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5 March 2013

King Khalid International Airport Design: Iconic and Timeless

King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The expansion of the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh is demonstrating that principles of great airport design are timeless.

Nearly four decades ago, HOK’s clients in the Saudi Arabian government guided the design of King Khalid International Airport (KKIA) to become one of the world’s best airports. When it opened in 1983, the complex created a world-class image for the Saudi capital and a new standard of excellence for international airport architecture.

“Our clients were completely focused on creating the world’s most exceptional airport,” remembers HOK Chairman Emeritus Bill Valentine, FAIA, who collaborated with HOK Founding Partner Gyo Obata, FAIA, on the design of King Khalid International Airport. “They wanted the design to be strikingly modern while reflecting the Kingdom’s rich culture, Islamic architecture and unique desert climate. And they were adamant that the terminal must provide a memorable experience for all.”

Our KKIA clients were wonderful because they knew exactly what the airport should be, they used those goals to direct the design team and they made good decisions. In 2013, the same is true for the General Authority of Civil Aviation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

HOK and NACO are privileged to be leading a consortium designing an expansion of KKIA’s terminals 3 and 4 to increase the iconic airport’s annual capacity from 15 million to 20-25 million passengers. As the team designs an infill terminal that must be progressively integrated into a live operational area without disrupting airport operations, the terminal’s original triangular organization and floor plan offer several opportunities for expansion and demonstrate the flexibility of the original design.

Though our team’s design is incorporating sophisticated, 21st-century requirements related to operational issues, security, sustainability, smart technologies, and retail and concessions, our client’s fundamental design goals remain strikingly similar to what they were in the 1970s. Above all, we need to create a strong sense of place and a passenger-friendly terminal that welcomes each traveler as an important guest in Riyadh.

This story also appeared in Passenger Terminal World.