Essential Architecture-  Peking

Beijing International Airport


Foster & Partners.


Beijing / Peking, China


Under construction, to be completed in late 2007




steel concrete


International Airport
  A plan of the airport. Terminal 3 is a centerpiece project for the 2008 Olympics and is designed to relieve the overloaded airport's other two terminals.
  August 23 2007: Two workers mop the floor of the hall of the newly-built Terminal 3
Photograph: Victor Liu/EPA
  September 12 2007: The huge interior will have 64 restaurants and 84 shops
Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP
  December 24 2007: The new terminal uses traditional colours and state-of-the-art technology
Photograph: 3CSPA/NewSport/Corbis
  February 16 2008: Six international and domestic airlines will begin operating in the terminal on Friday February 29, while others will switch over from the other two terminals in March 2008
February 16 2008: The expansion cost a reported 27 billion yuan ($3.65billion)
Photograph: China Photos/Getty Images
  February 16 2008: It took just under four years to build the terminal, its runway and most of the related infrastructure
  February 16 2008: Visitors walk past decoration featuring nine dragons
  February 16 2008: Workers clean the floor in the Ground Transportation Centre (GTC), connecting the Beijing airport light railway line
  February 16 2008: A high-speed commuter train will whisk passengers into the city
  February 16 2008: Staff members clean the roof of the Ground Transportation Centre
Photographs: China Photos/Getty Images
  February 16 2008: A staff member checks the baggage reclaim belt
  February 23 2008: The terminal is 'a safe and efficient non-competition venue for the much anticipated Beijing Olympics games,' said Dong Zhiyi, deputy general manager of the Capital Airport Holding Co ahead of the terminal's opening
Photograph: AP
According to the U.S. Embassy to China, the country will be building 108 new airports between 2004 and 2009 -- including what will be the world's largest: the Beijing International Airport, designed by Foster & Partners. Set to open at the end of 2007, in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the airport terminal will cover more than 1 million square meters, giving it a bigger footprint than the Pentagon.

It's designed to handle 43 million passengers a year initially and 55 million by 2015, figures that will probably push the new facility into the ranks of the top 10 busiest airports, going by the 2004 numbers from the Airports Council International. Given the scale and traffic, Foster & Partners focused on the traveler's experience, making sure that walking distances are short, for instance.

Building on Foster's experience designing Hong Kong's new mega-airport, the massive Chek Lap Kok, the sprawling Beijing terminal is housed under a single roof. To help passengers distinguish between different sections of the vast space, skylights cast different shades of yellow and red light across walls -- a subtle but innovative navigational aid. The architects also kept sustainability in mind: An environmental-control system reduces carbon emissions, and skylights situated on a south-east axis lessen solar heat, keeping the building cool.