Architectural practice Foster + Partners has won an international competition to design a new terminal for Abha Airport in Saudi Arabia’s Aseer Region.

Inspired by the nearby Rijal Almaa village, the design reinvents the airport terminal as a series of interconnected human-scale clusters, outdoor courtyards and walkways. The scheme brings fresh air, greenery and natural light to the experience of travel, transforming the passenger journey and setting a benchmark for this new typology of airport design.

Stefan Behling, head of studio, Foster + Partners, said: “Learning from the local vernacular, our terminal guides passengers through a series of inviting human-scale spaces and connects them with green courtyards, which are open to the elements. This is a complete reinvention of the airport as we know it, with an emphasis on traditional Aseeri details, local materials and terraced landscaping. It is both a celebration of – and an introduction to – the beauty of the Aseer Region.”

The modular form is arranged in clusters, between the drop-off zone and the apron. Buildings are tapered and vary in height to reflect the distinctive architectural character of the region and create different types of functional space. According to Foster + Partners, the scheme’s modularity makes it extremely flexible, allowing the airport to expand efficiently as demand increases.

The airport will be modular in form, with sections arranged in clusters

Those waiting to board have the option to browse the shops and enjoy refreshments inside the airport or in the open air

Nikolai Malsch, Foster + Partners

The new airport has been designed to reflect the Aseer Region

The design responds to the region’s climate, with massing that takes advantage of prevailing winds to optimise natural ventilation. The solidity of the stone walls and diffused daylighting will also help keep the internal spaces comfortable and cool.

Nikolai Malsch, senior partner, Foster + Partners, said: “Buildings open onto landscaped courtyards that are surrounded by retail, restaurants and cafes. Those waiting to board have the option to browse the shops and enjoy refreshments inside the airport or in the open air. Learning from the materiality of the nearby village, rough stone facades contrast with a more colourful and refined interior palette. This anchors the scheme within its context and creates a distinctive gateway to the Aseer Region.”

Foster + Partners will work closely with the client, MATARAT Holding, a Saudi Arabian airport management company with headquarters in Riyadh.

Images: Foster + Partners