Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport
Thursday 21 Aug 2014


Following a remarkably rapid three year construction phase, the stunning new Shenzhen airport terminal, designed by Studio Fuksas, opened in November 2013. Speirs + Major were approached during this time to design the light for the public areas in the space.

The lighting design of the interior is as carefully considered as the exterior is innovative, reflecting a deep understanding of the journey that travelers make coming to and from the airport. Throughout the project, Speirs + Major maintained close coordination with the design architect and local delivery teams to develop the details. It is this level of attention that has resulted in lighting that is so fully integrated into the architecture it appears to be effortless.

As well as housing the lighting fixtures for the concourse, the void between the two skins of the roof has been made a feature in its own right. The void is internally lit creating a ‘paper lantern effect' that both lifts and frames the space at night.

The beauty of the variable light levels created on the concourse by the natural light from the skylights has been deliberately echoed in the design of the artificial lighting, smoothing the day to night transition. Break up light is created from fixtures concealed in the roof void in line with the undulations in the form.

The iconic nature of the building demanded lighting that would contribute to a strong identity after dark. Building on the ‘Manta Ray' analogy that Studio Fuksas employed in their concept design, Speirs + Major proposed a saturated wash of pale cyan light at apron level and under the building to create the sensation that the building was floating on a lagoon. The cyan wash is also used on the air bridges, to form a homogeneous visual a link between the plane and the terminal.

In order to aid wayfinding and improve legibility of the space, key orientation features, and place where people make stops on their journeys such as the gates, furniture, and gate signage are highlighted with intensities of light.  Softer lighting treatments are used at waiting zones, and a luxury experience in the WCs adds comfort to the passenger experience and creates calm spaces to rest on the journey through the airport.

The lighting ‘looks' associated with an all-day lighting experience are very important. The latitude of Shenzhen means that the natural light circle is quite consistent throughout the year, but the quality of the light changes with the humidity of the seasons. In this case daylight sensors override timed programs to select the most suitable lighting ‘look'.

Concealed architectural light balanced with human scale light interventions create a visually exceptional but extremely functional lit environment.  The lit image does not dominate function, but neither is the opposite the case - as can be found in many world-class airports.  The careful use of energy, the selective use of architectural lighting and the determination to deliver elegant yet simple lighting details creates a very successful lit project worthy of the building and ambition of the City of Shenzhen.