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Gander International Airport Departures Lounge

Gander International Airport Departures Lounge – 1000 James Blvd., Gander, NL –MID-CENTURY GEM COULD DEPART DUE TO DOWNSIZING

The most important modernist room in Canada at risk due to high operating costs and low passenger traffic.

Why it matters

Gander Airport officially opened in 1938 and by the 1950s it was one of the busiest international airports in the world. In June 1959, the Canadian government unveiled an upgraded Gander International Airport as part of a nation-wide airport building program to show the world, through its striking architecture, that Canada was a forward-thinking, cosmopolitan nation. The International Departures Lounge was the centrepiece of the airport and is considered by design experts to be the single most important modernist room in Canada, incorporates such striking elements as a 22-metre mural painted on-site by Kenneth Lochhead, geometric terrazzo floors, and cutting-edge furniture by renowned Canadian and international designers like Robin Bush, Jacques Guillon, and Arne Jacobsen. With the exception of an enclosed glass and aluminium corridor recently added for security reasons, the interior of the terminal’s international Departures Lounge is still in its original condition.

Why it’s endangered

In April, the airport’s operator, Gander International Airport Authority (GIAA), announced that it was pursuing plans to build a new, smaller, more energy efficient airport tailored to current passenger volumes (140,000 annually). The exisitng building covers some 9,850 sq m (106,000 sq ft.), about 6,500 sq m (70,000 sq ft) more space than the GIAA needs. The GIAA's 2013 Annual Report states that a new facility will incorporate key physical components of the current one. According to President and CEO Gary Vey (retired July 1, 2014), "The wrecking ball is not ominously over our head at the moment. We've got a couple-year window before we have to make some hard and fast decisions."

The decision was based on a series of investigation studies for the feasibility to renovate the terminal in 2012 undertaken by LPS Avia Consulting to look at various options, including renovation of the existing terminal, removal of the 1970s and 80s additions; construction of a new terminal; retension of existing one for a new function.

Where things stand

The demolition announcement this spring generated a groundswell of support for protecting Gander Airport and attracted national media attention. Heritage organizations including the Association of Heritage Industries Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland Historic Trust are facilitating discussions between key stakeholders. At the grassroots level, three separate Facebook sites have been launched in support of the airport, and a petition calling for its preservation now has almost 2,000 signatures.

UPDATE: In January, 2015, the Gander International Airport Authority unveiled a model for the new terminal. The airport authority has indicated that the departures lounge, along with all of its murals and sculptures will remain intact and in place for now. It hopes to find an adaptive reuse of the space and will entertain all options, as long as they are cost-neutral to the airport authority.