Constructing China’s Beijing Daxing International Airport


(Source: Zaha Hadid Architects)

Among the numerous key infrastructure developments taking shape in Beijing ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, none have been more discussed than Beijing Daxing International Airport. Soon to be a major transit hub for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei provincial region, the airport is already starting to gain international acclaim for its design, efficiency and timely completion. Having already overtaken the United States as the world’s largest economy by GDP (PPP), China is expected to overtake the US travel market by 2022 as well. For easy reference, I will refer to the airport as ‘Beida’ –  北 (north)(big) – which is fitting given its enormous scale.


With construction having commenced in December 2014, the £9.5 billion project was principally built to take the pressure off of Beijing’s two other airports that have already hit full capacity. To relieve congestion, Dutch aviation consultancy firm, NACO, won approval for the master plan. Renowned architectural practice, Zaha Hadid Architects, collaborated with RG Models and ADP Ingénierie to design the central terminal that measures 700,000m²!

Structural Skeleton of Zaha Hadid Architects' New Airport Terminal in Beijing
57,000 tonnes of steel were used to construct the Beida roof which has now been completed (Source: ArchDaily)

The structure lays bare the craftsmanship of the late Hadid’s signature style whose distinct attention to detail was remarkable. Her ability to transform materials such as concrete, steel and glass into structures that looked (and landed) with ease on the ground was something to admire. According to arch2o, the design of Beida ”celebrates the connectivity and dynamism of air travel…” with its sleek sloping roof lines welcoming passengers and providing a sense of scale.

The first phase of Beida will include 4 runways consisting of 6 concourses flaring out through a central hub at the heart of the structure – akin to that of a starfish as Chinese state media label it. The second phase of Beida will hope to roll out an additional 3 runways over the next decade. Despite its enormous size, the radial design of Beida allows passengers to reach the departure gates from the central terminal in just 8 minutes – a walking distance of only 600 metres. This vastly improves operational activity across the airport with efficient measures in place to ensure a smooth traveller experience.

First Construction Photographs Released For Zaha Hadid Architects' Beijing Airport Terminal Building
The radial design of Beida allows maximum efficiency in the movement of passengers (Source: World Architecture)


Having passed through Beijing Capital Airport in 2016 and witnessing the flight delays myself, I strongly believe that Beida is needed to alleviate the pressure off of the current capital airport. In a city known for its severe traffic jams (not to mention the relative isolation of the airport away from the city centre*), aviation officials have promised an integrated transportation hub that will deliver world-class high-speed rail, metro and airport bus services. The goal is to achieve a seamless transition from air to underground, the same way terminals link with the Metro and the Maglev service at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. With Beida on schedule to open to the public this September, the modest aim is to service 72 million passengers by 2025, with ambitious plans to handle 100 million passengers and 4 million tonnes of cargo a year over the next decade. That would easily put it on par with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta in the United States – the world’s current busiest airport in terms of passenger and cargo traffic.

A CGI of Beida's central terminal interior
A CGI of Beida’s central terminal interior (Source: Zaha Hadid Architects)

Further positioning China’s global offering to welcome tourists and foreign workers, Beida is needed to accommodate that influx especially as the 2022 Winter Olympics is fast approaching. I hope to plan my next visit to Beijing by landing at Beida and take in the breadth of architecture plus the state-of-the-art facilities on offer. I will be sure to update you all once the airport is completed first!

* it’s being built 46 kilometres away from Tiananmen Square

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