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High Flyin’

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport undergoes extensive upgrades.

By Suzie Hammond Austin TX fancies itself “The Live Music Capital of the World,” which is splashed up in lights in several places in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and on signs across the rest of the city. The other slogan embraced by the Austinites is “Keep Austin Weird.” Many small businesses in the surrounding area do their best to be more interesting than your usual retailer is. Vegan taco wagons, clothing-optional hippies, and a variety of music and art festivals intersect here, creating a culture that is truly vibrant…and distinctively Austin. As a public utility, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was involved in discussions about its expansion starting before 2012. The plans went through a number of committees and elections in Austin before finally getting to the point at which portions could go out for various contractors to bid. (Naturally, the process of collecting and reviewing bids was rather lengthy. In addition, any changes related to newer specifications of just-released equipment had to be reviewed thoroughly.) After the typically intensive process for public works, project design and architecture was awarded to Gensler. The design giant, which is headquartered in San Francisco CA, comfortably made more than $1 billion in revenue each year for the last five, and the company operates offices in 46 cities in 16 countries. According to its website, “Gensler is a global design firm that partners with clients to create more livable cities, smarter workplaces and more engaging leisure destinations.” Sounds like a match for Austin’s ethos! 50 Sound & Communications February 2019

A Wide View There’s plenty of audiovisual technology to discuss across the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport campus. But, before we delve into digital signs, paging systems and so forth, let’s take a wider view of the overall master plan, including its non-AV-centered elements. Robert Mercado, Project Manager and Architect with the city of Austin Department of Aviation, is helping to oversee this major undertaking, which, although well on its way, has not been entirely completed. He explained that the plan, which includes adding nine new gates, would accommodate a projected 15 million travelers annually—a 36-percent increase over the airport’s existing capacity. In addition to the new gates, the project entails a 70,000-square-foot extension that contains 19,000 square feet of retail space, an outbound baggage area, various airline offices and additional passenger amenities. Project planners also envision a large, outdoor obser vation deck, pet-centric spaces, a variety of improvements on existing structures and upgrades across the terminal to enhance the passenger experience. The vision outlined is beyond reproach, but one of the challenges in achieving it has been the fact that the airport has had to remain fully operational throughout. (More on that shortly.) Apart from the obvious, what else is expected from an airport renovation and expansion these days? Befitting its city culture, Austin-Bergstrom includes elements such as music-performance areas and artistic spaces. New termi-

Profile for Sound & Communications

Sound & Communications February 2019, Vol 65 No 2