John Salmeron didn't complain much when his American Airlines flight was delayed Sunday.
Instead, he used the extra time to evaluate his dining options in the newly completed Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
"I was just looking at their menu, and I might be back," Salmeron, who lives in Hillsborough, said with a nod over his shoulder to Carolina Vintages, a restaurant and wine bar that served its first-ever customers Sunday. "I'm just looking at what's new down here before I decide where to have lunch."
He was in the new southern half of Terminal 2, which started operation Sunday morning with 13 shops and restaurants and gates for Continental, US Airways, United and Air Canada.
American and Delta use the northern end of the building, which opened in October 2008.
The $570 million Terminal 2 is a sunny building of steel, glass and tile. Laminated wood trusses support an undulating roofline over wide-open spaces.
Local residents and out-of-state visitors liked what they saw Sunday.
"It's organized really well; nice to see a lot of open space and all the sunlight coming in," Jeffrey Kick of Philadelphia said.
"It's a very positive experience," added his traveling companion, Joseph Conway. "And you don't expect that in an airport."
Mike and Susan Howard of Cary were beaming as they rode the escalator down to the baggage claim level. They weren't in a hurry to leave the airport.
"We love the building materials and how wide open it is," Susan Howard said.
"And the public art," Mike Howard said, gazing up at "Triplet," a hanging sculpture by artist Ed Carpenter in the central atrium of the arrival hall. It's made with wooden spars, steel cables, LED lighting and dichroic glass that refracts the sunlight.
"It reminds me of North Carolina aviation and the way old planes were made, the wood and the wire. And the prisms are making great color on the floor," he said.
Tar Heel echoes are everywhere in Terminal 2. Artworks celebrate the state's history, culture and landscape. Bars and restaurants feature North Carolina produce, barbecue, beers and wines.
"They've done a good job bringing in that locality," Salmeron said. "They've tried to give travelers who are coming through here a chance to experience the local culture."
Marvin Malecha, dean of the N.C. State University College of Design, calls Terminal 2 "a remarkable building." He recently wrapped up three years of frequent flying around a one-year term as president of the American Institute of Architects.
"I was able to compare this terminal to other airports," Malecha said. "It's an amazing front door for the Triangle, filled with light. It's not dark and dour.
"The scale is very friendly. As you come into the building, it's very clear where you go. You could be here for the first time and get through the whole sequence without any confusion or feeling lost."
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