Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Lindbergh Terminal, 4300 Glumack Drive, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Lindbergh Terminal

Image of the airport's front facade in 1962
Image of the front ticketing counters soon after the airport opened
Address: 4300 Glumack Drive
Neighborhood/s: Wenonah, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1961
Primary Style: Modern
Additions: since expanded, Architectural Alliance, HGA & others, 1980's & later
Major Alterations: Altered
Historic Function: Airport terminal
Current Function: Airport terminal
Architect or source of design: Lyle George Landstrom, Sr., Cerny Associates
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Glass
Material of Roof: Concrete
Material of Foundation: Concrete
First Owner: Metropolitan Airports Commission

Wenonah Minneapolis Hennepin County

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Lindbergh Terminal, 4300 Glumack Drive, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.883255° N, 93.21077° WLatitude: 44°52′59.718″N
Longitude: 93°12′38.772″W

The design of post war airports through the early sixties represents the first period of commercial airlines and widespread use of air travel. The Jet Age represented fast travel speeds from the world’s major cities, the magic of travel and going to the airport just to see the planes take off. The airports of the Jet Age represent the coming together of rational logic and functionality with poetic expression of form, to create a new typology of monument and cultural icon. They combine the rigor of modernism, anthropological data, and structural expressionism, all in an attempt to evoke meaning. At around the same time as Saarinen was working on both the TWA terminal and the Dulles International Airport project, Minneapolis was also getting a new Jet Age airport. Opened in 1962, the MSP International Airport terminal was designed by Lyle George Landstrom, Sr. of local firm Cerny and Associates Incorporated. The terminal was to be the icon of the Twin Cities for those visiting, and four million visitors were expected to be milling through by 1970. The design featured one main terminal building with two arms holding the gates and an iconic folded plate roof.



Prior to the terminal building in existence today, the MSP International Airport was World Chamberlain Field, a small commercial and military airport built on an old speedway just outside Minneapolis. With the increasing number of people flying in the fifties, the Metropolitan Airports Commission had a feasibility report put together in 1956 by Leigh Fisher & Associates, an airport-planning firm based in Indiana. The report goes through the economics, traffic forecasts, building area requirements, and many other aspects that need to be considered when building an airport. Little of the report has to do with architecture, though it is interesting to note the promise held in helicopter travel as a way to commute between various parts of the city. An insert placed in the report, dated from 1962 appears to be a press release for the airport’s opening. This insert condenses the report and provides several passages that discuss the advantages and excitement of the new airport. The MSP International Airport finds itself in the middle in terms of Jet Age airport design. The building is more rational and better functioning that the TWA terminal, but it lacks the clarity of design that makes Dulles so powerful. The ideas, however, of a large space with boxes that could be moved, certainly paid off in the future and allowed for the flexibility that helped the building avoid demolition. They could have gone further with the ideas, however. First of all, the idea of expansion is not limitless in the way that it is at Dulles. From the beginning the architects planned for only limited expansion and prevented further expansion by interrupting the main building with new fingers of gates. Had this not been the plan, perhaps the building of the Humphrey Terminal and all its ensuing confusion could have been avoided. Secondly, the mezzanine idea is a hard one to reconcile. While conceptually it works well to hide additional functions and allow for maximum use of the high spaces, it seems that the mezzanine creates a distraction and disrupts the power of the high space and the folded roof. As a legacy of the Jet Age, however, it is certainly an icon of the city.

Architectural Attributes

Its distinct folded plate, concrete roof, identifies the main terminal building. The roof does several things: it, “creates the directional quality and identity between front and rear faces,” (Metropolitan Gateway 1963), allows for later expansion at either of the short ends of the building, and finally it allows for a high roof with large spans, making possible both the mezzanine level and the large open feeling of the space. Like Dulles, the MSP International Airport has a separation of in bound and outbound traffic. This is achieved by having a two-story roadway. The upper level is for those departing and being dropped off. The entrance area is covered by a series of hyperbolic parabaloid structures to keep passengers safe from the weather while entering the space. The lower level of the roadway is for those arriving and being picked up. The passenger services are also split to the corresponding level, for instance baggage claim is on the lower level. This separation is both rational and efficient, while preserving the power of the main space. Flexibility of design for future use was very important to the design team and is expressed in many ways. First as mentioned the roof is of a structure that can seamlessly be added to in the future. Second the cross section of the building is simple and can be repeated infinitely in additions of the building, without loosing the design and continuity of the overall space. Finally the design of the mezzanine level allows for what is essentially a building in a building (Metropolitan Gateway 1963), consisting of a series of free standing boxes, that can be repeated or adjusted when necessary due to its simplicity and the design of the steel framing. Ticketing and other passenger functions are on the first level of the freestanding boxes, and airline offices and auxiliary spaces are housed on the second floor. This design also acts as a way of negating the sound of the planes for those working in the offices all day. The use of the mezzanine levels also creates a rhythm and sense of scale in the large open terminal space. Lower ceiling heights call out spaces of entry or transition, for instance the movement between the ticketing area and the waiting area.

Propose Atl. Reuse or Restoration

    The MSP International Airport Terminal is in a continual state of restoration as the airport grows and changes every year. Much of the original design has been added to and/or changed. The proposed additional arms from the original design have been built, and one more unplanned arm has been added as well. The ticketing area has been greatly changed by the arrival of security procedures, in particular those added since 9/11. The area beyond this has now been taken over by concessions and retail which is renovated every few years. All of these changes are necessary evils and a part of the constantly evolving nature of airports. While changes will happen over time, putting in place a framework that can guide this change would help prevent the airport continuing to steering off course into something unrecognizable from the original. The MSP International Airport was originally designed with the goal of flexibility for future expansion, as mentioned previously. A return to the use of a flexible framework incorporating a repetitive rhythm of simple objects, would allow for continuous expansion an renovation without loss of concept. Beyond the implementation of a framework, MAC is restoring the original folded plate roof which is currently experiencing wear from age. 


American Institute of Architects Journal. "Minneapolis-Saint paul International Airport." May 1961: 84-86. Leigh Fisher & Associates. "Building Area & Termianl Building Program for Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport World-Chaimberlain Field." Metropolitan Airports Commission, Minneapolis, 1956. Progressive Architecture. "Metropolitan Gateway." April 1963: 156-160.

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