Less than five years after the opening of Georgia’s Kutaisi ‘King David the Builder’ International Airport, rapidly increasing usage (from 12,915 passengers a year in 2012 to more than 300,000 in 2016) has prompted the airport to begin plans for an expansion that could serve as many as 1,000,000 passengers by 2020.
To achieve these goals, the airport has returned to the architects who designed the original structure, UNStudio (with local architects Artstudio Project), to develop a unique airport concept featuring terraced waiting areas and a rooftop viewing garden.
The terminal extension will continue the linear design language of the existing building, while introducing a new topological element that references the lines of the Caucasus Mountains that can be seen on the horizon.
In order to preserve visual connection and circulatory flow throughout the airport, UNStudio and airport consultant IATA located key programmatic functions within five clear ‘functional islands’: the Departure hall, Security area, Central passenger hall, Back of house offices and Arrival hall.
“By enhancing the transparency and openness of the Departure, Central and Arrival halls it became possible to provide a pleasant and comfortable travel experience,” explains UNStudio. “Using the correct human scale, flow, spatial language and materialisation for these areas forms the basis of providing comfort for every visitor.”
Balancing the architectural “umbrella” in the existing wing, the new elevated plaza will become a green recreational hub and waiting area where passengers can prepare for their flights or greet their families. The plaza will stretch all the way to the roof, allowing visitors to view the activity of the airport from an overhead vantage point.
“The elevated plaza runs up to the roof level and, by splitting the length of the terminal, creates another moment of orientation,” describe the architects.
“From here it is possible to facilitate the use of the outdoor environment where family and friends can easily observe the arrival of their loved ones, or where passengers can enjoy a little break out time before a long journey.”
The project will be carried out over several phases that will allow the airport to continually operate throughout construction. Showing the massive capacity growth of the project, the entire existing building will be transformed into the Departure hall, while Arrivals, customs and the underground luggage handling will all be located in the new extension.
To further improve connections between the airport and Georgia’s major areas of population, the airport will be connected to a new railway linking the capital, Tbilisi, and the Black Sea coast.
“Visitors are entering this fascinating and hospitable country from all directions,” added UNStudio. “United Airports of Georgia wants to make sure that they are serviced in the most efficient way - but also with a local touch.”
LocationDavid the Builder Kutaisi International Airport, Georgia
UNStudio TeamBen van Berkel with Frans van Vuure, Roman Kristesiashvili and Alexander Kalachev, Melinda Matuz, Christoph Zechmeister, Pietro Scarpa, Derrick Diporedjo and Sabrina Li
Local ArchitectArtstudio Project Ltd, Tbilisi
ClientUnited Airports of Georgia LLC
Airport ConsultantIATA, Montreal, Canada
Building Surface4,500 m2 + 13,000 m2
Building Volume115,200 m3
Architects Ben van Berkel, Caroline Bos, Gerard Loozekoot with Frans van Vuure and Filippo Lodi, Roman Kristesiashvili, Tina Kortmann, Wendy van der Knijff, Kristoph Nowak, Machiel Wafelbakker, Gustav Fagerström, Thomas Harms, Deepak Jawahar, Nils Saprovskis, Patrik Noome Project Year Photographs + 16 Text description provided by the architects.