Beijing Capital International Airport
Foster + Partners
At the time of construction, Beijing’s new international terminal was the world’s largest and most advanced airport.
We had just three months to develop a lighting concept with sufficient detail to brief local engineers. Our previous experience of handling large airport projects (Terminal 5, Heathrow and Barajas Airport, Madrid) paid dividends: we quickly disseminated the brief, asked the right questions and agreed an approach in record time.
Our design consists of three lighting components: a general lighting system, which provides functional lighting; common circulation lighting, which helps route passengers; and fit-out lighting which brings accent and drama.
For the general lighting we devised a high-level system that is integrated above the slatted roof and mounted on gantries providing easy access for maintenance. This illuminates the principle volumes and provides feature lighting to the roof and structure.
One of the most striking elements of the terminal is the glowing coloured roof that gradually morphs from red to yellow along the length of the building. By day this look is delivered by natural light. After dark we reinterpreted the effect, creating a dramatically lit roofscape by uplighting the internal roof structure. This approach generates minimal environmental impact, and when viewed from inside the terminal through the slats the appearance of a glowing roof is maintained. Externally, the fiery colours of the lit roof in the context of the nightscape create an iconic image, visible on approach from both road and air.