Rendering by Methanoia © Zaha Hadid Architects
Amy Schellenbaum
April 28, 2015

China’s booming capital will soon boast the world’s most expansive airport terminal, having recruited internationally celebrated architect Zaha Hadid to produce plans for a structure that (like many of her works) is huge, undulating, and seemingly cornerless. In all, the 7.5 million-square-foot terminal has plenty of room for the expected 125,000 daily travelers—not to mention the feel of a dystopian fantasy directed by The Wachowski Brothers.

Hadid’s firm writes that the new terminal “will be extremely user focused, efficient, adaptable, and sustainable,” which would be quite the feat given the sheer size of its central courtyard alone. With help from its six curved spokes and central terminal-within-a-terminal (a "multi-layered civic space"), the structure also promises to be of “human scale,” despite its mass.

(Indeed Zaha Hadid has been criticized before for designing projects without “human scale,” i.e. awe-inspiring pieces of futurism that blow apart budgets and displace urban populations.)

Rendering by Methanoia © Zaha Hadid Architects

The façade measures three miles, though the radial design theoretically "reduces passenger transfer distances between all departure gates." And apparently all the spaciousness is needed. Beijing's other airport, a Norman Foster-designed plan that opened in 2008 for the city’s Olympics, is the second-busiest airport in the world. According to the Telegraph, in 2014, it processed 86 million passengers, some 13 million more than London’s Heathrow. The new Daxing Airport, under construction roughly 30 miles from Beijing's core, is currently being built to help shoulder the burden. The price? An estimated $13.1 billion.

Construction is supposed to wrap in 2018. Stay tuned for updates.

Amy Schellenbaum is the digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @acsbaum.

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