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Steel Shots: A Tunnel to Infinity
Posted by Geoff Weisenberger on May 6, 2011 at 11:00 AM.


Supported by 68 HSS trusses, Brussels Airport’s Pier A resembles an airplane wing. (Click on photo for another view.) Photos: Geoff Weisenberger.


Earlier this spring, I traveled to Brussels, Belgium, for a steel industry event. As would be expected, my final impression of the city was the airport. And what an impression it was!


After winding my way through what seemed to be an endless array of shops, hallways, kiosks and other airport-type installations, I came to the entrance of Pier A, an ultra-modern, steel-supported concourse that appeared to stretch into infinity. In reality, this concourse is 650 m (2,132 ft) long. But thanks to the sleek design—the curvature of the building resembles that of an airplane wing—and perhaps my lack of sleep (not to mention a few glasses of strong, Belgian beer from the night before) it seemed to go on forever.picture-427_200.jpg


The pier, which opened in 2002, contains 31 gates and handles flights to Africa as well as flights to and from the Schengen Treaty countries. It also showcases the elegant combination of exposed structural steel and ample daylighting. There are no conventional support columns in the passenger area. Rather, the aluminum skin roof and floor-to-ceiling facades on either side are supported by 68 triangular, 3D, curved, round HSS trusses—950 metric tons in all—which were fabricated and erected by Belgian steel construction company International Metal Works.


As I sat in Pier A, watching the sun rise, waiting for my flight home, I realized something: My architectural image of Brussels had previously been that of heavy, ancient gray stone and cobblestone streets that make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.


The light, modern Pier A, by contrast, propels you into the future, thanks in large part to its practical and beautiful use of steel. It certainly prompted me to update my architectural image of the city.


Geoff Weisenberger is AISC’s director of sustainability.


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