Beijing Unveils the World's Largest Airport Terminal
More than six years and US$11.5 billion after Beijing set out to build a bigger and better airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport is now open. Designed by Zaha Hadid, Daxing's mammoth main terminal comes in at a whopping 7.5 million square feet (700,000 square meters), making it the largest airport terminal in the world.
As Beijing's second airport, Daxing should help satisfy the city's dire need for increased air travel capacity. The existing Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) is the world's second busiest and is notorious for lengthy delays. BCIA became only the second airport in the world to serve over 100 million passengers in one year in 2018, putting it well over its 85 million planned capacity. The record-breaking Daxing project will prepare Beijing for the growth of China's air traffic market, which is expected to surpass the United States as the largest by 2022.
Here, a peek at just a few of the airport's standout features.
IMAGES COURTESY OF ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS
Daxing is one of the first airports to be designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Hadid. Dubbed the “alien starfish” by Chinese media, the modern structure features six golden radiating arms in Ms. Hadid's signature curvilinear style. Each arm extends from a central courtyard. Five arms hold terminal gates, while the sixth hosts the airport's transportation hub, which provides access to downtown Beijing and the surrounding areas.
The Daxing project incorporated several forward-thinking technological innovations meant to make traveling a breeze. Facial recognition technology, combined with more than 400 self-service stations, will speed authentication from check-in through boarding—eliminating the need for paper tickets. An e-tag system was designed for tracking luggage. Customer service robots provide up-to-date flight information. And making all these cloud-based services possible (and fast) is a comprehensive 5G mobile network.
Despite the airport's massive scale, the project team made it a point to lessen the environmental footprint. Eight thousand windows light the four-story interior, and solar panels help offset overall energy consumption. There's also an extensive rainwater collection and reuse system. New high-speed rail lines connect the airport's transit hub to downtown, with travel times of less than 20 minutes. The airport itself was designed with walkability in mind: The distance between the airport's core and each of the 79 gates never exceeds 2,000 feet (600 meters), or about an eight-minute walk. That means no trams or shuttles necessary.
PHOTO BY WANG WEI/VCG VIA GETTY IMAGES
Though the airport is now open for business, Daxing is far from complete. The airport's master plan includes projects that will ramp up capacity to 45 million passengers by 2021, 72 million by 2025 and 100 million by 2040. That includes expanding from four civilian runways to seven. Eventually, Daxing is expected to become the world's busiest airport.