Beijing’s Massive Zaha Hadid–Designed Airport Is Now Open

The architecture alone makes it worth booking a flight there.

Beijing’s Massive Zaha Hadid–Designed Airport Is Now Open

Beijing’s new Daxing airport was designed to let light—and millions of passengers—easily flow through the terminal.

Photo by Hufton+Crow

Beijing’s massive Daxing International Airport (PKX) officially opened this past week—revealing a travel hub that impresses both in design and dimensions.

Envisioned by the late Zaha Hadid, the 7.5-million-square-foot terminal—equivalent to the size of 97 soccer fields—will initially welcome 45 million passengers annually. That number is expected to grow to 72 million passengers per year by 2025, and eventually to 100 million passengers annually.

With five piers, Daxing airport has been deemed the "starfish" by Chinese media.

With five piers, Daxing airport has been deemed the “starfish” by Chinese media.

Photo by lazy dragon/Shutterstock

Located nearly 30 miles south of central Beijing, the airport was built to help alleviate congestion at the Chinese capital’s existing international hub, Beijing Capital International Airport. With 101 million passengers traveling through it last year, Beijing Capital is currently the world’s second busiest airport after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, which saw 107.4 million travelers pass through its gates in 2018.

The lead designers on the ambitious $11.5 billion project, which kicked off in 2014, were Zaha Hadid (who died in 2016) and Patrik Schumacher of the firm Zaha Hadid Architects. They collaborated with Chinese design and construction firms.

A soaring central courtyard is at the heart of the terminal.

A soaring central courtyard is at the heart of the terminal.

Photo by Hufton+Crow

The airport’s inaugural flight was executed last week by China Southern on an Airbus A380 aircraft. While the only flights currently coming into and out of the airport are domestic, according to CNN, Daxing will connect to more than 100 global destinations by early 2020.

The airport consists of five outstretched piers and has a total of 79 gates in the main terminal hall. According to Zaha Hadid Architects, it was designed to minimize the distance between check-in and the gates—the firm claims that the gates farthest from one another can be accessed on foot in less than eight minutes.

The terminal's ceiling is a masterpiece unto itself.

The terminal’s ceiling is a masterpiece unto itself.

Photo by Hufton+Crew

The striking appearance of the terminal is intended to echo the traditional Chinese architectural concept of organizing interconnected spaces around a central courtyard—which in the case of Daxing airport is a soaring atrium at the heart of the hub. The terminal is flooded with natural light thanks to a vast network of skylights and a vaulted roof designed to let outside light in.

The South China Morning Post reported that Daxing has been outfitted with more than 70 restaurants, tea shops and coffee houses as well as with upscale retail stores from designer labels such as including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Bottega Veneta. According to CNN, the airport will use facial recognition technology for security as well as for passenger identification.

Beijing Daxing International Airport from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo.

Daxing airport includes an 860,000-square-foot ground transportation center that will consist of local metro services as well as a high-speed rail connection into Beijing—the high speed rail is said to be a 20-minute ride. That’s much more agreeable than the hour or (likely) more it will take to get there by taxi.

>> Next: How Early Should You Actually Get to the Airport?

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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