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The new $11 billion Chengdu Tianfu International Airport in China’s Sichuan Province is beginning to take shape ahead of its early 2020s opening, writes Joe Bates.

Sichuan Province’s planned new Chengdu Tianfu International Airport is being designed by the China Southwest Architectural Design & Research Institute Corp Ltd (CSWADI) in partnership with ADP Ingénierie.

Located 50 kilometres from downtown Chengdu and slated to open in the early 2020s, the airport will initially be equipped with two terminals and three runways capable of accommodating up to 40 million passengers and 700,000 tons of cargo per annum.

However, with future expansion, the gateway is ultimately expected to have four terminals and six runways capable of handling up to 90 million passengers and two million tons of cargo annually.

Its opening will mean that Chengdu becomes the third largest Chinese city to operate a two airport system after Beijing and Shanghai.

CSWADI and ADP Ingénierie – a wholly-owned subsidiary of global airport operator, Groupe ADP – won the architectural competition to design the new airport in 2015 and have since developed and enhanced their design for the terminals.

Designed to resemble flying sunbirds, a symbol of China’s cultural heritage, Tianfu’s initial two terminals will be located on the north east of the airport site and, at full build out, will be connected to the additional two passenger terminals by an automated people mover system.

Upon opening, Terminal 1 will accommodate both international and domestic traffic while the adjacent Terminal 2 will exclusively handle domestic flights.

Talking about the project, ADP Ingénierie’s regional managing director for Asia Pacific, Jean-Yves Coulot, says: “Based on the client’s requirements, our planners and architects put forward a concept where the two buildings are distinct while sharing the same architecture. One mostly dedicated to the international traffic while the other is domestic, giving a clear understanding of their respective functions.

“Their piers and processors are slightly angled in order to propose an airside corridor connecting them as they share this idea of two terminals hand in hand.

“The space in between them allowed us to build a compact ground transportation centre, commercial areas, hotels, and parking facilities that help create a lively hub for the airport city and a comfortable connection between air travel and ground transportation where passengers can move freely walking from one place to another without crossing any traffic.

“We wanted to build something on a human scale to maximise efficiency, keep walking distances to a minimum and enhance the passenger experience.”

He goes on: “The inclusion of ‘swing gates’ into the design Terminal 1 will ensure operational flexibility by allowing them to handle different types of aircraft and traffic throughout the day.

“Other priorities considered by the design team included the need for a strong mix of retail/F&B outlets and commercial facilities to maximise the airport’s non-aeronautical revenues and the importance of sustainable development.

“Indeed, CSWADI and ADP Ingénierie have specifically worked on sustainable design and airport green energy-saving, with the objective of obtaining the highest environmental certification in China.

“While always trying to echo the local aesthetic references and heritage in our design, we feel that it is equally important to bring to our client an extremely efficient and up to date facility, matching the most stringent international standards of the industry.”

The airport is needed because the booming local economy and growing international appeal of Chengdu – nearly 300 Fortune 500 companies are already based in the city – means that the existing Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport simply won’t be able to cope with future demand on its own.

Chengdu Shuangliu handled close to its 50mppa design capacity in 2018 to maintain its status as China’s fourth busiest airport, but with demand expected to exceed 62 million by 2020, the new capacity enhancing infrastructure provided by Tianfu will ensure that the city doesn’t become a victim of its own success.

Tianfu will also have some of the best multi-modal ground connections in China courtesy of a new high speed rail link between Chengdu and Kunming, inter-city express trains, urban light rail and new roadways.


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