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The world’s next mega-airport, $17B in the making, opens in Beijing

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, Beijing Daxing is a wonder of engineering—and sheer scale.

In 2017 alone, Beijing’s Capital International Airport welcomed nearly 100 million visitors—94,393,454, to be exact. In an effort to redirect travelers to another destination—and ease up on the overcrowding at BCIA—China’s capital city began planning a second airport over a decade ago. This week, the city unveiled a brand new airport 28 miles outside of the urban center: Beijing Daxing, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. It’s a kaleidoscopic transit hub not quite like any other airport in the world.

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This $11.5 billion airport opens on the heels of the shuttering of Beijing’s first airport, the 109-year-old Nanyuan Airport, from which a last flight took off on September 25. Nanyuan will now exist as an aviation museum, while all of the airlines it housed will be transferred to Beijing Daxing. The new building cost $17 billion to complete.

It’s estimated that the airport will host 45 million passengers in its first year, 72 million by 2025, and eventually relieve Beijing’s existing airport of a whopping 100 million passengers annually.

The radial design of the terminal, anchored by a series of 330-foot-long arms that contain a series of gates, is covered in skylights that invite natural light into the space thanks to the skylights that line it. The new structure’s white, classically-Hadid curves arc over 7.5 million square feet of space like a wave of sea foam. The hub features a central courtyard, whose vaulted roof is marked by a quilt of small triangles, repeated like a tessellation.

A key aspect of the architects’ plan had to do with making the mega-airport walkable, without the need for shuttles or trains. Sleek aircraft piers fan out from the main terminal building, allowing for planes to park right at the terminal. This spoke and wheel design will reportedly require travelers to spend just 8 minutes max getting from the airport’s center to any of the 79 departure gates.

In an effort to cut down on environmental footprint of the development, Zaha Hadid Architects designed a water management system that allows the airport to collect natural rainwater and purify water siphoned from nearby lakes and streams. A high-tech, centralized heating system, created to recover and retain excess heat from the airport’s operation, will also cut down on carbon emissions.

Though Beijing Daxing is officially open for service, China United Airlines is the only airline that will be flying in and out of the architectural marvel until October 27. Then, airlines that service non-domestic flights from China, along with foreign outfits, will begin to use the new airport too.

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