KPF's zayed airport terminal evokes windswept desert dunes outside abu dhabi

KPF's zayed airport terminal evokes windswept desert dunes outside abu dhabi

undulating architecture in abu dhabi


Signaling a major step forward in the UAE’s aviation infrastructure, the Abu Dhabi International Airport has been officially re-named as Zayed International Airport, Terminal A. Entirely designed and executed by architecture studio Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), Terminal A exemplifies cutting-edge design and performance which promising to double the airport‘s capacity and enhance the experience for travelers. With its sculptural rooftop, the architecture is inspired by the undulating sand dunes of the desert and the intricate geometric patterns of Islamic heritage. Elevated above the ground like a plateau, its interiors cast a luminous silhouette against the horizon, serving as a beacon for travelers along the UAE‘s Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway. The integration of roads and landscape guide passengers towards the terminal’s grand entrance with its fifty-meter-tall, free-standing glazed facade.

zayed airport kpfimages © Victor Romero



zayed international airport: the future of travel


The Departure Hall at Zayed International Airport, Terminal A is a monumental fifty-meter-high column-free expanse designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF). The lofty space exudes an open, outdoor ambiance accentuated by atmospheric lighting. Sculptural features such as the supporting arches, visually detached from the roof, impart an illusion of weightlessness to the expansive ceiling. Despite its monumental scale, the design balances functionality with aesthetic appeal, featuring landmarks like the Sana Al Nour, the Feature Staircase, and the sculptural Shell, which serve both as orientation points and architectural delights along the passenger journey.

zayed airport kpf
Zayed International Airport’s Terminal A, designed by KPF, doubles Abu Dhabi’s capacity



inside the sculptural terminal


Drawing inspiration from traditional Islamic architecture, an art installation dubbed Sana Al Nour illuminates the terminal. Crafted in collaboration with Carpenter | Lowings and the design team, this indoor art installation stands as one of the largest in the Middle East, featuring 1,632 individual curved leaves of translucent glass that channel light and air from the Departures to the Arrivals Hall.

Elevating the arrival experience, the Feature Staircase offers passengers panoramic views over the central space, linking the arrival corridor with the Arrivals Hall. This sculptural stair sets the tone for a journey into Abu Dhabi, emphasizing the terminal’s commitment to both design and function.

zayed airport kpf
the terminal’s architecture is inspired by desert dunes and Islamic heritage



Serving as the culmination of the passenger journey, the Shell exemplifies artistic innovation at Zayed International Airport, Terminal A. Its exterior, composed of glass with a fading frit pattern, transitions seamlessly into a three-dimensional sculpture within, echoing the wayfinding patterns prevalent throughout the terminal. Through an interplay of materials and textures, the Shell offers a visually captivating finale to the Zayed International Airport experience.

zayed airport kpf
Terminal A’s adaptable design anticipates future changes in air travel



Jens Hardvendel, Director, Kohn Pedersen Fox comments:We were driven by focussing on customer experience and comfort while creating the most efficient building form. The X-shaped plan provides the greatest programmatic efficiencies, reducing the average walking distance between points for those leaving, arriving, or transferring from Terminal A.’

KPF's zayed airport terminal evokes windswept desert dunes outside abu dhabi
cutting-edge biometric solutions and advanced technology ensure a stress-free journey for passengers



Mustafa Chehabeddine, Design Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox continues:Airport requirements are in a constant state of flux, as technology and security change. As designers we must address the need to adapt within the physical constraints of a terminal. At Terminal A, unprecedented flexibility is created by replacing columns with mega arches. The ideal form was researched using the latest technologies in modelling and structural engineering, to discover the optimum plan, spans, and layout. This solution produces some of the largest spans ever built in interior environments.’


with an average walking time of twelve minutes, Terminal A prioritizes passenger convenience and efficiency

KPF's zayed airport terminal evokes windswept desert dunes outside abu dhabi
the monumental Departure Hall boasts a column-free expanse centered by a Sana Al Nour art piece


inside the terminal are architectural landmarks like the Sana Al Nour art piece and a Feature Staircase

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airport architecture and design (129)

art and architecture in the united arab emirates (168)

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rooftop architecture and design (117)


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