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Zurich Airport picks international design team’s proposals for new Dock A project


Zurich Airport has selected the design proposals of HOK, in collaboration with BIG and several other firms, for its planned new Dock A and adjacent buildings.

Selected from 10 global competition entries, the winning proposal for the largest dock of Zurich Airport is comprised predominantly of solid regional wood.

It is hoped that the new Dock A and adjacent buildings designed by BIG, HOK, 10:8 architects, engineer Buro Happold, timber experts Pirmin Jung and aviation consultant NACO, will help strengthen the airport’s continued status as the gateway of Switzerland.

Following the airport’s previous additions of Dock E, the Airside Center, and The Circle, an international two- stage design competition was kicked off in 2020 to replace the ageing Dock A and included proposals from Foster + Partners, Grimshaw Architects, and SOM.

Expected to open in 10 years, the new Dock A, which includes Schengen and Non-Schengen gates, airside retail, lounges, offices, the new air traffic control tower, and an extension of the immigration hall – will be the next milestone in the airport’s expansion.

“The ‘Raumfachwerk’ proposal was the most convincing from a sustainable, operational, and economic point of view, but also from an urban planning and architectural point of view,” says Andreas Schmid, chairman of the Board of Directors of Flughafen Zürich AG.

“The name says it all: Space and structure get fully integrated and result in a highly functional and flexible design. The backbone of the project is formed by a structure that is not just load bearing, but defines and adapts the space, creates a unique atmosphere, and provides a distinctive identity true to its place and era.”

Based on the Team’s concept of the ‘Raumfachwerk’ – a robust yet flexible structural framework – the design proposal is said to celebrate the passenger experience and movement through the airport.

Located adjacent to the existing Airside Center and Terminal 1, the new Dock A is defined by two main areas: the central hub with shopping, airport services for arriving and departing passengers and vertical circulation, and the pier with the gates, waiting areas and the fixed links connecting to the planes.

To enhance the passenger experience, the spaces within the new terminal use daylight as a natural wayfinding system. A linear skylight – created by the unfolding roof of the pier – widens toward the central hub and opens up into the atrium where all departing, arriving, and transferring passengers meet.

By placing the control tower in its centre, the tower is experienced from the inside as a beacon that creates a sense of place, akin to a town square rather than an airport.

Arriving passengers are guided towards the hub of Dock A – which is split across seven floors which are visually connected through the generous light-filled atrium.

Passenger flows will be funnelled through the atrium that connects all floors via stairs, escalators and elevators from the underground immigration hall to all arrival and departure levels, and the lounges on the top floors of the central hub.

A contemporary, pared-back material palette, the structure, floors, and ceilings of Dock A are envisioned with timber as the main material.

As a renewable local resource, this material choice allows for efficient prefabrication during the construction process while paying homage to the long-standing local tradition of wood construction in Switzerland.

Dock A’s roof will be covered with PV panels while integrated shading will reduce solar heat gain and maintenance requirements, and a combination of water and air-based cooling and heating systems will improve the building’s energy demand.

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