock.

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