Published August 11, 2020
The new Concourse E represents a few big “firsts” for our region: The first-ever Tillamook Market outside of the Oregon Coast. The first permanent installations in Portland from world-acclaimed artist Jacob Hashimoto. And the first new gates opened at PDX in two decades.
We bet you’ve already seen some of the headlines about these milestones. But how about taking a guided tour of the new concourse? You might not have had a chance to see it for yourself just yet. (Unless you’re among the 2,000 builders who helped bring the vision to life.)
Some good news: We’re here to show you around — virtually, for now. We get that photos of ice cream aren’t anything like the real thing. So we’ve tapped a few architects, builders and artists for this insider tour. And whenever you get the chance to visit in real life, we’ll be ready with scoops of your favorite flavors and endless #PNW views.
Let’s kick off our tour with Jacob’s two hanging art pieces. His presence in the concourse is sort of a homecoming for the New York City-based artist. Jacob grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. In his interview with PDX Next, he calls the Pacific Northwest “my aesthetic and creative home.” You can catch glimpses of his regional inspiration in both “The City” and “The Sky,” as the pieces are named.
“I started by looking at a map. It turns out that the shape of the city limits is a really interesting form. We've taken the outline of Portland and used it as the footprint for both pieces so that if you looked at them from above, they look just like the shape of the city,” Jacob says. “Both of the suspended sculptures are also built in the same way, using thousands of hanging disks.”
Look close enough at the kite-like discs and you’ll spot some familiar graphics. For example, you'll see the old airport carpet and the City of Portland’s flag embedded in the sculptures, which soar like clouds above the concourse’s common areas. If you were able to accurately count them all, you’d find 450 patterns and 11,000 kites.
At the east end of the concourse extension, you’ve found your next photo op at the airport: a pretty epic view of Mt. Hood. Architects designed the space to take advantage of the surrounding scenery including the snowcapped mountain in the distance as well as all the runway action. In all, the concourse’s sweeping walls of windows contain 350,000 pounds of glass.
“Because of its high ceilings and the lack of columns, there are amazing views of the Columbia River, of Mt. Hood. It’s such an open, inviting space to be in,” says Pooja Kashyap in her PDX Next profile. Pooja is an architect at Hennebery Eddy, where she’s worked to make sure the Concourse E designs meet the highest standards for environmental sustainability.
Concourse E’s efficiency helps PDX reduce lighting energy and water use. And during construction, the team recycled 99% of construction waste and used 84% Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood. “What makes me proud to be on this project is that it’s on track to meet LEED Gold, which is not an easy achievement for an airport,” Pooja says.
Before Concourse E opened, you’d have to hitch a ride all the way to the Oregon Coast to visit the Pacific Northwest’s iconic creamery. Well, now you only need to make your way to PDX. Concourse E has the only Tillamook Market built outside of Tillamook County in the century-long history of the farmer-owned co-op.
It’s a pretty big deal if you ask Caitlin Powell, project manager at Skanska — the construction firm that brought in 75 subcontractors to build the concourse. “I'm really excited for [the public] to eat at the Tillamook ice cream bar,” she says in her PDX Next profile. “I am a huge ice cream fan. I could eat it for breakfast if I let myself.” (We see you, Caitlin.)
If you’re not quite in the mood for ice cream, Tillamook has cheesy burgers and more “dairy done right” on the market’s menu. It’s one of 10 shopping and dining spaces inside E, which will individually open in the coming months. Along with Tillamook, the first spots to turn on their lights are Calliope (accessories and gift boutique), Jamba and Your Northwest Travel Mart, with more of your favorite restaurants and bars in the works.
While they were putting the finishing touches on the building, the construction team captured this 3-D tour, which lets you click your way through every corner of the almost-complete space. Hit the play button below to get started. (Don't trip yourself on the virtual tools you might notice lying around.)
(Credit: Courtesy of Skanska)
We’ll wrap up with a few facts and figures. These give you a sense of the scale of this addition — one of several PDX Next projects bringing more local character to the airport.
Here's what this year will look like for PDX (and you!)
For the past year, we've built a nine-acre roof on a prefabrication lot to the northwest of the airport. The construction crews are now installing the last component—an intricate wood lattice, sourced from sustainable Northwest forests, that will eventually cover the interior ceiling.
What you'll see: If you drive along Marine Boulevard, you can glimpse the roof's dramatic swoops in the prefab lot.
Behind all those partitions in the pre-security area, construction crews have been hollowing out the back half of the main terminal. Starting in March, the exterior structure is also coming down to create a more open, spacious footprint. It may get noisy for a few months!
What you'll see: Not much, in fact. But when you’re in the ticket lobby and going through security, you may hear and feel what’s happening on the other side of those partitions. We're strategizing ways to counteract the sound, including free earplugs at the front doors and a sensory room in Concourse D.
Next, we’re erecting 34 giant steel Y-shaped columns to hold up the roof. Right now, construction crews are driving steel pilings deep into the ground to anchor these columns. Over the course of a few months, we’ll erect the Y columns one by one.
What you'll see: You probably won't notice—most are going up overnight behind the temporary walls. Late-night travelers will occasionally have to walk a few yards around an installation site.
Once the biggest section of the wood roof is fully assembled, the project team will break it back down into 20 "cassettes". During the summer and fall, Hoffman-Skanska and Mammoet will maneuver each cassette into place over the existing roof. It will take several days to place each cassette, and the work will happen overnight — depending on the section we’re placing, we may guide late-night travelers around a short detour.
What you'll see: Unless you're flying into PDX on a late-night flight, or camped out on Marine Drive at 2 a.m., you won't see much. If you walk to the ends of Concourse C or Concourse D and look back toward the main terminal, you'll catch a glimpse of the airport's new roofline.
In addition to the big projects, you’ll see a host of new amenities appear throughout the airport. A new play area in Concourse E. New art. New restaurants and cafes. (Lardo! Screen Door! Good Coffee!) You're almost guaranteed to encounter something new every time you visit the airport — and we're not talking barricades.