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The most beautiful new building in the world ?

by Edward Lifson ( last modified Jan 04, 2012 03:06 AM
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by Edward Lifson ( last modified Jul 18, 2008




Beijing Airport's new Terminal Three by the UK's Norman Foster and Partners is not only perhaps the most beautiful airport in the world, it's one of the most beautiful buildings of any kind in the world.

Curbside you're greeted with curves.

That's quite a cantilevered roof. The longest in the world. Good for a dramatic entrance.
But once inside, the building really takes off.

Inside, the roof floats, light as a bamboo raft, though made of metal.

Sensuously curved. Always in more than one direction (computers used well.) Like flight, like the curve of the sky, like the curves of Chinese roofs, which go up at the end, abstracted. Put it all together it symbolizes China as the center of the world.

From the land that gave us the seemingly endless Forbidden City.

Architect Norman Foster's office says this airport is the biggest building on the planet. Twice the size of the Pentagon. Interesting we'd compare it to that.

Inside, it's flooded with natural light.

Always changing.

At times looking Chinese red and gold, as at China's temples.

Elsewhere, sparingly used, accents of yellow and red.

Again curved. Gently. Which lightens it all. It feels springy, feather light, like flight. Not heavy; or tiresome. And again natural light.

Quiet and calm was the mood when I was there.

The reflective floor also lightens your mental load - a wonderful thing when you're carrying luggage.

The reflections remind one of the pools in Chinese gardens that reflect pavilions and nature and create the demarcation of heaven and earth. The same occurs in this fabulous gateway of a terminal. An entrance to and an exit from a great civilization.

And as in any good Chinese garden, as you proceed through it and turn your view you're rewarded with new, different, arrestingly beautiful views.

(click arrow)

The soft curves of the airport roof tell you what path to take.

Follow this

to the escalators down to the trains to the gates.

Once down below, the design continues to flow, out through the walls and outdoors, where we'll be soon.

At the gate, none of those dark, metallic container-like passages to walk through to board the aircraft. Instead, another light-filled hall.

From the plane's window- a view of the roof with the windows that let all that modulated serene light in to the main hall.

Dragon-like? Perhaps. It feels local. And the horizontal and vertical in these skylights ensure that the light is always changing.

Another exterior shot. It's a graceful and curved world.

Then it's goodbye to China,

and though smoggy, it's on to sailing. As one was inside the terminal.

Until soon, I hope.

Paul Goldberger's New Yorker piece on new airport terminals.
Foster has done for airports what the architects Reed & Stem did for train stations with their design for Grand Central...

And the New York Times:
$3.8 billion and can handle more than 50 million passengers a year. The developers call it the “most advanced airport building in the world,” and say it was completed in less than four years, a timetable some believed impossible..

And high-speed rail connects it to the city.

(Other posts on China from me here).



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