Built St. Louis > > MidCentury Modernism > > Lambert Airport Terminal

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport - Main Terminal
northwest County
Architect: Minoru Yamasaki (Hellmuth, Yamasaki & Leinweber)
Date: 1957

I had been holding off on this one till I could get better photographs, but with the news of its impending renovation, now seems a good time to honor Lambert International Airport's main terminal building, among the most widely-lauded Modernist buildings in St. Louis.

The main terminal building is an early example of thin-shelled concrete construction; its form is a connected series of shallow crossing vaults. They extend all the way to the ground, rising 32 feet and spanning over a hundred, creating a gentle, airy space. Glass walls filled the curves and provide ample natural light, as do thin, tapering skylights that divide the vaults. The vaulted ceiling is largely featureless, monolithic and pristine, a soaring space both welcoming and suggestive of the possibilities of flight.

A fourth vault was added in 1965, as was the air traffic control tower (I.M. Pei). The building now sits at the center of a vast sprawl of concourse additions, many times its own length.

Time and the demands of the rapidly-expanding air industry have long taken a toll on the main terminal. The building was once prominently located at the top of a small hill, but today is largely obscured by a parking garage which blocks the intended view from nearby I-70.

The exterior has had a number of graceless additions that damage its appearance; its copper cladding has taken a beating from simple age. The interior space is cluttered with kiosks, fast food restaurants, ticketing booths, and queueing ropes -- unavoidable acoutrements of the present age, though perhaps the coming renovations will replace them with something more fitting to the building's futuristic vision.

Media Coverage

Post-Dispatch:
- Face-lift for Lambert
- Travelers cheer plans for airport renovations at Lambert

Gallery: November 2005

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