August 15, 2022
Airways Top 10 Airport Architectural Designs
Airports Featured

Airways Top 10 Airport Architectural Designs

DALLAS – Air terminals have evolved into true architectural marvels. These transport hubs from around the globe and their contemporary projects are built from diverse materials and have unconventional forms employed in their construction.

Today’s airports have jaw-dropping designs and are breaking world records, from the world’s biggest 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 spaces that are more secure and functional for transporting such an influx of crowds in a fluid and spatially coherent way.

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

Photo: Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport, United States


An innovative airport design for the American city of Denver; the tensile roof canopy of Denver Airport (DEN) symbolizes the majestic, well-known snow-capped rock mountains in 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 lowering solar heat gain.

This fiberglass fabric covers more than 23,200 square meters. This material allows natural light to illuminate the interior during the day while at night it runs on energy collected through its vast fields of solar panels.

Istambul Airport. Photo: Grimshaw, Haptic & Nordic Team of Architects

Istanbul International Airport, Istambul


The vaulted ceiling design of the Istanbul International Airport (IST) gives a strong impression of directionality from airside to landside in intuitive wayfinding thus enhancing the passenger experience.

A massive airport in its final phase by the year 2025, is estimated to handle up to 200 million passengers becoming the biggest airport worldwide under a single roof in terms of passenger traffic.

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

Indira Gandhi International Airport, India


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

L&B led the Master Plan Update for the airport, the primary civil aviation hub for the National Capital Region of India and the busiest airport in India in terms of passenger traffic.

Wellington International Airport. Photo: Warren and Mahoney

Wellington International Airport, New Zealand


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

To increase capacity to meet demand and get WLG ready for future growth, Warren and Mahoney (together with Studio Pacific Architecture) completed a lengthy five-year, two-stage refurbishment 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 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 Harbour + Partners via archello

Madrid-Barajas International Airport, Spain


The terminal structure of Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) was intended to divide the circulation into three linear modules, and it performs various tasks depending on the volume of passengers arriving and departing.

Light-filled canyons that are part of the airport’s structural system give the lowest levels of the building natural lighting. By lowering energy usage 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 sustainability, bamboo was the material chosen to dress the interior of one of the most important airports in Europe.

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

Abu Dhabi International Airport, United Arab Emirates


Paul Andreu is the famed 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 annually to fulfill the needs of the quickly growing Middle Eastern metropolis, dominating a crucial position in the worldwide race for quickly expanding luxury air travel and transfer points.

The Terminal Building, designed as a gateway to Abu Dhabi, is elevated above street level, giving the impression that it is perched on a plateau all by itself. 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 illumination will be visible from the roadway more than 1,500 meters away at night.

Photo: Hamad International Airport

Hamad International Airport, Qatar


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

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

The unobstructed views enable passengers to easily find their destinations with a clear vision 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 biggest airport in the world. The airport’s design is pioneering while its location in the Daxing District (the southern suburbs of Beijing) is ideal to serve the Chinese capital and the neighboring areas of Hebei and Tianjin. 

By 2025, it is anticipated that the airport would handle 100 million passengers and 4 million tons of cargo yearly. Six flowing forms of the building, which were inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, are gathered in the terminal’s central courtyard, and a network of linear skylights running through its center guides all passengers through an easy-to-use navigation system.

Passengers can traverse short distances within the airport without the use of an automated transportation system according to the concept of compact airport architecture.

Jewel Changi Airport. Photo: Safdie Architects

Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore


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

Terminal 3 (change airport) was built to handle the growing demand for air travel. The mix of the two settings—a marketplace and a paradise garden—creates a community-centric typology of heart and soul, which adds to its uniqueness.

The largest indoor waterfall “rain vortex” in the world is housed in the center of the building, which also has a forest valley garden with over 200 different types of flora and fauna that has grown into a treasure in and of 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, as per the CSMIA. Of the 19.8 million passengers, the airport catered to approximately 17.4 million domestic passengers across 1,40,000 flights and over 2.43 million international passengers across 17,290 flights.

With the number of domestic and international traffic increasing, airport designs have evolved to accommodate the intricate network of travelers and aircraft, overcoming the numerous delays that have played havoc with the entire operation.

The airport stands out among the contemporary to a more traditional view since it was inspired by the traditional Indian Pavilions and peacock feathers. To satisfy the Indian tradition of welcoming visitors, gracious drop-off areas are created for huge groups of well-wishers.

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


Featured image: Denver International Airport

Chief Online Editor
Chief Online Editor at Airways Magazine, AVSEC interpreter and visual artist; grammar geek, an avid fan of aviation, motorcycles, sci-fi literature, and film.

You cannot copy content of this page

X

SPIN TO WIN!

  • Get a discount coupon valid for our magazine subscription plans!
  • One (1) spin per email.
Try Your Luck!
Never
Remind later
No thanks