Terminal Silhouettes: MCI

Terminal silhouette of MCI (Kansas City)


Kansas City was a fun airport to draw.

Although Kansas City’s terminals look circular, they don’t truly have curved walls. Instead, their true shape is a 54-sided regular polygon (a pentacontakaitetragon), with a portion removed to allow the roadway to enter.

Both the outside and inside wall are polygons, but they’re also rotated slightly from each other, such that each corner of the interior wall is lined up with the midpoint of each outer wall segment, and vice versa. Each inner wall corner has a notch (from the sun shade over the entry doors), and each outer wall corner has a spike (from the support pillars).

Zoomed in view of MCI terminal, showing roof beams, notches, and spikes

Overlapping zig-zag lines connect the spikes and notches, and form the large roof beams inside the terminal…

…which continue outside the terminal to support the road loop sun shade.

This meant that I had to draw quite a lot of guides to properly draw the terminal shape.

Screenshot of inkscape showing a 54-sided polygon with another 54-sided polygon cut out of it, and drawing guides overlapping it.

Fortunately, the three terminals were the same shape and size, so once I drew one terminal, I could copy, paste, and rotate, to create the other two.

Screenshot of Inkscape showing three terminals arranged around a center point.

The three terminals themselves are all arranged around a common center point (the middle of the giant roundabout serving all three terminals).

Terminal A (the upper left terminal) is currently being demolished for a replacement terminal. Since the demolition is not yet complete, I decided to include Terminal A, albeit shown in a lighter shade.

As I mentioned in my new airport post for Kansas City, it’s a shame that this terminal design doesn’t really work with modern airport requirements, because it’s a beautiful terminal design. I’m glad I got to visit and draw the old terminals while they were still largely operational.

Airport #92/100: Kansas City (MCI)

Kansas City International Airport
Kansas City, Missouri, United States

First visit: 29 July 2019

I have a love–hate relationship with Kansas City International (KCI): it’s a beautiful terminal concept that absolutely doesn’t work as a modern airport.

KCI was designed to minimize walking from one’s parked car to the gate, and so each of the three terminals is a thin circle wrapped around a parking garage.

Satellite imagery of all three terminals
Interior of Terminal C
Interior of Terminal C. The entire interior width of the terminal, as can be seen here, is only about 50 feet (15.5 meters).

However, this design was built before airport security was required, and the terminals weren’t wide enough to have singular landside and airside areas separated by a security checkpoint. Thus, the terminals had to have multiple security checkpoints, with only a few gates behind each, in order to make security fit.

Landside interior of Terminal C
Landside (non-secure) area of Terminal C. An airside (secure) portion is behind the glass panels in the center of the photo.

Given those limitations, the airside seating areas past security are exceptionally crowded and have very limited amenities. My particular gate area had rows of seats that were crowded so close together that two people couldn’t sit across from each other without interweaving their knees, and yet there still weren’t enough seats for everyone to sit down.

Effectively, KCI is a pretty unique airport design, which I appreciate – but I also have no desire to ever fly out of it again until its upcoming new, modern terminal is open.