From renderings to reality | Visual milestones of the new international terminal under construction at Bush Airport

The new Mickey Leland International Terminal is part of the IAH Terminal Redevelopment Program. It’s the single largest capital improvement project in the history of Houston Airports and will result in one of the most modern international terminals in the U.S.

February 22, 2024

Change is coming to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and the vision of excellence that Houston Airports set out to deliver to international passengers is coming to fruition. The ongoing IAH Terminal Redevelopment Program (ITRP) is a testament to the commitment of Houston Airports to create a modern and efficient global air travel gateway for both airport guests and airline partners. The guest experience, from curb to gate, will be one of sophistication with functional design charting the course for an intuitive and seamless transition through the new Mickey Leland International Terminal. 

A grand entrance | Custom leaf trusses along the International Departures Curb 

One of the standout features of the new international terminal will be the custom canopy welcoming airport guests along the expanded Departures curb. Houston Airports and its team of contractors have installed six of the eight custom leaf trusses that will support the 50,000-square-foot canopy. 

Each truss: 

  • is roughly 209 feet from edge to edge
  • weighs approximately 90 tons
  • has over 10,000 square feet of paintable surface 

“The design reflects a simple yet intricate look to the new Departures curb, which is sure to wow passengers with its vastness and open space feel,” said Khalid Radwan, Executive Program Manager of ITRP for Houston Airports. “The design consideration will create an inspirational atmosphere with a resilient solution for supporting the long spans necessary for the vehicle drive lanes along the new international terminal.” 

The custom leaf trusses, resembling intricate veins of a leaf, are strategically placed to create a grand entrance for international travelers. The design not only enhances the airport's visual appeal but also reflects Houston's ingenuity and dedication to innovation.

A touch of elegance | Custom copper ceiling, LED Feature Wall in Terminal D-West Concourse

The overarching design intent for the new IAH International Terminal was to create an exceptional passenger experience that expresses Houston’s unique culture for a memorable gateway to and from Houston. This entails a combination of new and renovated spaces to feel cohesive and new throughout.  The design concepts and interior finish palette will give international passengers a 5-Star experience.

Stepping into the new D-West Concourse, which expands IAH Terminal D by 10 new gates interchangeable with 6 wide-body aircraft positions, passengers will soon be greeted by a breathtaking sight. The design of D-West welcomes passengers to the United States and Houston by immediately greeting them with commissioned art from Houston-based artists, a glass international arrivals corridor that provides views of the airfield and concourse below, and large-scale photographic panels celebrating Houston’s culture.

“The patterned Feature Wall and custom Copper Ceiling are designed for a welcoming customer experience and journey through Houston, which we know our passengers will truly enjoy,” said Radwan.

The Feature Wall is patterned to provide views and daylight at the passenger level, transitioning to a higher percentage of solid wall and implementing a balance of temperatures and natural light for a comfortable experience. While the Wall will provide unique daylight and shadows throughout the day, it will remain active as night falls with the integrated LED fixtures at each opening.  

Spanning approximately 380 feet long, the LED Feature Wall will display colored light and movement that can be viewed from anywhere in the concourse.  While LED displays are not new in airport environments, this application is not focused on video representation.  Instead, the colors will change throughout the day and year to represent a circadian rhythm and create a more passive experience.

The Copper Feature Ceiling was inspired by sunlight being filtered through the live oak tree canopies found around Houston.  The openings are meant to filter daylight from the clerestory above, and the custom-angled, elliptical tabs reflect different viewpoints of light similar to the leaves of the oaks. The copper ceiling is not merely a visual delight; it also pays homage to the region's rich history. Copper, known for its durability and timeless beauty, is a nod to Houston's resilience and strength. 

“The IAH Terminal Redevelopment Program is propelling Bush Airport into a new era of air travel,” explained Radwan. “The installation of custom leaf trusses, the introduction of a Copper Feature Ceiling, and the advancement of the Feature Wall mark significant visual milestones in creating an airport that not only facilitates seamless travel but also offers an immersive and aesthetically pleasing environment. As construction of the new international terminal progresses, Houston Airports is set to become a benchmark of excellence for airports worldwide, showcasing the perfect blend of innovation, sustainability, and elegance.”