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Great Lakes by Design: Designed for Flight

Great Lakes by Design: Designed for Flight

Great Lakes by Design featured the 80,000 SF addition to WACO Aircraft Corporation’s Battle Creek, Michigan facility that supports the expansion of their operations while providing a modern, comfortable FBO for their private aviation clientele. Working with our longtime construction partner Walbridge, Ghafari combined the aviation expertise of our Chicago office with the design experience of our Grand Rapids office to design the expansion for WACO, the world’s leading manufacturer of sport biplanes.

Featuring two large new service hangars with vintage-inspired facades, a fabrication shop, composites shop, restaurant, FBO, and engineering office space to accommodate for future growth, the project demanded an understanding of the technical aspects of aviation; the intricacies of federal regulations for the engineering, design, and construction at airports; and both commercial and hospitality insights for interior environments and office spaces.


WACO’s facility is located at the Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field, a regional, general aviation airport owned by the City of Battle Creek within the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. It is not only home to WACO Aircraft Corporation and Centennial Aircraft Services, but also the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, Duncan Aviation, Battle Creek Air National Guard, and the FAA Battle Creek Flight Inspection Field Office.


“What is interesting about working on an airport is you have an air side and you have a land side. The building has to have two front doors, so you are challenged by this very linear element and that linear element then becomes the bridge between existing and new,” said Tom Tooley, Ghafari’s Executive Vice President. “The linear element is a two-level structure with FBO clients arriving at grade level allowing additional offices and the restaurant above on the second level. The restaurant is open to the public and has become a local favorite with a fresh, local menu and fantastic views of the airport and the facility.”


The exterior, particularly for the two hangars, took cues from existing vernacular onsite as well as the largely influential Art Deco and Bauhaus movements that emerged popular in the 1920s and 1930s during what has been called the Golden Age of Aviation.

With its large observation windows, the boundaries between FBO, restaurant, and office spaces become less defined, as customers and employees can view into the hangars. Other aviation-inspired elements can also be found throughout the facility interior, such as in the floor pattern meant to replicate plane curvatures and in the cabling that is meant to evoke support details on the wings. Another interior detail inspired by the production of the WACO biplanes is the wall covering found in the main corridor, which is essentially a large graphic wall showcasing the company’s engineering drawings.

Read the full article, “Designed for Flight”, here.