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Zaha Hadid Architects’ trippy new Beijing airport is now open

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Airport as optical illusion

Baggage claim area with elaborate white geometric curving ceiling. Hufton + Crow courtesy of ZHA

In an era of epic airport designs, Beijing is not to be outdone. The Chinese capital recently opened its newest travel hub, Beijing Daxing, a sprawling, luminous airport designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

The 7.5 million-square-foot airport is 28 miles outside of city center and built to relieve Beijing’s existing Beijing Capital International Airport of overcrowding. The architects designed the new airport with an eye to expansion. Its starfish-shaped form will initially usher through 45 million passengers in its first year. By 2025, that number will jump to 72 million. All told, the airport will eventually service up to 100 million passengers annually.

Shiny terminal area with curving ceiling that touches down on the ground. Hufton + Crow courtesy of ZHA

And what a sight those passengers will get. The airport is a gleaming ode to modernity. The main terminal building unfolds like a scene from minimalist Tron with a central courtyard whose vaulted ceiling swoops upward into an optical illusion.

From there, the airport flows outward toward the departure gates, where aircrafts encircle the airport. The architects claim the radial design means the farthest gate is just an 8 minute walk away from check-in, leaving everyone plenty of time to snap a photo or two before hopping on their flight.

Airport interior featuring large white ramps and curving ceiling that touches down on the ground floor. Hufton + Crow courtesy of ZHA
Check in area of airport featuring pod-shaped kiosks and curving ceiling. Hufton + Crow courtesy ZHA
People walking down corridor under geometric ceilings. Hufton + Crow courtesy ZHA
Outside of airport with curving roofline at sunrise. Hufton + Crow courtesy ZHA