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Shenzhen's new airport terminal puts the wonder back into flight

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Located just to the north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen enjoys the rare status of being a Special Economic Zone in the People's Republic of China. Holding that designation for over three decades now, the area has become a breeding ground for small electronics businesses and a big attraction for foreign investment. With its rapid growth comes the need for improved infrastructure, which is why China is today inaugurating a third terminal to the local Bao'an International Airport.

Designed by the Italian Studio Fuksas, Terminal 3 has been shaped to look like a manta ray, "a fish that breathes and changes its own shape, undergoes variations, [and] turns into a bird to celebrate the emotion and fantasy of a flight." That theme of breathing and openness is carried on by a honeycomb of skylights perforating the new terminal's steel skin and a set of stylized "trees" that disguise the air conditioning apparatus. The hexagonal shapes and honeycomb theme are then subtly reiterated throughout the three-floor, 500,000-square-meter facility.

Construction is reported to have cost 8.5 billion yuan (roughly $1.4 billion) and the first takeoff took place this morning, courtesy of local carrier Shenzhen Airlines. It hasn't all been smooth sailing for this steel-and-concrete manta ray's debut, with passengers reporting issues around miscommunication and missed flights, though such initial stumbles are common for any new airport terminal. After today, two further phases of construction and expansion are planned — completing in 2025 and 2035, respectively — with the aim of keeping pace with Shenzhen's growing size and needs.

Shenzhen Terminal 3, designed by Studio Fuksas


A honeycomb of hexagons