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BIG and HOK’s winning design for Zurich airport’s new terminal


BIG and HOK’s winning design for Zurich airport’s new terminal

The mass timber design pays homage to Switzerland’s iconic mountains and pitched roofs.

By Novid Parsi, Contributing Editor | June 29, 2022
Zurich Airport Dock A ext 1
Selected from 10 global competition entries, the winning proposal for the largest dock of the internationally acclaimed Zurich airport is comprised predominantly of solid regional wood. Courtesy BIG.

Two years ago, Zurich Airport, which opened in the 1950s, launched an international design competition to replace the aging Dock A—the airport’s largest dock. The winning design is led by BIG, with HOK as the aviation architect. The new Dock A—including gates, retail, lounges, offices, a new air traffic control tower, and an extension of the immigration hall—is slated to open by 2032.

The seven-floor Dock A will have two main areas: a central hub with shopping, airport services for arriving and departing passengers, and vertical circulation; and a pier with the gates, waiting areas, and fixed links connecting to the planes. The control tower will be placed in the building’s center.

Dock A’s structure, floors, and ceilings will be made primarily with mass timber. A renewable local resource, this material will allow for prefabrication during the construction process—while also nodding to the Swiss tradition of wood construction. The building’s V-shaped timber columns not only provide structural support but also reference Switzerland’s iconic mountains and pitched roofs.

“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,” Bjarke Ingels, founder and creative director, BIG, said in a statement. “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 long, sculptural roof will be covered with PV panels. Integrated shading will reduce solar heat gain and maintenance requirements. And the building will use a combination of water and air-based cooling and heating systems.

The “simple yet expressive design,” Ingels added, embodies “the cultural and natural elements of Swiss architecture.”

On the building team:
Owner: Zurich Airport
Design lead: BIG
Aviation architect: HOK
Local architect: 10:8
Structural engineer: Buro Happold
Structural engineer timber/building physics: Pirmin Jung Schweiz AG
Mechanical engineer: Haerter & Partner AG
Electrical engineer: TLP
Construction management: Baurealisation

Zurich Airport daylighting system
To enhance the passenger experience, the spaces within the new terminal use daylight as a natural wayfinding system. Courtesy BIG.
Zurich AIrport Dock A int
A contemporary, pared-back material palette, the structure, floors, and ceilings of Dock A are envisioned with timber as the main material. Courtesy BIG.
Dock A roof PV Panels
Dock A’s roof will be covered with PV panels while integrated shading will reduce solar heat gain and maintenance requirements, and a combination of water and air-based cooling and heating systems will improve the building’s energy demand. Courtesy BIG.


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