Shenzhen, PRC | 2007


The airport, perhaps the quintessential modern typology, has paradoxically found itself in a state of arrested development with the prevailing style being “high-tech”. An Architectural style emulating the aviation technology of the 1960’s, high-tech has since spread to become a worldwide cliché. Being the standard architectural response to the airport wherever one goes, this worn style speaks neither to the specifics of place nor to the specifics of experience. The proposal for Shenzhen Airport reappraises and transforms the traditional conception of an airport terminal, its urbanity and iconography, through the transmutation of a quintessentially earthbound material: concrete. Using new concepts in engineering and the technology of mass-customization in formwork and fabrication, a vaulted terminal with varied openings appears to change shape as the travelers move towards their respective gates. The critical transition from terminal to concourse is defined by a corresponding shift from the concrete shell of the terminal to the diagrid of the concourses. Movement paths are reinforced through the use of modulated light vectors in the roof, which converge at the Immigration and Security zone at the center of the airport and on the way to the concourses. Variation of light and the apparent (virtual) form is accomplished by locally varying the cross sectional angles of the openings across a range of degrees. The effects of this system are astonishing and entirely unique to Shenzhen Airport - the concourse vault appears to change shape as the travelers move towards their respective gates. This systematic flexibility allows us to modulate the crown of the vault with a cloud dapple pattern. At eye-level, the ambient illumination and formal effects above give way to a logic of way-finding and directed vision. The incremental angles of the windows allow the traveler to observe his gate and respective aircraft in a continuous view from several meters distance.

Project Info

Finalist International Competition  |  Gross Floor Area: 400,000m²  |  Type: Airport  |  Structure: Steel Clad Concrete Shell


Project Credits(Design Stage)


Jesse Reiser + Nanako Umemoto


Design Team

Mitsuhisa Matsunaga, Kutan Ayata, Michael Overby, Roland Snooks, Neil Cook, Michael Loverich


Interns and Assistants

Steven Lauritano, Juan De Marco, Lindsey Cohen, Luis Costa, Yan Wai Chu, Roselyn Shieh, Max Kuo, Robin Liu, Devin Jernigan, Robert Soendergaard


Structural Engineer

Dan Brodkin, Matthew Clark, Ove Arup and Partners, New York


MEP / Acoustics / Sustainability / Lighting Consultant

Ashok Raiji, Ove Arup and Partners, New York


Animation Assistance

Sean Daly, Windtunnel Visualization, New York


Project Credits(Technical Development Stage)


Jesse Reiser + Nanako Umemoto


Technical Development Team

Mitsuhisa Matsunaga (Lead), Kutan Ayata, Michael Overby, Juan De Marco, Neil Cook, Michael Loverich, Lindsey Cohen, Jonathan Solomon, Luis Costa, Devin Jernigan


ARUP New York

Dan Brodkin (Structural), Matthew Clark (Structural), Ashok Raiji (MEP), Brian Stacy (Lighting), Matt Franks (Lighting), Joe Solway (Acoustics)


ARUP Hong Kong / Shenzhen

Mang Kang (Structural), Derek So (Structural), Alexis Lee (Structural), Felix Ma (Structural), Lucy Xu (Structural), James Cheung (MEP)


AEDAS New York

William Holman, Chris Grabe


AEDAS Hong Kong

Ken Wai, Charles Ho


FRONT, Inc., New York

Marc Simmons (Façade Engineering)

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