A couple of years ago we questioned the “greenliness” of Foster + Partner’s new airport terminal at the Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan, and now the futuristic building has finally opened. Located just south of Amman, the domed structure is designed to mimic the black folds of traditional Bedouin tents out of deference, according to designers Foster & Partners, to what is one of the world’s oldest continually habited cities. Boasting a combination of modern materials with passive Islamic design techniques, this modular wing should maintain comfortable temperatures year-round. While we still question the wisdom of building new, large buildings that encourage increased growth in a country that lacks sufficient supply of the most basic fundamentals of human life – including water – the London-based firm behind the first generation of Masdar City buildings does have a knack for culturally-sensitive buildings that can withstand the region’s vicious temperatures. The new modular wing of the airport is capped with concrete domes overhanging extensive glazing, providing shade for the building and reduces its cooling load. Tear-shaped skylights dot the spaces between the domes in order to allow plenty of natural light to penetrate the interior, a passive intervention that slashes the project’s energy consumption – also crucial given that the Hashemite Kingdom imports almost all of its energy. Outside a series of plazas planted with low-maintenance greenery and trees provide an aesthetically-pleasing gathering space, but it also helps to offset the airport’s carbon emissions – albeit in a very insignificant way.
And the concrete, which has high thermal massing – though not as good as that provided by earth architecture – is mixed with local sand that helps to integrate the mammoth structure with the natural landscape. Specifically modular in design to allow for future expansion, this wing that can accommodate traffic for roughly 3-5 million people is expected to provide passage for as many as 12 million passengers by 2030.