Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, by Foster + Partners

The Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, designed by architects Foster + Partners, has been officially inaugurated. Inspired by local traditions, the airport’s design is based on a flexible modular solution to allow for future expansion at a predicted growth rate of 6 per cent per year for the next 25 years, increasing capacity from 3.5 million to 12 million passengers per year by 2030.

In response to Amman’s climate, where summer temperatures vary markedly between day and night time, the building is constructed largely from concrete, a materials whose high thermal mass provides passive environmental control. The tessellated roof canopy comprises a series of modular shallow concrete domes, which extend to shade the facades in a design inspired by the leaves of a desert palm that allows daylight to flood the concourse through split beams at the column junctions. Echoing the veins of a leaf, a geometric pattern based on traditional Islamic forms is applied to each exposed soffit.

Two piers of departure gates run along either side of the central building, which contains the main processing areas and shops, lounges and restaurants. Between these volumes, open-air courtyards (a feature of vernacular architecture in the region) contribute to the terminal’s environmental strategy: the plants and trees help to filter pollution and pre-condition the air before it is drawn into the air handling system and reflecting pools bounce indirect natural light into the airport. In addition, the terminal is glazed on all sides to allow views of each aircraft on the apron and to aid orientation. Horizontal louvres shade the facades from direct sunlight – to eliminate glare, the louvres become concentrated in more exposed areas close to the columns.

The design of the airport also respected the Jordanian tradition of hospitality: in celebration of the custom for family groups to congregate at the airport, the forecourt has been enlarged to create a landscaped plaza with seating, shaded by trees, where people can gather to bid farewell or welcome returning travellers.