Zaha Hadid Architects and COX Architecture unveil Australia's future largest airport

Soaring Above Sydney

Zaha Hadid Architects and COX Architecture unveil Australia's future largest airport

Located in Western Sydney's new urban hub of Western Parkland City, the airport will service up to 10 million passengers by 2026. (Rendering by ZHA/COX/Courtesy Western Sydney Airport)

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and COX Architecture are slated to officially design a new airport in Western Sydney, Australia. After winning an international design competition featuring 40 firms, the London-based practice and local Sydney studio will together lead the charge in creating a sustainable transportation hub for the burgeoning region surrounding Parkland City.

Known officially as the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport (WSA), the $5.3 billion project is expected to become a catalyst for growth in Western Parkland City, one of the capitol’s new three urban centers (Greater Sydney is officially broken up into three cities). It will be built out in four expansion stages, the first of which will be completed by 2026 and will serve 10 million passengers annually. 

Exterior rendering of low-hanging terraced building at dusk featuring outdoor plaza
Named after the historic Australian pilot Nancy-Bird Walton, the transportation hub will one day be the largest in Australia. (Rendering by ZHA/COX/Courtesy Western Sydney Airport)

According to the design team, the vision for the upcoming terminal takes cues from the lush Australian bush: WSA will be a low-lying greenfield airport with nature-filled interiors. Vertical gardens featuring local flora will line the walls, slatted timber ceilings will undulate overhead, and ample daylight will spill in from outside during the day. David Holm, project director at COX, and Cristiano Ceccato of ZHA explained the 4,398-acre site will have an “unmistakable regional identity.”

“The design is an evolution of Australian architecture past, present, and future,” said Ceccato in a press release. “It draws inspiration from both traditional architectural features such as the veranda, as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding bushland.” 

Interior rendering of airport terminal with daylight shining through timber slatted undulating ceiling in the new Sydney Airport
Inspired by the surrounding bushland, ZHA/COX aimed to integrate materials such as wood and greenery that recall the nature outside. (Rendering by ZHA/COX/Courtesy Western Sydney Airport)

ZHA/COX beat out five other shortlisted teams in the competition for the airport bid. Among them were Foster + Partners, Gensler, Hassell, Pascall+Watson, and Woods Bagot. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, it wasn’t just the highly-localized design that won over the jury, it was the way ZHA/COX presented the importance of the customer’s experience as they journey through the terminal. As the airport expands using modular-based construction, it’s expected that the facility will be able to accommodate up to 82 million passengers a year by 2060—outpacing every other airport in Australia. 

These numbers coincide with the increased population of Sydney’s greater metropolis as well. In the next 20 years, it’s estimated that Greater Sydney will likely become home to 9 million people. By the time all of the sections of the airport are complete, Parkland City itself will boast well over 1.5 million, according to the Greater Sydney Commission. 

Construction is slated to begin in 2022. 

Interior rendering of a terminal arrivals gate
Later stages of the design will be revealed in the coming years. (Rendering by ZHA/COX/Courtesy Western Sydney Airport)