Robb Report - Jaclyn Trop

Instead of IM Pei's one-size-fits-all tower from 1962, this new generation will be designed to fit their surroundings. They'll also be made of recycled steel and renewable timber for sustainability.

In 1962, Pei’s small firm won a competition to create the standard blueprint for air traffic control towers across the country, providing the perch for controllers to monitor and clear planes for taxi, takeoff and landing. But many of those mid-century modernist structures are now entering their seventh decade in operation, including Chicago O’Hare, Sacramento, Madison, and Jacksonville, well beyond their intended life span—and, according to critics, they pose a significant threat to the environment.

Now, more than 60 years after Pei made his first sketches, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded a contract to a New York architecture firm to create an updated, more sustainable design. 

The FAA said it is targeting 31 control towers for the first round of construction, including airports in Detroit, Philadelphia and Fort Myers, Florida. The first groundbreaking could take place as soon as next year.

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