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Beijing New Airport Terminal Building

  • Client: Beijing New Airport Headquarters (BNAH)
  • 700,000m2 total floor area + 80,000m2 ground transportation centre
  • Capacity: 45 million passengers per year (expanding to 72 million)

The Beijing New Airport terminal building will be extremely user-focussed, efficient, adaptable and sustainable for future growth to serve the world’s fastest growing aviation sector.

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The client, Beijing New Airport Headquarters, adopted the 6-pier radial concept developed by ADPI as it gives exceptional functionality and flexibility.

The design celebrates the connectivity and dynamism of air travel; expressed as a sequence of inspirational inter-connected public spaces. The flowing rooflines cover the large, column-free spaces and provide a sense of scale and orientation – welcoming the world to Beijing. All of the passenger pathways through the terminal converge within the central courtyard, creating a multi-layered civic space – a public square and meeting place for passengers from around the globe – at the very heart of the terminal.

The terminal’s compact design minimizes the distances between check-in and gate, and also the distances between gates for transferring passengers. These transferring passengers will disembark and walk a short distance to the central courtyard, then on to their next gate. Aircraft piers radiate outwards from this central space, maximizing the number of planes that can park adjacent to the terminal.

International and domestic passenger areas are separated vertically – not spread out horizontally as at most other airports. This further contributes to a more compact terminal building.

The radial layout greatly improves adaptability and sustainability by enabling the terminal to operate in the many different configurations most appropriate to the varying aircraft and passenger traffic throughout each day. The compact design also reduces the requirements for shuttle trains between the many terminals that are common at other large airports. The installation, maintenance and operation of shuttle trains is expensive, with constant energy demands to continually ferry passengers through the airport. The radial design of the Beijing New Airport Terminal enables passengers to simply walk the short distances to everywhere they need to go within the airport.

Housing many departure gates in one terminal with a single passenger handling centre – rather than building an airport with many smaller terminals and many handling systems – is also beneficial. This ultimately reduces the carbon footprint of the airport throughout its construction and operational lifetime – further contributing to reaching the airport’s very high targets of environmental management and sustainability.

Although large to accommodate the many passengers and aircraft, the terminal building maintains a relationship to a human scale and sense of direction. These characteristics have evolved from traditional Chinese architecture where intricate compositions of connecting volumes define exterior and interior spaces that guide visitors as they progress through the architecture. In this airport terminal design, passengers are similarly guided seamlessly through the building via a sequence of public spaces that flow into each other, leading to the grand central courtyard – the primary gathering space for departing, arriving and transferring global passengers – ensuring every visitor has the most convenient and enjoyable user experience.

The overall symmetry of the airport terminal design, together with its flowing, interconnected forms create a fluid composition which evokes the harmony and balance evident in Chinese natural landscapes, while its colours and materials are an expression of visual language within traditional Chinese culture. The design of the new terminal reflects China’s rich cultural history and its remarkable future at the centre of a worldwide stage.


Zaha Hadid Architects and ADP Ingeniérie (ADPI)


Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher

Project Director

Cristiano Ceccato, Charles Walker

Project Architect

Paulo Flores, Lydia Kim

Project Team

Uli Blum
Antonio Monserrat
Alberto Moletto
Sophie Davison
Carolina Lopez-Blanco
Shaun Farrell
Junyi Wang
Ermis Chalvatzis
Rafael Contreras
Michael Grau,
Fernando Poucell
Gerry Cruz
Filipa Gomez
Kyla Farrell
Natassa Lianou
Teoman Ayas
Peter Logan
Yun Zhang
Karoly Markos
Irene Guerra

Beijing Support Team

Satoshi Ohashi
Rita Lee
Yang Jingwen
Lillie Liu

Project Coordination

Eugene Leung
Shao-Wei Huang

Local Design Institute

BIAD (Beijing Institute of Architecture & Design) + CACC (China Airport Construction Company)

Consortium Team (Competition Stage)

Pascall + Watson, Buro Happold, Mott Macdonald, EC Harris Consultants: McKinsey & Company,
Dunnett Craven, Triagonal, Logplan, Sensing Places, SPADA