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Photo courtesy of Ema Peter


Steve McFarlane, FRAIC, and Rob Grant of Office of McFarlane Biggar (OMB), the firm that completed the project, met me in Fort McMurray on a sunny June day. Light streams through the airside portion of the terminal, and windows at both ends offer expansive views of the surrounding fields and boreal forest beyond. (…) 


“We’ve all been in airports where the arrivals experience is like coming into the basement,” says McFarlane. “There’s no daylight, you have no idea where you’ve just arrived.” In contrast, the designers created a bright, double-height arrivals hall featuring an integrated artwork whose ribbon-like strips evoke the Northern Lights. Exceptionally, the baggage hall opens onto a south-facing outdoor courtyard equipped with wood benches and planted with trembling aspens. In the winter, the courtyard becomes a suntrap that funnels light into the arrivals zone. (…) 


On the departures side, generous waiting areas supplement a series of bustling food-and-drink concessions (the camps are dry, the airport is not). The continuous, high-ceilinged spine for the departures area is clad and crowned with warm-toned wood. The mass-timber roof system consists of glulam beams, overlaid with 7-ply-thick cross-laminated timber (CLT). Service chases between the CLT panels were used for incorporating lighting, sprinklers, PA speakers, smoke detection devices, sound control and signage elements. [1]


In order to minimize the building’s carbon footprint, the design incorporates several sustainable strategies appropriate for a northern climate. This includes extensive natural day lighting, passive ventilation, heat recovery systems, and inherent flexibility in the design to accommodate changing airline and security requirements. The use of cross laminated timber (CLT) technology for the building structure is particularly innovative, and will be the largest application of CLT technology in Western Canada when completed. [2]


Fort McMurray’s remote location, its limited local labour force, and demanding seasonal constraints influenced several fundamental technical decisions early on in the design process. These factors were coupled with an overall desire to institute efficient green building measures. The building was constructed with significant offsite fabrication, durable materials and simple technologies in order to ensure quality and minimize both the construction schedule and future maintenance. Aesthetically, the overall goal was to create an iconic and memorable presence in the landscape and a directness and honest expression in harmony with the spirit of its locale. [3]


AIBC Lieutenant Governor’s Award
Prairie Wood Design Award
North American Wood Design & Building Award
BC Wood WORKS! Jury’s Choice Award
International Interior Design Association IDC
Interior Design Magazine Best of Year Award
Alberta Construction Magazine Award
Canadian Architect Award of Excellence
RAIC Governor General’s Medal


[1]      Lam, Elsa. “Fort Mac Takes Flight: Fort McMurray International Airport, Fort McMurray, Alberta.” Canadian Architect, July 3, 2019. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/fort-mac-takes-flight/.

[2]      Perry, Jessica. “New YMM Terminal Wins Canadian Architect Award of Excellence.” Fort McMurray International Airport. Fort McMurray International Airport, November 2, 2018. https://www.flyymm.com/news-releases/2018/11/2/new-ymm-terminal-wins-canadian-architect-award-of-excellence.

[3]      “Fort Mcmurray International Airport / Office Of Mcfarlane Biggar Architects + Designers Inc.” ArchDaily. ArchDaily, March 26, 2015. https://www.archdaily.com/612923/fort-mcmurray-international-airport-office-of-mcfarlane-biggar-architects-designers.

Additional information:

“Fort Mcmurray International Airport / Office Of Mcfarlane Biggar Architects + Designers Inc.” ArchDaily. ArchDaily, March 26, 2015. https://www.archdaily.com/612923/fort-mcmurray-international-airport-office-of-mcfarlane-biggar-architects-designers.

“Fort McMurray International Airport by OMB.” Azure Magazine, June 6, 2019. https://www.azuremagazine.com/article/fort-mcmurray-international-airport-omb/.

“Fort McMurray International Airport.” Fort McMurray International Airport | Total Lighting Solutions, November 20, 2015. http://www.lightingdesign.ca/portfolio/fort-mcmurray-international-airport.

“Fort McMurray International Airport.” issuu. from Canadian Architect May 2018by IQ Business Media, May 31, 2018. https://issuu.com/iqbusinessmedia/docs/ca_may_18_de/s/2047.

“Fort Mcmurray International Airport.” office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers. Accessed July 21, 2021. https://www.officemb.ca/work/fort-mcmurray-international-airport/.

“Fort McMurray Int’l Opens New Terminal & Begins Planning Next Expansion.” Fort McMurray Int’l Opens New Terminal & Begins Planning Next Expansion | Airport Improvement Magazine. Accessed July 21, 2021. https://airportimprovement.com/article/fort-mcmurray-intl-opens-new-terminal-begins-planning-next-expansion.

Weder, Adele. “Fort McMurray International Airport.” Architectural Record RSS. Architectural Record, October 12, 2016. https://www.architecturalrecord.com/articles/7434-fort-mcmurray-international-airport.

Project Title: Fort McMurray International Airport
Artists:  Office of McFarlane Biggar
Year: 2014

Place: Fort McMurray, Alberta

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