2023 Design Awards: Watertown Regional Airport by CO-OP Architecture

Awarded 2023 AIASD Honor Award
Content provided by CO-OP Architecture
Photos by Pete VonDeLinde

By 2020, the growth of the Watertown area had put serious strain on the Watertown Regional Airport. Space was limited and accessibility, security and logistical issues were widespread. On top of that, the interior environment was dull and dated with few amenities. It was a 1950s design, after all. 

Leadership at the airport initially conceived of a lodgey new terminal to capitalize on area fishing and hunting opportunities. But with the site located in the industrial park, surrounded by scores of metal buildings, we thought a lodge would be a sore thumb. Our solution was to rework the industrial language. Metal buildings are a ubiquitous South Dakota form. How do we design among them? 

Photo by Pete VonDeLinde

We imagined an exterior that would stand out without feeling out-of-place: a precast base with channel glass above. The repetitive glass and precast reflect the patterning of the surrounding buildings while filling the interior with natural light. Interior wood details helped to reconcile the owner’s original lodge concept with the industrial language we pursued while adding some warmth to the space. 

The materiality reflects a bigger idea too: the relationship between land and sky. This is most evident on the interior, where the terrazzo floor and tile walls offer a solid base while the tall ceilings, white walls and channel glass above create an open, airy feel. 

Photo by Pete VonDeLinde

Beyond bringing in light, the windows on the first and second level offer great views of the airfield. The ceiling pattern of wood-look planks nudges your gaze upward, evoking thoughts of lift-off – or maybe the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperspace. In the evenings, the channel glass is lit from within, creating a soft glowing box and a unique sense of arrival.  

The 26,000-square-foot terminal was a collaboration with Mead & Hunt. Completed in 2022 with streamlined security, contemporary airy circulation, fresh check-in and car rental counters, and improved amenities, the new terminal has made for a pleasant travel experience at the Watertown Regional Airport.  

Photo by Pete VonDeLinde

More than just a way to get from A to B, ATY has become something of a destination itself. 

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