YVR Pier D Expansion: Creating a living legacy in airport design

Vancouver Airport Authority

Year Completed



Vancouver Airport Authority


Vancouver, BC


242,000 SF


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Establishing a deeper sense of place

Through the Pier D Expansion project, YVR sought to increase its international capacity, remain the airport of choice amid growing competition, and maintain its position as the ‘Best Airport in North America’. To achieve this goal, the Airport Authority commissioned their largest terminal expansion project in 25 years. This project would increase international gate capacity – adding eight new wide body aircraft gates – while continuing YVR’s Land, Sea and Sky passenger experience. In addition to the new gates, the expansion would span three floors and include carefully crafted spaces for passenger amenities such as retail, food and beverage, and thematic installations.

Following a competitive RFP process, we were honoured to be selected as the Prime Consultant to lead design and delivery of this world-class airport expansion. Consistent with YVR’s thematic storyline, the design vision for Pier D was intended to reflect the natural beauty of British Columbia’s rugged coastline, welcoming travelers through an interactive, immersive experience.



Finding sustainable ways to expand international travel

Challenges included completing the project expeditiously to meet growing passenger volumes, while also ensuring an intuitive, extraordinary passenger experience inspiring travellers with a lasting impression of the province’s beauty.

Our transportation team conducted extensive planning and construction phasing, including substantial early works and temporary bridges to ensure minimal impact on ongoing operations. Our design aligned with YVR’s culture of sustainable development and a robust environmental management plan. This included reducing GHG emissions, substantial energy use reductions, alternative energy sources, and innovative water and waste management systems.

We wanted to immerse passengers in the rugged coastline of BC. Every piece of this design reinforces that story. Together with immersive digital technology, and the open-air atrium, Pier D takes YVR’s passenger experience to a new level.”

Michael McDonald




Expanding the ‘Land, Sea and Sky’ narrative

Through visioning sessions, stakeholder engagement, and thinking between the lines to blend raw natural elements with modern technology and intuitive wayfinding, we worked collaboratively to create a meaningful and calming passenger experience connected to nature.

We grounded our design in the province’s sandy beaches, rocky coast, numerous islands, gushing tidal pools, old growth forests, and diverse aquatic animals. The project centres around an outdoor atrium featuring live, majestic Western Hemlock trees where passengers experience BC’s natural beauty prior to boarding and upon arrival to Canada’s West Coast.

The Pier D expansion reinforces YVR’s role as a diverse global hub that connects people, cargo, data, and ideas and serves as a platform for our community to come together and thrive. Kasian captured and delivered on our vision for a world-class, sustainable terminal expansion and we are excited for passengers to travel through Pier D and experience all that this innovative space has to offer”.

Christoph Rufenacht

VP, Airport Development & Asset Optimization, Vancouver International Airport



Designing British Columbia’s smallest provincial park

Similar to every YVR project Kasian has completed over the past 25 years, we became an extension of the YVR team, weaving the ‘Land, Sea and Sky’ narrative into the very fabric of the airport.

The focal point of the Pier D expansion centres on a feature passenger amenity space defined by massive timber tree columns. The columns support a feature roof angled to the sun in the creation of an outdoor space open to the elements. The outdoor space centres around three large western hemlock trees set within a rocky coastline. Vignettes of stormy skies, sunsets and wildlife are projected onto the ceiling and the glass screens surrounding the island. Active tidal pools also surround the tapered, oval glass form separating inside from out.

We collaborated with acoustic engineers and event designers to develop specialized ‘speaker trees’ in the creation of a three-dimensional, immersive acoustic experience that imbues the space with the sounds of natural British Columbia.

Descending to Level 1, into the tidal waters and a mystical, kelp forest, passengers experience the ebb and flow of kelp as an intuitive wayfinding spine that directs passengers to gate counters. Carpet patterns, art installations and building elements are strategically placed to reinforce passenger flow.

Pier D also features two children’s’ play areas, food and beverage vendors, Duty Free and other retail, and plenty of spaces for wary travellers to rest.

Projects at YVR are guided by the commitment to create a unique sense of place through passenger experiences, that reflect YVR’s core values of respect for the cultural heritage and richness of the land of BC.”

Martin Nogger




Putting Kasian on the map for airport design

After 25 years in airport design, Pier D Expansion creates a legacy; not only for the people of British Columbia, but for our firm too.

For the past 12 years, Skytrax has named YVR the ‘Best Airport in North America’, as chosen by passengers. The architecture’s intuitive, contextual design makes even the most infrequent passengers feel comfortable and confident.


All photos are taken by Ema Peter.

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