MAD Architects' Harbin Opera House remains one of its most impressive projects to date and the firm has just revealed another striking project for the same region that also riffs on the bitterly cold conditions in that part of the world. Conceived for the existing Harbin Taiping International Airport, the Harbin Airport T3 resembles a giant snowflake.

If built, the new airport terminal would be huge, having a total floorspace of 918,500 sq m (roughly 9.8 million sq ft), including the terminal proper and ground transportation hubs, hotel, retail, and parking lots. By 2030, it would be expected to serve around 43 million passengers per year, with approximately 320,000 outgoing flights annually.

"While the massiveness of the terminal is inevitable, MAD's design manages to establish an architectural program that is human-scale, and provides a multi-sensory experience that is also efficient and energy saving," says the firm. "The scheme's snowflake-shaped, five-finger departure corridors greatly shorten the time it takes for passengers to arrive at their gate, while also minimizing congestion and improving the overall efficiency of the airport apron."

The project looks a little like the Beijing New Airport Terminal Building designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (indeed, MAD founder Ma Yansong worked at ZHA early in his career), but the snowflake-like design is meant to reference Harbin's climate, which can be extremely cold in winter, as well as the gentle slopes of China's vast northern plains. The ridges on the roof mimic snowdrifts and function as skylights, reducing the need for artificial light.

Bringing to mind Moshe Safdie's Jewel Changi Airport, the interior would boast a number of indoor gardens that connect the building's different levels and offer an escape for weary passengers. A transportation hub would link high-speed rail, subway lines, airport buses together with Harbin city too.

The eye-catching concept was created for an architecture competition and we've no word on how likely it is to be realized.

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