A good New Yorker magazine story about the Beijing airport, from the April 21, 2008 issue.
“The Beijing terminal cost $3.65 billion to build, which in China bought a structure bigger than all five terminals at Heathrow put together, for less than half the cost of the new Terminal 5. The project was conceived, designed, constructed, and opened in four years, whereas the Heathrow terminal, from conception to completion, took twenty years. … the public hearings over the Heathrow terminal took the same amount of time as the entire construction of the Beijing one.”
8 thoughts on “Beijing’s new airport terminal”
What? Something was cheaper to make in China than it was in Britain? I’m shocked.
But yes, we’ve gotten out of hand with our airports, but nobody seems to care because the cost is hidden to us. They are tearing down the perfectly good simple terminal C in San Jose, which uses roll-up staircases to planes outside and has the fastest plane to curb walk time of any major airport in the USA that I’ve used, to build a mega-terminal which I am sure will take forever to get through, and at a huge cost.
I will admit San Jose has superb weather, allowing more outdoor activity. Frankly in California I would not have many buildings at all, except for some simple waiting rooms for cold rainy days.
In a vicious cycle, we need these big airports and mega-terminals because going through an airport takes so long. I understand that they are a lot better for the disabled, but with the money we are spending we could find other solutions for them.
It always helps when you can shoot anyone that gets in the way. My guess is that mafia could have built the Heathrow terminal pretty quickly also.
But we have more and better lawyers and MBAs than China!
Vancouver’s YVR terminal, especially the international departures and arrivals wings, is also pretty nice, and has been built out gradually over the years. Lots of natural light, few oppressive underground tunnels. And not too much distance between connections, usually. It’s not an especially large airport, but it works.
I recently considered flying through Beijing on a vacation to Mongolia. After some research I realized my several hour layover at the Beijing airport terminal would require me to obtain a $160 transit visa. No thanks PRC however nice your new terminal is, I’ll fly via Korea instead.
The public hearings didn’t last as long there, probably because there weren’t any. I’ll take my democracy and laborers’ rights, thank you.
It’s amazing what you can do in a semi-command economy. I read recently an architect’s comment about the United Arab Emirates that basically boiled down to: “it’s awesome, you don’t need any permits, once the Emir approves it you can just start building”
From what I understand, British Hong Kong had very little in the way of centralized planning, and they got all kinds of things built.
The other classic example is Singapore. Of course, neither Hong Kong nor Singapore is exactly a multiparty democracy. At the same time, their citizens aren’t exactly plotting revolution, are they?
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