Wings, by Foster

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

It is quite unique, at least on Eikongraphia, to have an architecture rendering that feature both the building and its iconography. This is the case with two renderings of the Beijing Airport that Foster + Partners designed, already in 2003. The iconography itself – the wings of an airplane – is not that remarkable, as most airports nowadays seem to echo the high-tech aerodynamic forms of airplanes.

To feature the building and its iconography in a single image just illustrates how contextually motivated this iconography is. Architecture this way becomes almost an act of camouflaging, the architect a chameleon.

We have seen numerous contextual projects pass by here on Eikongraphia, such as a bridge next to a bridge in Queens, waves at the waterfront of Yokohama, and sails in the background of boats entering the harbor of Sydney.

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

According to the architects themselves the design of Beijing Airport refers also to a dragon, a traditional Chinese symbol. In their minimalist language: “A symbol of place, its soaring aerodynamic roof and dragon-like form will celebrate the thrill of flight and evoke traditional Chinese colours and symbols.”

The dragon-iconography has to do with the paint of the interior that changes from yellow to red as you move to your plane. Without more recognizable dragon-forms, one cannot really experience this iconography.

But maybe we have to think in the direction of the east-facing roof lights “which maximise heat gain from the early morning sun,” just as the small ‘sails’ of the Law courts in Antwerp, designed by Richard Rogers, reminded even architecture critics more of the dragons-teeth or dragon-knobs.

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

Interesting are also the other designs that were made back in 2003 and that are documented on a China government website. Browsing through the other projects it struck me that the design by Foster is by far the most ‘minimal’ in its form. Where others proposed modules, Foster designed – what appears to be – a single form. And where others designed different forms after one another, the design by Foster is symmetrical.

The American blob-architect Gregg Lynn argued with his entry for the Cardiff Opera House competition that in biology symmetry is an effect of a lack of parameters. Symmetry is in that way more ‘primitive’ or ‘minimal’ than asymmetry, because you need parameters to describe an asymmetrical form.

Beijing Airport is, remarkably, symmetrical along two axes. An airplane, to name just one other object, is only symmetrical along one axis. This double symmetry says ‘order’, the real virtue an airport strives for. It’s a super-smart representation. Mind-blowing. 

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

The project will be finished next year, in 2008, just in time for the Olympics.

Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport
Foster + Partners - Beijing Airport

Related: Yacht, by Foster, Pyramid, by Foster

The project is added to the Architects and Representation pages.


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