Madrid Barajas Airport

Madrid Airport - Concept

Developing some of the ideas that emerged during RRP’s work on Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in London, Barajas is a model of legibility, with a straightforward linear diagram and a clear progression of spaces for departing and arriving passengers. The accommodation is distributed over six floors; three above ground for check-in, security, boarding and baggage reclaim, and three underground levels for maintenance, baggage processing and transferring passengers between buildings. The lower levels of the building, robustly constructed in concrete, contrast strikingly with the light-weight transparency of the passenger areas above.

The building is covered by a ‘wave’ roof supported on central ‘trees’ and is punctuated by rooflights that provide carefully controlled natural light throughout the upper (departures) level of the terminal, and oversailing the edge of the building to shade the facades. Given the multi-level section, a strategy was also needed to bring natural light down into the lower levels. The solution is a series of light-filled ‘canyons’ that separate the parallel slices of space that denote the various stages of transit, from the arrival point, to check-in, security and passport control, to departure lounges and finally to the aircraft.

The canyons are spectacular full-height spaces, spanned by bridges in which arriving and departing passengers, though segregated, can share the drama of the imposing space. The canyons also act as locators, underlining the clear sense of direction and legibility that is fundamental to the scheme.

Despite the extreme heat of summer in Madrid, the design team were committed to the use of passive environmental systems wherever possible, while maximising transparency and views towards the aircraft and the mountains beyond. The building benefits from a north-south orientation with the primary facades facing east and west – the optimum layout for protecting the building against solar gain. The facades are protected by a combination of deep roof overhangs and external shading. A low energy displacement ventilation system is used in the pier, and elsewhere a more conventional high velocity system is used.

A straightforward linear diagram and a clear progression of spaces for departing and arriving passengers contribute to the legibility and usability of the terminal for passengers and workers alike.

While no specific environmental criteria were stipulated in the brief, the design team set out to maximise natural daylight to all passenger areas and reduce dependence on artificial light, while providing views out and reducing solar gain with extensive external shading.

The grand scale of the terminal, in particular the canyons and the main entry hall generate a truly significant public space for use by all passengers.