By Jeremy Bryant
Just about every airport is an architectural wonder in its own right. Airports cater to literally billions of travelers—and it’s quite impressive to think about everything that comprises an airport in order to serve this number of people. From runways and terminals to baggage claims, lounges, food courts and more, a lot happens behind the scenes to build an airport. Here’s my hand-selected list of amazing architectural airports that I’m in awe over.
Kansai International Airport (KIX) – Osaka, Japan
What’s amazing about the Kansai International Airport is that it’s built on a man-made island in the middle of Osaka Bay. The Kansai International Airport in Japan began construction in 1987 and eventually opened in 1994. Serving more than 14 million travelers a year, KIX was one of ten structures given the “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium” award in 2001 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Madeira International Airport (FNC) – Santa Catarina, Santa Cruz, Portugal
Formerly known as Funchal Airport in Santa Catarina, the Madeira International Airport stands out due to its unique runway built using a series of 180 columns. Extended over the years to accommodate larger aircrafts, the Madeira International Airport won the prestigious 2004 Outstanding Structure Award given by the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) – Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong
The Hong Kong International Airport operates one of the world’s largest passenger terminal buildings. Serving 90 airlines operating flights to over 150 cities across the world, the Hong Kong International Airport is a like a well oiled machine having earned eight Skytracx World Airport Awards for customer satisfaction. Built on the island of Chek Lap Kokby land reclamation, Hong Kong International Airport was voted as one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century at the Con Expo conference in 1999.
Dammam King Fahd International Airport (DMM) – Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Located 12 miles northwest of Dammam, Saudi Arabia sits the behemoth King Fahd International Airport. Designed in 1976, construction didn’t begin till 1983 and finally opened for commercial use in 1999. Comprised of a six story terminal, a mosque, a separate area for shopping, and a royal terminal, the King Fahd International Airport is the largest airport in the world by land size.
The Denver International Airport is the largest U.S. airport, by land size, and serves over 52 million passengers worldwide. The city of Denver’s geographical location makes this airport a hot hub for most carriers. The airport’s distinctive white “tent like” roof was designed to remind passengers of the snow capped Rocky Mountains. The airport was designed for expansion in mind and achieves it using an expandable midfield terminal and concourses.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) –Los Angeles,California
LAX, as it’s famously known, is the main international airport serving the greater Los Angeles area. With more than 62 million travelers passing through in 2011, LAX hosts 9 terminals in a “U” shape. However, it’s “U” shape is not the reason it made the list. While not actually a part of the airport, the “Theme Building” was added in 1961 to represent the original building plans which called for a dome connecting the terminals. Resembling a flying saucer standing on four legs, the Theme Building is a historical monument which houses a restaurant that once rotated providing 360 degree views.
Sondica Airport (BIO) –Bilbao, Spain
With its sleek winged design, the Sondica Airport in Bilbao, Spain lands on our list. Both hailed for its design and criticized for its practicality, the Sondica Airport “dove” like building definitely sticks out as an airport with attraction. People waiting to welcome passengers can do so from the dramatic viewing gallery above the baggage claim.
Dubai International Airport (DXB) –Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Dubai International Airport was conceptualized to serve as the main airport for Dubai and the region that is known as the United Arab Emirates. The airport is comprised of 3 terminals and houses tons of duty free shopping. Currently ranked as the 12th busiest airport in the world, the Dubai International Airport has the world’s largest airport terminal. The Dubai International Airport is very modern and luxurious echoing the city of Dubai’s rise as a luxury destination.
Beijing International Airport(PEK) –Beijing, China
Rising as one of the world’s busiest airports, the Beijing International Airport in China was opened in 1958. In 2008, before the Summer Olympics, Terminal 3 opened making it the second largest airport terminal in the world behind Dubai International Airport. Housing an indoor garden, duty free shopping, restaurants, and convenience stores, Beijing International Airport is decorated with traditional Chinese influence.
Incheon International Airport (ICN) –Seoul, South Korea
The Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea has consistently ranked since 2005 as the best airport worldwide by Airports Council International. It also received the full 5-star ranking by Skytrax. The airport boasts a golf course, spa, private rooms for sleeping, ice skating, a casino, indoor gardens and a museum. Opened in 2001, Incheon International Airport is built on two islands that were originally separated by the sea. Reclaimed for the construction project, the islands were connected to create the airport. The airport was awarded the Best in Service Award in Class at the 1st International Conference on Airport Quality and Service by the IATA and the Airports Council International, and ranked second in Best Airport Worldwide, behind Hong Kong International Airport.
CheapAir Travelers, what airports are you in awe over? Tell us in the comments.