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Left: The groundbreaking ceremony at Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Jonathan Massey, principle architect for Corgan, speaks with Passenger Terminal World about the design and construction of the world’s largest satellite concourse at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in China.

Where is the project up to?

The official groundbreaking ceremony took place on December 29, 2015. Essentially, we’re still at the foundation stage and there is work underway at terminals 1 and 2 to build tunnels to connect the automated people mover (APM) system with the new concourse. The satellite covers a square kilometer so it needs two APMs to service it. We’re hoping that the superstructure will be erected in summer 2016, with an eventual completion date of 2019. 

Why was the new satellite terminal required?

Shanghai Pudong is unique in the sense that around 48% of its gates are on remote stands. Passengers have to get on a bus between the terminal and the plane and that is something the operators wanted to get away from. London Heathrow in the UK, for example, only has around 14% of its gates on remote stands. So the satellite is primarily being built to supply contact gates for all of the stands that are already in operation. The project is not necessarily being driven by passenger growth.

How many passengers will it cater for and how big will it be?

It will be the largest satellite concourse in the world. There will be a little over a 100 gates for narrow body aircraft and around 60 of those will accommodate wide-bodied aircraft. The current throughput is around 45 million passengers per year and the satellite will essentially absorb a good number of those travelers. The new building itself will have capacity for 40 million passengers annually so the airport will be well prepared for future growth.

How much is being spent on the project?

There are no official figures on cost. The government is very tight lipped when it comes to the amount spent on infrastructure.

What are some of the central themes of the construction project?

We are very focused on the interior environment of the new concourse including the amenities, concessions, interior finishes, lounge layouts and wayfinding. The building was based on some pretty sophisticated approaches to passenger flow and passenger experience, where experiences and concessions are tailored to different types of traveler including some new concepts that we should be ready to show later this year.

The ethos of the concept is really all about facilitating the passenger’s journey. We used flow-based planning to pay very close attention to the actual path that the passenger needs to walk to get from point A to point B. We took great care over what they see on that path, how clear that path is, and what they’re exposed to along that path.

We are also designing the interior to be informative, so the building itself tells the passenger what to do and where their opportunities for concessions are. We’re also conducting a lot of research into what the needs of the elderly are versus families and frequent flyers, and how that translates into commercial offerings, amenities and wayfinding. This ensures that the interior environment really caters to all types of people using it. 

Right: A model of the new satellite concourse

What new technologies will be featured in the new terminal?

Our original concept included the idea

of heads-up displays and interactive screens located along the passenger’s path that would help them identify concessions opportunities. We were also proposing that the displays could be used to advertise cultural events in the city and building, as well as flight information and advertising.

At the moment we’re more concerned about putting visual displays in the right spot rather than what they’re going to display. We didn’t want to get too involved in apps and interactive content because the technology could be outdated by the time the terminal opens. 

How will you create a sense of place for passengers and what materials will be used to help achieve this?

Sense of place means different things to different people. If you go to the USA for example, they want to celebrate the location so that it stands out from other locations that are doing the same thing. In Shanghai’s case, the driving factor is more about being clean and efficient, and having an international flavor.

Having said that, we want passengers to know where they are so there will be features added that reflect Shanghai, but these will be at a personal scale rather than the building itself. For example, in China it’s quite common to have fresh food for sale in a terminal, which you don’t really see anywhere else. 

What are the biggest challenges?

As a western firm, one of the main challenges has been implementing a sizable terminal design inside mainland China, which can be a very complex cultural and political environment. Everything is very different, from basic decision making to how you present information. If we were implementing the same project in the Middle East, the USA or in Europe, it would be very different.

Physically, the big challenge has been designing the functionality of such a large building for both domestic and international populations. China, like the USA, has a sizable domestic population as well as a large international market. So all of the arriving and departing travelers for both areas have to be accommodated under one roof as well as on the APM. This creates a labyrinth of spaces that all have to be separated from each other. Shanghai Pudong is also located on the coast in a seismic zone, so typhoons and tsunamis have been real considerations.

Jonathan Massey is a managing principal and aviation sector leader at Corgan, a multi-national architecture and interior design firm. Massey leads the firm’s international practice and has experience in project development and execution in the UK, Middle East and China.

February 19, 2016

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Kirstie joined the team in early 2017 and brings writing, communications and client experience with her. Now an assistant editor, she produces content for our magazines and websites. Away from the office, you will find her blogging on her lifestyle website or searching the internet for photos of sausage dogs.

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