Beijing’s new airport is truly an architectural wonder. Being one of the topmost anticipated buildings in the world, it finally came to fruition in September 2019, after five years of construction.
Boasting a 7.5 million square feet terminal, the massive airport now officially holds the title of the largest single-building terminal in the world.
Designed by the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the Beijing Daxing International Airport features a spatial and sleek design with an incredibly functional layout.
Let’s take a journey through this architectural gem to see precisely what makes it so special.
The airport earned the nickname “starfish” or “alien starfish” due to its six piers connected directly to the terminal’s main central area. When seen from above, it does look like a giant six-legged starfish sitting on a massive part of the landscape.
But the legendary Zaha Hadid had a different image in mind. She had a vision of a phoenix, or rather the Fenghuang, which is an immortal mythological bird found in East Asian mythology. When you look at it from her perspective, you can actually see that it does resemble a phoenix.
Whatever you decide to call the Beijing Daxing International Airport, you can’t deny the fact that it looks absolutely marvelous. You also can’t help but feel as if it came straight out of a sci-fi space movie. And that’s the notion that everyone who sets foot inside this massive jewel feels.
So, let’s step inside because the exterior is not the only thing that makes it stand out. It is remarkable, but it actually pales in comparison to the spectacular interior of the building.
The Pritzker Prize-winning architect took inspiration from traditional Chinese architecture to design this architectural wonder. The main principles of the Chinese architecture include having a central courtyard interconnected to the spaces around it.
The main passenger terminal is that grand central courtyard that connects to the five halls leading to the arrival, departure, and transfer zones. Its radial design curves like a rolling landscape and looks breathtaking. It spans up to 100 meters, and it is designed in a very flexible way that will allow any reconfiguration for future growth.
This courtyard is designed to make passenger navigation absolutely seamless. After all, it is a massive airport that will serve millions of passengers throughout the year.
From the heart of the terminal, passengers need to walk incredibly short distances to get to their gates, including going through security and check-in. Getting to the farthest boarding gate from the terminal takes less than 8 minutes, thanks to the airport’s radial design.
The radial design also eliminates the need for shuttle trains, as the interconnected halls lead straight to the airbridges, each of which can simultaneously service and process six full airplanes.
But Zaha Hadid Architects didn’t stop there when trying to incorporate design elements from traditional Chinese architecture. They also designed five traditional Chinese gardens situated at the end of each of the five halls connected to the central atrium. Each is a wonderful shout-out to the Chinese traditions that make the Daxing airport even more stunning.
The roof of this brilliant airport is another story. The terminal’s central courtyard features eight giant C-shaped columns, each of which has a network of huge linear skylights at the top.
The vaulted roof allows the terminal to fill with a lot of natural light. The sinuous curves and parabolic folds of the ovoid overhead windows are actually some of the famous Zaha Hadid’s trademarks.
The flowing forms within the roof are actually there for more than just the looks. They are part of the central atrium’s intuitive navigation system. The beams direct passengers toward the central terminal area and guide them to all their arrival, departure, and transfer zones.
What makes passenger navigation even smoother is all the innovative tech implemented into the airport. There are 400 self-service check-in kiosks, as well as customer service robots that provide passengers with all the airport and flight information they need.
When you think about a structure this enormous that will process hundreds of flights a day and serve millions of passengers, you can’t help but think of the huge environmental footprint.
Fortunately for our dear planet, the architects behind this project developed a plan for reducing that footprint.
They designed a centralized heating system that retains and recovers all the excess heat from various operations at the airport. That way, carbon emissions will be brought down to a minimum.
They also created a water management system capable of collecting, permeating, and purifying up to 2.7 million cubic meters of water coming from the lakes, streams, and wetlands located in the vicinity. The eco-friendly system helps eliminate the risk of flooding and prevents the so-called island effect on the local microclimate due to the heat in the summer.
They really did think of everything, didn’t they? This is another reason why the Beijing Daxing International Airport can join the ranks of the most extraordinary airport terminals on the planet.
The Joint Design Team (JDT) that brought together Zaha Hadid Architects and the French engineering firm ADP Ingénierie (ADPI) designed the largest single-structure terminal on the globe.
Contrary to what many people assume, the Beijing Daxing International Airport isn’t the largest airport in the world. That place belongs to the new Istanbul Airport, which covers more than 818 million square feet. The Daxing airport sits on “modest” 11 million square feet of land and features a terminal of 7.5 million square feet, which is the size of 97 football pitches.
It is estimated that about 45 million passengers per year will initially pass through Beijing’s new airport. By 2025, the number is expected to grow to 72 million passengers a year and reach 100 million passengers and 4 tons of cargo per year by 2040.
Zaha Hadid and all the other architects and designers who joined forces to bring this project to life have clearly done a brilliant job. They have created a true masterpiece that will bring joy and convenience to all the people traveling to and from China’s capital.
What’s more, they created something that will spark creativity in the future generations of architects. The Beijing Daxing International Airport is certain to bring inspiration to both aspiring and expert architects all over the world.
If you ever travel to Beijing, don’t miss the chance to see this spectacular architectural feat for yourself and marvel at all its mesmerizing features. The building is more than just a piece of modern architecture. It is proof that alchemy is still very much present in the glorious minds of today’s architects and that it will remain a significant part of architectural designs for many years to come.