Fort McMurray International Airport

CompanyOffice of McFarlane Biggar
Lead Designeroffice of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers inc. (omb) Project commenced as predecessor firm mcfarlane green biggar Architecture + Design Inc.
Design Team Leading team: Steve McFarlane, Michelle Biggar, Rob Grant, Beth Denny, Nicholas Standeven Other team members: Jennell Hagardt, Adam Jennings, Kevin Kong, Heather Maxwell, Hozumi Nakai, Lydia Robinson, Jing Xu, Jordan VanDijk, Mingyuk Chen, Justin Bennet, Seng Tsoi, Simon Clewes, Adrienne Gibbs
PrizeArchitectural Design / Transportation

The new Fort McMurray International Airport Terminal creates a meaningful portal for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in northern Alberta, an area characterized by stunning geography and natural beauty. Responding to the enormous growth of Canada’s oil sands industry, the community of Fort McMurray experienced unprecedented growth and cultural diversification, and as such required an airport that could accommodate the comings and goings of its extremely transient community. The remote location, coupled with rapid industrial development, diluted the availability of skilled building trades and inflated construction costs. Consequently, the local built environment is largely characterized by cost-driven, conventional structures. The new terminal sought an alternate path, leveraging constraints into architectural opportunities to create a building that celebrates the region’s unique qualities. The new, 160,000 sq ft. terminal responds with a robustness, modestly and directness that resonates with community that it serves. Its low linear form echoes the Prairie landscape. Its weathered steel panels are evocative of bitumen, the prize of oil sand extraction. Its mass timber structure and acoustic wood walls showcase the warmth and beauty of wood while recalling the adjacent Boreal forest. An illuminated steel screen evokes the forests and the Northern Lights. Throughout, measures were taken to build with less. Most significantly, an exposed roof structure comprised of cross laminated timber and glue-laminated wood beams minimized the construction duration, costs, and carbon footprint, while creating warm, welcoming interiors. An early adoption of a mass timber construction system and the largest application of CLT in North America to date. The building form is designed to facilitate expansion through simple extrusion and with minimal disruption to operations. Unlike conventional airports, passengers are greeted by generous day-lit spaces with direct access to a landscaped courtyard, celebrating the sun, sky and horizon while orienting passengers in their journey.