Beijing Terminal 3 by Foster
by Jo Baker
The Chinese have long been good at big gestures, and one of Beijing's latest — courtesy of London's Foster + Partners — is lifting spirits in the capital at a rate of thousands per day.
As the world's largest airport terminal, Beijing Capital International Airport's Terminal 3 is a striking combination of British finesse with China's brute power and bureaucratic will. The terminal exceeds one million square meters (11 million square feet) according to Foster + Partners, and is expected to serve an estimated 50 million passengers per year by 2020, with up to 7,000 international passengers per hour.
The mammoth project is being credited with successfully re-tuning airport space — a feat occasionally attempted and rarely achieved.
Beijing's Terminal 3 joined the two existing overworked airport wings in February 2008, and will be cutting its teeth on the million or so sports fans set to descend for the Summer Olympics. The building is a reassuring symbol in a country that has seen explosive economic growth put real strain on its infrastructure.
The central government chose one giant for another, and Norman Foster's British architecture powerhouse won the competition with a building as vast as it is fluid. Foster + Partners collaborated with the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design (BIAD) — a large, state-owned operation with a project list that includes The Great Hall of the People and the airport's Terminal 2. The architects teamed up with Arup for structural and mechanical engineering, and Dutch airport consultants NACO rounded out the joint venture.
Spearheaded by Foster himself and Mouzhan Majidi, the terminal design has elicited creative comparisons with everything from the Forbidden City to a double-headed snake. Reviews have largely been positive. Terminal 3 has fared better than Beijing's last curvaceous high-tech newcomer, Paul Andreu's National Theatre, rather derisively dubbed "The Egg." The airport's sleek, high-tech curves appear graceful, aerodynamic, and rather welcoming.
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