Beijing International Airport unveiled it’s new terminal (terminal 3) this weekend. This is yet another huge piece of architecture built in time for the Olympic Games this summer. But this is not just any airport terminal (as BBC’s James Reynolds notes):
“It’s more like a small country than an airport terminal.
“Its architects, Foster and Partners, describe it as the biggest building in the world, and it is larger than all the terminals of London’s Heathrow airport put together.”
The story of this new super-structure is covered extremely well by the CDT, with links to some excellent articles. The low-down being:
- The terminal is two miles long and half a mile wide
- The structure, designed by British architect Norman Foster, is said to resemble a dragon
- The annual passenger capacity of Beijing International Airport has been increased from 35m to 85m
- Beijing is expecting 60m visitors this year, thanks to the Olympics
- The terminal has taken just 4 years from conception to completion
This final point has caught the attention of the British media particularly, as it contrasts fantastically with the new terminal (terminal 5) at London’ Heathrow. Terminal 5 is due to be unveiled next month, it is designed by the same architect – Lord Foster – and yet it has taken 20 years to build and has cost twice as much as Beijing’s terminal 3.
The reasons seem to be two fold:
1. The Chinese work force – nuff said
2. Public planning enquiries – The enquiry for Heathrow’s terminal 5 took longer than the entire construction of ‘the dragon terminal’
“Most airport projects take a decade or more to complete and usually involve lengthy reviews, detailed assessments, planning committees, public hearings and environmental impact statements…” but not so in China it seems. The pro’s and con’s of this system are clear, and an illustrative fact mentioned by James Reynolds:
“the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, says that 1.25 million people have been moved from their homes to make way for construction.”
This is a particularly relevant discussion in a week when protestors against Heathrow’s expansion have grabbed the British headlines by finding their way onto the roof of the Houses of Parliament.
For an eloquent discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the Chinese attitude to construction see Hamish McRae’s article in the Independent:
“It would be extremely arrogant of us not to note what China is doing, both to set in context our own economic debates and also to try to see what we can learn from Chinese experience”.