Commercial flights began operating today (April 1) from the new terminal at Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, following a three-month testing period.
The new terminal and pier was designed by London-based GMW Architects and built by Turkish firm TAV Airports. Construction work was completed in December 2014 at a cost of approximately US$1bn. The terminal features 18 Code F contact stands, with apron space for a further 20 remote stands. It is also Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certified thanks the use of local and sustainable materials such as stone and tiling.
“Passengers expect beautiful and comfortable airport buildings, the design of the new terminal reflects this,” says Alistair Brierley, design director at GMW Architects. “The height and proportions of the main hall and the pier combine to create an atmosphere of logical progression from arrival to departure as well as calm and tranquil spaces off the main circulation paths.”
The project was originally commissioned in 2011 to handle rising passenger numbers, particularly during the Hajj season when traffic numbers triple because of an influx of Islamic pilgrims. The construction of the new 1.6m ft2 terminal took place away from the main airport meaning minimal disruption was caused to normal operations. The airport handled over five million passengers in 2014.
“The old airport was an agglomeration of small disjointed buildings that had grown up over time,” adds Brierley. “The expanding capacity of Hajj passengers and the importance of Madinah as a religious site meant that a new terminal and an overall masterplan was the best way forward to plan for increased passenger flow.”
The result of the project is a highly-modernized terminal building that has expanded the annual passenger capacity of the airport to eight million a year. The second and third phases of the airport masterplan will further boost the airport’s capacity to 16 million passengers by 2037.
In order to create a sense of place for passengers, the architects have used the palm tree as a central motif running throughout the terminal. Brierley explains, “The overarching theme of the palm tree is signified at the main entrance to the site and runs consistently through the design. It represents shade, shelter and comfort in a hostile natural climate. This is a comfortable and calm space for regular travelers and Hajj passengers alike.”
To further help with the Hajj season influx, the architects created six large air-conditioned pavilions with tensile-fabric roofs that sit alongside the new terminal. These will serve as holding areas for Hajj passengers at peak times, alleviating pressure on the terminal and regulating passenger flow. In terms of wayfinding, the architects have used clearly identifiable color-coded systems to help inexperienced Hajj passengers navigate the airport. Other considerations were made to reflect the local culture including gender-specific security areas.
“There are cultural issues that affect security in the Middle East. At certain points in the journey through the terminal men and women are segregated. We also have to cater for the non-exposed female face in particular circumstances,” Brierley adds.
The next phase of the airport masterplan is already underway with the construction of a new hotel adjacent to the terminal. This is the first commercial building that will form part of a growing airport city. A second terminal, symmetrically positioned with the first, will also be built as soon as the airport approaches capacity.
Interview by Daniel Symonds
April 1, 2015