Most Influential Projects 2020

45 Beijing Daxing International Airport


For creating the world’s largest terminal, poised to help China rebuild its tourism industry

As China’s economy reached skyhigh levels, so did the country’s air travel—and the delays. Government leaders responded with a US$17.5 billion investment in a new airport, Beijing Daxing International. Based on a user-centric master plan created by Netherlands Airport Consultants and brimming with state-of-the-art technology, it promised to streamline the travel experience. After opening in September 2019, Beijing Daxing quickly took stress off Beijing Capital International Airport, the world’s second-busiest aviation hub.

With the COVID-19 lockdown, of course, busy airports are no longer the problem. Yet there’s no doubt the airport will play a pivotal role as China—and the rest of the world—begins to rebuild and recover. Whether or not China nabs the title of world’s largest air travel market from the United States, Daxing still has bragging rights as the world’s largest airport terminal, spanning 7.5 million square feet (696,773 square meters).

The airport has four runways that can handle up to 300 takeoffs and landings each hour—with three more runways slated in future expansion phases. The facility can accommodate 45 million passengers by 2021, on the way to 72 million.

Here’s a look at three of Daxing’s standout features—and how they raise the bar for future airport projects:

People Movers

From start to finish, the airport was designed with empathy for travelers. Beijing Daxing is massive: Including runways and annexes, it covers 18 square miles (46.6 square kilometers). Yet the airport authority says the longest distance between security checkpoints and departure gates is a mere 600 meters (656 yards), roughly an 8-minute walk. Customer-service robots provide updates and airport information, and biometric scanners and smart security checks were installed to shorten wait times while enhancing security. In a nod to comfort, seats and benches adapt to different body types.

Natural Advantages

Filtered glass blocks 60 percent of the heat entering the terminal while 8,000 rooftop windows allow enough natural sunlight to generate 60 percent of the terminal’s lighting. Photovoltaic cells are mounted on parking garages, hangars and cargo areas, while Daxing’s heating and cooling systems are powered by geothermal heat pumps. Ten percent of the airport’s energy needs are powered by renewables. Plus, a rainwater collection facility helps the airport reduce its drain on local water supplies.

Public Access

A collaboration between Zaha Hadid Architects and ADP Ingénierie, the terminal building has been dubbed the “alien starfish” for the structure’s six radiating arms. Five arms hold airplane gates, while the sixth hosts a transportation hub that provides access to downtown Beijing and the surrounding areas. 

Given the airport’s remote location, roughly 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the city center, the master plan noted accessibility as “the most vulnerable aspect of the airport.” In addition to an intercity railway built to help travelers avoid the city’s notorious traffic jams, future expansions will include additional rail lines, train station check-in kiosks and an inter-airport link between Beijing Daxing and Beijing Capital.

Related Sponsors and Organizations

  • ADP IngĂ©nierie
  • Government of China
  • Netherlands Airport Consultants
  • Zaha Hadid Architects