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Students Re-imagine VT Montgomery Executive Airport

With last year’s runway expansion providing for the accommodation of business jets at Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport, a professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies challenged students to re-imagine the airport for commercial passenger service.

Associate Professor Heinrich Schnoedt partnered with airport director Keith Holt on the assignment.

“Professor Schnoedt and I felt it would be fun for the students to do a project so close to their classroom that they could visualize their concepts in a real-life format,” said Holt.  “When it comes to introducing commercial air travel, the airport offers some unique design opportunities, such as planning for vehicles, aircraft, security areas, ticketing, and baggage processing.”

The 10-week project was no simple task.  It included developing a branding strategy for a regional airline and crafting plans for a remotely operated air traffic control tower and a new terminal building inclusive of commercial travel specifications.

Connor Brown, a rising fifth-year student in the professional degree program said, “In an airport, there are a lot of requirements for different spaces set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the Transportation Security Administration.  This project taught me how to account for lots of different programmatic elements and how to allow enough space for each while still creating a cohesive and interesting building.”

Brown and his classmates toured the Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport with Schnoedt and Holt to gain project inspiration based on the facility’s programmatic needs and site characteristics, which include the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lane Stadium, and Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.

Schnoedt said, “When traveling, people are often required to spend a lot of time in a confined space prior to leaving for their destination.  As the students were developing their designs, I asked them to think about what happens during the waiting time in travel. What makes a spatial encounter - especially at a small airport - memorable?”

Holt said the final projects were imaginative and innovative.

“When the class came back to the airport at the end of the semester to give their presentations, many of the students had incorporated things they learned on their tour or incorporated items in the design that paid homage to the airport’s past and history,” said Holt. “It was fun to see what these creative minds were able to come up with.”

While there are no plans for commercial airline service nor terminal expansion by the Virginia Tech Montgomery Regional Airport Authority - the airport’s governing body, which includes members from Virginia Tech, Montgomery County, Blacksburg, and Christiansburg - the student concepts are fitting for any airport across the country, noted Holt.

The students' works are on exhibit in the Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport and are available for visitor viewing Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.