Timber construction takes off with stunning Zurich airport terminal
A team of prestigious architects and engineers, including Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), HOK and Buro Happold, has revealed plans for an ambitious new airport expansion for Zurich, Switzerland. The building will be primarily constructed from sustainably sourced timber and will feature an attractive interior design that's focused on maximizing natural light and making it easy to get around.
Zurich Airport - Dock A is the winner of an architecture competition and will increase the capacity of the 1950s-era Zurich Airport with a large new building that will consist of seven floors and contain departure gates, retail space, lounges, offices, a new air traffic control tower, and an extension of the existing immigration hall.
The airport terminal will be topped by a large skylight designed to serve as an intuitive navigational aid. In an interesting touch, the control tower will actually be at the building's center, also offering another visual marker. Engineered wood will be the main construction material, including the load-bearing system of the building, which will consist of chunky V-shaped timber columns, nodding to traditional Swiss pitched roofs. Judging from the renders at least, the interior decor really leans into the natural beauty of the wood and should provide a much more pleasant atmosphere for weary travelers than a glass and steel airport.
"As airports grow and evolve and as international guidelines and safety requirements change, airports tend to become more and more complex: Frankensteins of interconnected elements, patches and extensions," said BIG founder and head, Bjarke Ingels. "For the new main terminal of Zurich Airport, we have attempted to answer this complex challenge with the simplest possible response: A mass timber space frame that is structural design, spatial experience, architectural finish, and organizational principle in one. The striking structure is made from locally sourced timber, and the long sculptural body of the roof is entirely clad in solar shingles turning sunlight into a power source. A simple yet expressive design – rooted in tradition and committed to innovation – embodying the cultural and natural elements of Swiss architecture."
While you could definitely make an argument that no airport could be considered sustainable, the use of timber will nonetheless mean a smaller carbon footprint than a typical airport terminal. The solar panels will reduce its draw on the grid, while integrated shading will reduce solar heat gain. Additionally, energy efficient cooling and heating systems will decrease the building's energy demand.
It's very early days yet, however, and Zurich Airport - Dock A is expected to take 10 years to complete. 10:8 architects, timber experts Pirmin Jung and aviation consultant NACO are also involved in the project.