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LaGuardia Airport Central Pocket Park Project

New York, NY

LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B in New York, NY, has been under construction for many years while the expanse of the terminal’s state-of-the-art renovation is opening in phases. Terminal B was originally opened in 1964, currently holds four major airlines, and approximately 15 million passengers traverse the terminal each year.

As part of the renovation, LaGuardia Airport wanted to create an environment that felt natural, as if the patrons of the airport were in a park setting, while inside the terminal.

Landscape Architect Taewook Cha, of Supermass Studio, worked together with HOK to design the common spaces along the front entrance, just after entering security. Taewook took the concept of the park setting and interpreted it into a “Pocket Park.” His design, inspired by Central Park, required multiple materials that would withstand the high levels of traffic associated with the product and location, but that was sculpted for a unique design effect. The Pocket Parks are eight large planters (custom planters) formed by irregular sections of lightweight GFRC concrete. The planter sections, 77 different discrete shapes in over 200 pieces, needed to be assembled on-site and then topped with unique curved backed and backless benches.

For the project, Skanska/Walsh Joint Venture was awarded the massive undertaking to build the terminal. The overall project, built while airport operations were ongoing, was a herculean undertaking. The schedule for the pocket parks called for them to be complete immediately prior to the ribbon-cutting. Skanska had reached out to 8 or 10 different vendors but ultimately decided that only the Custom team by Tournesol had the skill, expertise, project management, quality, engineering, and problem-solving capabilities to complete the project with the custom planters and seats. Our team was awarded the project with four months till opening – about half the time such a massive project might normally take. Configurations, bench design, and mounting conditions were still being finalized in the first four weeks that Customworks was on the job.

The LaGuardia Pocket Parks project required intense coordination and involved custom work by Tournesol’s entire project management, engineering, quality, and production teams. After the initial evaluation, the engineering team created a list of questions, concerns, and design suggestions. The modular custom planter elements, created in RINO modeling software by Supermass, were imported into the custom teams' parametric design & manufacturing software, which required some correction and refinement to complete the design. No two planter sections were the same. Shortly after we were brought in, Supermass and the owner chose a standard Tournesol bench design on which to base the custom steel benches. After several working group meetings, the final details for installation and assembly were worked out based upon Customworks suggestions, and the models could be finalized for fabrication. In order to meet the project time requirements, the molds used in casting the GFRC components were carved in foam using a multi-axis CNC foam cutting robot. The modeling software allowed us to virtually create the four- or five-part tools, which could be directly uploaded into the CNC system. The traditional method of hand-building plugs, then casting tools would have doubled the time to complete the job.

As the foam GFRC casting tools were completed (the foam cutting process took the better part of a month) they were transferred to the Tournesol Siteworks Ciudad Juarez production facility. Each of the eight custom planters was cast based upon the installation schedule provided by Skanska, then dry-fitted to ensure overall design integrity. An installation plan and section spacing was mapped at that time and provided to the installing contractor. The units were moved to the El Paso facility for final finishing, sealing, and packaging.

Meanwhile, product management coordinated the metal bench component fabrication at the Tournesol Siteworks Port Orchard (WA) facility. The owner had introduced an 11th-hour requirement that the bench elements be hinged to allow for cleaning, which required several on-the-fly changes, including additional machine tooling for the mounting hinges. The frames and flat elements were laser-cut and fit to templates. Each rod for the benches was precision custom bent to the unique bench radius, using the mounting frames as a guide. Again, no two benches were the same, and the design was made even more complex because most of the benches were radiused in two dimensions. The engineering team responsible for the benches are co-located in the facility and enabled them to communicate and solve problems with the fabrication teams on the spot.

All the materials manufactured had to be coordinated for the installation process and the schedule determined with the contractors and LaGuardia Airport. The timing was key for installation as there were eight “Pocket Parks” being installed, one at a time. The deliveries were made from each of the facilities separately in specially arranged trucks to comply with stringent airport delivery requirements, coordinated by Tournesol’s logistics staff.

Ultimately, the Pocket Park Project at Terminal B in LaGuardia Airport was a huge success. The Governor of the State of New York attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony last fall, and the terminal is now fully functional. Work continues on the airport, and Customworks by Tournesol is working with Skanska/Walsh Joint Venture on similar parks in the Headhouse (scheduled for 2020) and Terminal A (scheduled for 2021).

Photos by Jeff Goldberg & Supermass Studio

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