Airways Top 10 Airport Architectural Designs – Airways Magazine

DALLAS – Air terminals have become true architectural marvels. These worldwide transportation hubs and their contemporary projects are constructed from diverse materials and have unconventional shapes used in their construction.

Today’s airports have breathtaking designs and are breaking world records, from the world’s largest terminal in Istanbul to the largest indoor waterfall at Changi Airport.

More than 100 airports serving at least 10 million passengers each year is a huge challenge for architects whose task is to design more secure and functional spaces to transport such an influx of crowds in a fluid and spatially coherent way.

Here are 10 airports that feature some of the best architecture in the world of air travel and airport design.

Photo: Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport, USA


An innovative airport design for the American city of Denver; Denver Airport’s (DEN) tensile roof canopy symbolizes the majestic and well-known snow-capped rocky mountains of the surrounding area.

Utilizing 300 days of sunshine per year and reflecting 90% of solar radiation, the roof material significantly minimizes the need for artificial lighting while reducing solar heat gain.

This fiberglass fabric covers over 23,200 square meters. This material allows natural light to illuminate the interior during the day while at night it works thanks to the energy collected by its vast fields of solar panels.

Istanbul Airport. Photo: Grimshaw, team of haptic and nordic architects

Istanbul International Airport, Istanbul


The vaulted ceiling design of Istanbul International Airport (IST) gives a strong sense of directionality from airside to landside in an intuitive orientation, enhancing the passenger experience.

A massive airport in its final phase by 2025, expected to handle up to 200 million passengers, becoming the world’s largest airport under one roof in terms of passenger traffic.

Photo: Indira Gandhi International Airport. Photo: Landrum & Brown (L&B)

Indira Gandhi International Airport, India


Located in Delhi, it is one of the busiest airports in India. Inside the Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), you can appreciate an incredible installation formed by copper plates with giant palm trees that imitate the gestures of traditional Indian dances and yoga.

L&B led the masterplan update for the airport, the main civil aviation hub of India’s National Capital Region and India’s busiest airport by passenger traffic .

Wellington International Airport. Photo: Warren and Mahoney

Wellington International Airport, New Zealand


An interesting entry into airport architecture, the angular lines of the Wellington International Airport (WLG) terminal create a visual connection to the rocks along the coast and were inspired by the surroundings of the airport. The use of fissures and strata along with references to local landforms helped to clarify the form, scale and massing of the design.

To increase capacity to meet demand and prepare WLG for future growth, Warren and Mahoney (with Studio Pacific Architecture) completed a five-year, two-stage extensive renovation of the international terminal. The airport can now handle up to 1,000 passengers per hour thanks to Stage Two, The Rock, a brand new extension that has more than doubled the space in the departure lounge.

The design of this airport sought to create a more intimate and comfortable atmosphere, so it was decided to reduce the amplitude.

Madrid-Barajas International Airport. Photo: Rogers Stirk Harbor + Partners via archello

Madrid-Barajas International Airport, Spain


The terminal structure of Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) has been designed to divide traffic into three linear modules and perform various tasks depending on the volume of arriving and departing passengers.

The light-filled canyons that are part of the airport’s structural system provide the lowest levels of the building’s natural lighting. By reducing energy consumption and maintenance costs, this airport design supports environmental sustainability. Between the canyons, passengers move vertically to show the order of procedures they must follow to comply with airport formalities.

Because of its warmth and durability, bamboo was the material chosen to clad the interior of one of Europe’s most important airports.

Abu Dhabi International Airport, United Arab Emirates. Rendering: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Abu Dhabi International Airport, United Arab Emirates


Paul Andreu is the famous French architect behind Abu Dhabi Airport (AUH). This airport exudes a futuristic environment with nods to local culture, and luxury is the order of the day.

The new Midfield Terminal Complex can handle up to 80 million passengers a year to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Middle Eastern metropolis, dominating a crucial position in the global race to rapidly expand luxury air travel and transfer points.

The Terminal Building, designed as a gateway to Abu Dhabi, is raised above street level, giving the impression that it is perched on a plateau of its own. With its dynamic profile silhouetted against the sky, the skyscraper stands out as the most spectacular and imposing object on the horizon in this situation.

The building’s interior lighting will be visible from the roadway over 1,500 meters at night.

Photo: Hamad International Airport

Hamad International Airport, Qatar


The design of Hamad International Airport (DOH) pays homage to the city’s rich cultural heritage while reflecting Qatar’s steady growth by evoking the sense of ocean waves and sand dunes with the flowing lines of its spectacular roof awning.

To contrast the elements of the desert, the walls of this airport were covered with sun-reflecting material and special glass to control the intense heat.

Unobstructed views allow passengers to easily find their destinations with a clear view of spatial functions and circulation within the large complex.

Photo: Beijing Daxing International Airport

Beijing Daxing International Airport, China


Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX), also known as Beijing New Airport, is the largest airport in the world. The design of the airport is avant-garde while its location in the Daxing district (southern suburb of Beijing) is ideal for serving the Chinese capital and the neighboring regions of Hebei and Tianjin.

By 2025, the airport is expected to handle 100 million passengers and 4 million tons of cargo per year. The building’s six flowing forms, inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, are united in the terminal’s central courtyard, and a network of linear skylights running through its center guide all passengers through an easy-to-use navigation system.

Passengers can travel short distances in the airport without using an automated transport system according to the concept of compact airport architecture.

Jewel Changi Airport. Photo: Safdie Architects

Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore


Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport (SIN) was designed by architect Moshie Safdie, who is often credited with creating the best airport designs in the world. Jewel Changi is one of Southeast Asia’s major transportation hubs.

Terminal 3 (change of airport) was built to meet the growing demand for air transport. The mixture of the two settings – a market and a garden paradise – creates a typology centered on the community of heart and soul, which adds to its uniqueness.

The world’s largest indoor “rain vortex” waterfall sits in the center of the building, which also has a forest valley garden with over 200 different types of flora and fauna that has become a treasure in itself.

Photo: Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport – Terminal 2, India


Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM) in Mumbai, India, the airport had handled a total of 16.3 million passengers in CY 2020, according to CSMIA. Of the 19.8 million passengers, the airport handled about 17.4 million domestic passengers on 1,40,000 flights and more than 2.43 million international passengers on 17,290 flights.

With the increase in domestic and international traffic, airport design evolved to accommodate the complex network of travelers and aircraft, overcoming the many delays that plagued the entire operation.

The airport stands out from the contemporary to the more traditional as it is inspired by traditional Indian pavilions and peacock feathers. To satisfy India’s tradition of welcoming visitors, graceful drop-off areas are created for large groups of well-wishers.

That wraps up our list of top 10 airport designs. If you think we missed any other airports with amazing architecture, please let us know in the comments on our social media.


Featured Image: Denver International Airport

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