A vibrant international metropolis, Shanghai is the commercial and financial center of mainland China and the sovereign state’s most populous city. One of the fastest developing cities in the world, Shanghai is on a mission to solidify its status as a global centerpoint with increasing international influence.
To keep pace with continued growth, the Shanghai Airport Authority (SAA) has initiated a number of airport expansion projects in recent years. A government-owned enterprise that operates both Pudong and Hongqiao airports, the SAA invited GS&P to participate in an international design competition for a new satellite concourse for Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) to help meet the airport’s projected demand of 80 million passengers by 2020.
“Of the two airports in Shanghai, Hongqiao is closer to the urban area and serves primarily domestic flights, while Pudong is closer to the ocean and is the busiest international hub of mainland China,” says project designer Sam Lin. “The original intent had been to build a complete third terminal at Pudong International, but following a feasibility study, the client decided to proceed with a satellite concourse instead.”
The competition package called for a world-class, passenger-friendly design that facilitated flexible operational requirements for moving both international and domestic passengers and baggage; incorporated environmentally sensible features; and left travelers with an unforgettable impression of Shanghai and the People’s Republic of China.
Meeting these design goals involved two primary challenges for the GS&P team: working within preset building parameters, and coordinating intricate passenger routing patterns inside the concourse.
“The design competition package included an aircraft parking plan—a footprint—that was already established,” says Lin. “With the help of an airport planning firm, the client had already calculated the number of gates for projected volume and the general size of the building based on those gates. We had to work within those preset parameters.”
“This concourse was an extremely complex building,” agrees senior architect and project manager Wilson Rayfield. “We had a number of challenges to figure out in order to balance passenger processing elements with the airport parking layout. And we evaluated everything from differing aircraft fleet mixes to projected passenger volumes to finalize the building envelope.”
Presently, Shanghai Pudong International Airport is comprised of two terminals with approximately 70 gates in total. Significantly increasing its capacity, the proposed new concourse would consist of almost 100 gates, which would make it the largest satellite concourse in the world. The planned location for the new concourse is a large greenfield site that lies south of PVG’s two existing terminals. GS&P’s design concept is an I-shaped facility that will support various aircraft fleet mixes and a combination of domestic and international traffic.
“The satellite facility has a north and south concourse—S1 and S2—connected by a central international processing facility,” explains Rayfield. “Each side will connect respectively to terminals 1 and 2 by a below-grade automated people mover (APM) system. The satellite facility will process connecting passengers with border control, customs and immigration.”
The APM stations beneath S1 and S2 make up the lowest level of GS&P’s projected five-level scheme, followed by the ramp level, international arrivals, a domestic mixed level, and international departures at the fifth level. This multilevel arrangement allows for incremental growth and maximum flexibility in operations for both international and domestic passengers, and also minimizes walking distances for all passengers despite the size of the facility.
A Passenger-Friendly Flow and Feel
By organizing the concourse around the three vertical circulation cores, the design concept is able to strike a crucial balance between operational necessities, passenger routings and a traveler-friendly layout.
“One of the keys to a passenger-friendly facility is wayfinding,” says Rayfield. “And by arranging the building around the principal circulation centers, all major decision-making points are centrally located and appropriately sized for the projected passenger volumes.
“However, creating the different circulation paths ultimately proved to be one of the design’s biggest challenges because international and domestic passengers can’t mix. International travelers have to first clear customs and immigration before they can be released to take a domestic flight, so you have to segregate the two. Yet the processes are intermingled. So providing sterile and secure transfer paths was complicated.”
To manage these complexities, the design team analyzed 16 different passenger circulation routings for departing, arriving and connecting passengers between domestic and international destinations.
“We devised a unique solution for the various necessary routings by intentionally designing the core where S1 and S2 come together to include a processing hub at the international arrivals level,” says Lin. “We planned out a baggage claim area for rechecking bags, and a customs and immigration checkpoint for passengers transferring from international to domestic flights. Inside this hub, all types of international travelers can be processed efficiently.”
GS&P’s effective processing capacity and accessible floor plans would ultimately amount to shorter travel and wait times, and strategically placed airline clubs, retail stores, restaurants and other amenities would also mean less stress on travelers.
Beyond functionality, the design team carefully crafted an interior ambience that stands out in pleasant contrast to the institutional feel of many other airports.
“We sought to make the interior passenger-friendly by bringing in a lot of green landscaping and natural light so visitors are in a comfortable setting surrounded by nature—not just boxed into a standard airport,” says Lin. “For example, in the core middle area where the major vertical passenger circulations take place, large openings are cut out of the floor slabs to create a canyon feel, and we strategically located retail spaces for the most visibility. We also introduced natural light via a large overhead skylight, and planters and aquatic features bring a touch of the outdoors into the space.
“The end result is you won’t feel like you’re in an airport, but a really comfortable setting surrounded by nature, which evokes a calming and welcoming feeling. And that’s so important for passengers arriving after a long international flight.”
Increasing Sustainability in Shanghai
With Shanghai’s rapid development taking a toll on both air quality and the environment, the city has been making huge strides toward greener construction. In line with Shanghai’s increasing environmental efforts, the client asked that design proposals incorporate sustainability strategies with attention to energy conservation.
“Due to rapid growth and the industrialization of Shanghai, an even greater importance is placed on the consumption of natural resources and energy uses,” says Rayfield. “Our concept relies heavily on sustainable design strategies that would have the greatest bearing on their triple bottom line, considering the social, environmental and economic impacts.”
GS&P integrated eco-friendly features into the design concept from the outside in, starting with a high-performance curtain wall system to reduce heat gain, along with an efficient building envelope sculpted to create overhangs that protect glazed surfaces from direct sun exposure, reducing the building’s reliance on mechanical cooling systems.
Atrium skylights were sized and located to introduce natural lighting into the deepest part of the building, while low-energy LED systems can be programmed to provide adequate interior lighting when passengers or staff are present.
The design also includes cisterns to collect rainwater runoff from the roof, which would then be filtered and recycled for use inside facility restrooms. The use of low-flow, sensor-operated lavatory fixtures further reduce water usage. Load and presence-sensing escalators, and moving sidewalks that only operate when passengers are present (and then use variable amounts of power based on the number of passengers), would also conserve energy.
Adhering to the SAA’s goal of making Shanghai airports the most appealing in the Asia-Pacific region, GS&P’s design of Pudong International’s new south satellite concourse significantly enhances the traveling experience, creating a memorable welcome—and farewell—for both local and international travelers.
“Our design is a compelling architectural image—a striking addition to the airport as a whole, while functionally supporting the needed travel services,” says Rayfield.
“An airport is the first and last impression a traveler will have of a place. And when you step off a plane in Shanghai, this design would provide a lasting image for passengers to remember long after the trip was over. And not just by the sheer scale, but rather by a modern image that beautifully reflects the essence of Shanghai.”