MAD Architects has unveiled a snowflake-shaped design for Terminal 3 of Harbin Taiping International Airport that draws inspiration from the region’s snowy landscape and boasts greater operational efficiency and energy savings as compared to typical terminal architecture. Located in the capital of China’s Heilongjiang Province, the Harbin Taping International Airport is one of the largest transportation hubs in Northeast Asia. The new Terminal 3 will greatly expand the airport’s capacity and cover an area of 3,300 hectares.

rendering of snowflake-shaped airport terminal

As with almost all of MAD Architects’ work, the Harbin Taiping International Airport’s Terminal 3 design evokes a futuristic feel with sinuous lines and modern materials. The terminal will consist of ancillary airport facilities, including ground transportation hubs, a hotel, retail and parking lots. The ridges on the roof, which mimic snowdrifts and the gentle slopes of China’s Northern plains, serve as skylights that bathe the interior with natural light and warmth. Lush indoor gardens connect the building’s different levels and delineate major zones in the terminal.

rendering of planes on ground outside airport terminal

“Like a snowflake that has gently fallen onto the earth, it creates an architectural poetry that settles into its locale, while simultaneously expressing itself as a surreal, interstellar space of future air travel,” the architects explained. “While the massiveness of the terminal is inevitable, MAD’s design manages to establish an architectural program that is human-scale and provides a multi-sensory experience that is also efficient and energy saving. The scheme’s snowflake-shaped, five-finger departure corridors greatly shorten the time it takes for passengers to arrive at their gate, while also minimizing congestion and improving the overall efficiency of the airport apron.”

Related: MAD brings a surreal sports campus that mimics a green, martian landscape to China

aerial view of planes near airport terminal

Once complete, Terminal 3 will be seamlessly connected to Harbin City via the Ground Transportation Center hub that offers high-speed rail, municipal subway lines, airport buses and other urban transit together. MAD Architects’ focus on efficiency and energy saving is particularly important, given the forecasts for the new terminal: by 2030, Terminal 3 is expected to cater to 43 million passengers annually, with approximately 320,000 outgoing flights per year.

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Images via MAD Architects