KPF tops Abu Dhabi airport with undulating roof informed by sand dunes

Terminal A at Zayed International Airport by KPF

KPF tops Abu Dhabi airport with undulating roof informed by sand dunes

Architecture studio Kohn Pedersen Fox has completed a terminal at Zayed International Airport in the UAE with an undulating roof informed by sand dunes and geometric patterns.

Formerly known as Abu Dhabi International, the airport's new terminal by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) was designed as a "civic landmark" for the region and to double capacity to 45 million passengers.

Exterior view of Terminal A at Zayed International Airport
Zayed International Airport features a glass facade and undulating roof

"From the outset, our goal was for the airport to serve the emirate and represent the city of Abu Dhabi, with a design that referenced its cultural and natural environment," said KPF design principal Mustafa Chehabeddine.

"We established a design language for continuity and flow throughout the project, developing a set of guidelines that ensured each element of the terminal, from the check-in desks to the lighting chandeliers, felt as though it belonged in the building."

Rooftop view of Abu Dhabi terminal by KPF
The new terminal doubles the airport's annual capacity to 45 million passengers

In order to minimise the impact of the desert sun, the undulating roof form was draped over the facade – reducing the amount of glazing needed as well as eliminating the need for external shading devices.

Inside, a 50-metre-high departure hall decorated with a mosaic stone flooring was housed under a single roof spanning 180-metres, supported by arches to create a largely column-free interior space.

Undulating roof of Terminal A at Zayed International Airport by KPF
The terminal is arranged into four themed piers

Organised with an X-shaped plan, the terminal was strategically designed by KPF to maximise operational efficiency – arranged into four piers that peel off from the terminal centre and are organised into themes of "desert, sea, city, and oasis" to aid way-finding.

Additionally, two four-storey buildings located at either side of the departure hall provide hotel rooms and offices for the airport.

"We were driven by focussing on customer experience and comfort while creating the most efficient building form," said KPF director Jens Hardvendel.

"The X-shaped plan provides the greatest programmatic efficiencies, reducing the average walking distance between points for those leaving, arriving, or transferring from Terminal A."

Terminal A interior in Abu Dhabi by KPF
The interior features mosaic stone flooring and large supporting arches

A series of "landmarks" were placed in the interior, which were designed to balance the terminal's large scale, direct passengers and provoke interest for visitors.

Among these landmarks is the Sana Al Nour, a 22-metre-tall and 30-metre-wide installation made from 1,632 individual curved leaves of translucent glass designed by Carpenter Lowings alongisde KPF.

Another installation, named The Shell, is located at the end of the passenger's journey and features a sculpture made from polished brass and corten steel wrapped by a glass exterior.

The Shell installation at Terminal A at Zayed International Airport
"Landmarks" aid navigation through the airport terminal

Other recently completed airports include a "terminal in a garden" at Bangalore airport by SOM and a terminal at Boston airport finished with a sleep red roof.

The photography is by Victor Romero.

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