2019 AOE Winner: San Diego International Airport Terminal 2 Parking Plaza, San Diego, Calif.

2019 Awards of Excellence: Best Design of Parking Facility

San Diego International Airport Terminal 2 Parking Plaza


Owning Agency: San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

  • San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, Owner
  • Watry Design, Inc., Architect, Structural Engineer and Parking Planner
  • Swinerton, Design Builder
  • Gensler, Design Architect
  • Michael Baker International, Civil Engineer
  • Spurlock, Landscape Architect

San Diego International Airport has a small footprint of 661 acres. Its parking structures were not meeting demand, which was only expected to grow. Therefore, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority envisioned a new “front door” to Terminal 2 that would provide a premier passenger experience. Emphasis was placed on customer-focused design and state-of-the-art technology to provide a more efficient, relaxing experience for travelers. The new structure provides 2,907 parking stalls and is infused with a high-level experience.

The Parking Plaza celebrates San Diego by creating a welcoming atmosphere for travelers. An overlook on the top level provides amazing harbor and downtown views. To preserve the harbor view, the building’s height was reduced and the footprint expanded. Three expansive lightwells were incorporated into the design to provide as much natural light as possible. The lightwells provide an open and airy pedestrian path from the Parking Plaza to the terminal and feature rock gardens, benches, and public art in the form of filigreed metal trees that create elegant archways over the lightwells.

The Airport Authority did not want any exposed conduit in the facility, which proved to be a great challenge given the amount of devices and equipment desired. For four months in the early stages of design, the design build team collaborated with electrical subcontractors to identify all of the conduit routing and design solutions that would conceal it in columns, beams, and most critically, the concrete decks.

Passengers exiting Terminal 2 are greeted by three massive, brightly colored public art installations on the exterior of the Parking Plaza’s three main stair towers. Each installation consists of stainless steel aircraft cables strung with hundreds of resin airplanes. Every screen features a different style of plane to celebrate San Diego’s commitment to the aviation industry. To connect even deeper to the Airport’s origins as Lindbergh Field, one plane is a model of San Diego’s own Spirit of St. Louis. Each installation features a unique color to act as a wayfinding element for passengers.

Cutting-edge parking technology allows drivers to secure parking reservations in advance and streamline their experience upon arrival. A license-plate recognition system, flexible payment options, and a high-level parking guidance system make arriving and departing smooth and efficient.