In some cities, the airport can be the busiest place for miles and tends to consume a fair amount of energy as a result. It's no wonder then that several modern airports have started incorporating more green technology into their designs, like photovoltaic panels and wind-powered generators. Now the city of Amman, Jordan is getting in on the trend with the recently opened Queen Alia International Airport, which features an energy efficient, modular design modeled after palm fronds.
City planners contracted design firm Foster + Partners to come up with a plan for the new airport terminal that takes into account the region's fluctuating climate, while also reflecting the local culture. With a history of designing unique, sustainable structures for locations as diverse as Abu Dhabi and even the Moon, the company proved to be more than up to the task.
Amman's temperatures tend to shift dramatically from hot to cold, especially in the summer, so maintaining a comfortable atmosphere is typically the largest energy drain on any building. To alleviate this, much of the structure is constructed from heat-dissipating concrete domes, which provide shade to the front of the terminal as well as some passive climate control. The concrete is also partially derived from gravel collected nearby, giving it a slightly similar tint to the surrounding landscape.
Despite the modern architectural techniques though, the designers wanted the airport to represent Jordan itself in its aesthetics, since it is the first sight most visitors will see when they arrive. As such, the domes have been arranged to resemble a traditional Bedouin tent from high above, while also appearing to branch out from their supporting columns like the leaves of a palm tree when viewed from the ground. The plans also incorporated a large front plaza with ample seating and shade for people to visit with passengers that are arriving or departing.
Departure gates are arranged in a line on opposite sides of a central building, with check-in areas, shops, restaurants, lounges, and other passenger services in the middle. Several open-air courtyards are in between these sections, teeming with vegetation that filters nearby pollution, and reflecting pools that redirect natural light into the building's transparent outer walls. The concrete domes covering the roofs of the main buildings are also slightly separated from each other, allowing even more natural light throughout the interior and further reducing energy costs.
Those concrete domes aren't just for temperature control and light, though. They're designed so that more domes can be added to the existing structure to accommodate an increase in passengers. According to Foster + Partners, the airport has enough space to grow by six percent over the course of 25 years, which would also raise its capacity from three million people per year to 12.8 million. Even without the expansion though, the redesigned Queen Alia International Airport now establishes Amman as the main hub for the Levant region, which also includes Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, and some areas of Turkey and Iraq.
Source: Foster + Partners