we have a thing for airports, especially well-designed ones. shenzhen is a boomtown in southern china, and located so close to hong kong that it's practically a suburb. taking geographic advantage of the economic power and appeal of the former british crown colony, the chinese government declared shenzhen a special economic zone in 1980, and what once was a small town has grown into a sprawling industrial hub of over 10 million inhabitants. the economic success of shenzhen has also led to a proportional increase in air traffic, and the city's bao'an international airport badly needed expansion to keep up. well, that upgrade has just materialized with the opening of the airport's rather stunning terminal 3. designed by italian architects massimiliano and doriana fuksas, the imposing structure is inspired by the physiognomy of various animals, most notably the manta ray, and is wrapped in a white honeycomb skin.
the curving canopy is punctuated by hexagonal skylights to allow in natural light throughout the premises. the concourse features three floors, respectively for arrivals, departures and servicing, and voids in the floor-plates cleverly create a series of soaring double- and triple-height spaces. the opening of terminal 3 allows the airport to handle 45 million passengers annually, and the expansion is in direct competition with the more prominent, nearby air hubs of hong kong, guangzhou and macau. bao'an international airport has air links to many cities across china but currently handles only a few international flights. the expansion is clearly part of a drive to lure more foreign airlines and establish itself as a significant international hub in this booming region. location: 4th airport road [bao'an].