Beijing’s biggest....

Tuesday 26 Feb 2008

Low key opening for world’s largest building

Foster and Partners’ massive terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International airport opens today. This is 21st century China; Gateway to Beijing and its hugely important 2008 Olympics. The opening of the state-of-the- art terminal is China’s first step onto the world centre stage, reinforcing its new status as a super-power. Surprisingly however, the new terminal, first of a cluster of world-class buildings being constructed in the Chinese capital by western architects was opened in a surprisingly low-key affair. Most of the media were not told about the launch, the Beijing Olympic organisers were not involved in the ceremony and even some of the partners involved in the design and building of the terminal were not aware of the launch.

With or without fanfare, it’s an impressive building. To get a handle on the size of Beijing’s terminal 3, take London’s Heathrow, add all the terminals together, including T5, add 17% and you have it. The new complex and the Ground Transportation Centre (GTC) together enclose a floor area of approximately 1.3 million square metres, mostly under one roof. The first building to break the one million square meter barrier, it will accommodate an estimated 50 million passengers per annum by 2020. Engineered by Arup, the 3.25Km long structure was designed and completed in only four years.

Environmentalists are concerned about the increase in pollution that will be brought to an already overloaded city. Rory McGowan, director of building engineering at the Beijing office of Arup defended the scheme, “Terminal 3 will be one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable airports and been designed to respond to Beijing’s hot summers, short autumn and spring seasons. The “scales “ on the roof are oriented south-east, to capture the winter sun, warming the building on winter mornings and make the most of available daylight during normal operational times and then maximise shade in the summer while still providing natural light.”

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