Buildings carry memories and it is an art form that allows us to step back in time to reminisce the past. Buildings are also a life form in itself and the architecture will evolve over time.

A photograph is able to capture, in 2-Dimension, the beauty of a scene in various angle, a 3-dimensional model, however, is able to record the most initial structure of a building.

The international team made up of NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants), ARUP and led by Foster + Partners came together to design and build The Beijing International Airport Terminal 3. This will also be the architect’s, Norman Foster, third airport design.

In 1991, model making company RJ Models, built Norman Foster’s London Stansted International Airport model, at 1:100. It was also his first airport design.

In 1998, RJ Models built Norman Foster’s Hong Kong Airport Terminal 1 at 1:1500. It was his second airport design.

In 1998, RJ Models built Hong Kong Airport Terminal 1 at 1:1500 scale. It was Sir Norman Foster’s second airport design.

RJ Models constructed Norman Foster’s Hong Kong Airport Terminal 1 again at 1:100

The construction site has a total ground area of 986,000 square meters , equivalent to 126 football pitches and is 3 times the size Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 put together. Construction of Terminal 3 took 3 years and 9 months to complete and was officially opened in 2008.

Model of Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3, a symbol of the country

Norman Foster, when designing London Stansted Airport, said: “An Airport is a place of travel that must possess the quality to take the stress out of traveling, making air travel a relaxing, calming and enjoyable experience.

If you have been to London Stansted Airport, you will enjoy natural light and views of the clear roof structure. It is like stepping back into the earliest airport buildings. There is no visibility of messy piping, cabling or wiring and the problems that come with a lighting and hanging ceilings are non-existent. What replaces, is a clean structure with a lot of natural light.”

The London Stansted Airport model reveals the clear building structure and the use of natural light

The building of Beijing Airport T3 once again reflected the use of clear and clean structure and natural lights that reduce the energy consumption of the building. The terminal single unifying steel roof covers an area of nearly 100,000 square meters.

The cantilever roof stretches out more than 50 meters. Its streamlined and curved design structure is a visual experience of a lightly suspended structure. Under the cantilever roof is a continuous stretch of glass wall permeated by natural light minimizing the link with the outside of the building.

The entire roof cover is connected and supported by vertical steel beams. There are no partition walls, hence the interior of the building presents a continuous flow of space.

The roof is supported by vertical steel columns (Height 36m, column spacing 41.569m)

As a reputable and world-renowned representative of the architecture world, Norman Foster’s design of T3 is in pursuit of high technology and yet in an elegant and modest style.

His design is all about realizing functionality hence the final design of T3 is a concise and elegant structure of 2 “Y” plane, a mirror of each other and connected by the Chinese character 1.

T3 dragon-like design is symbolic of a dragon

Just as a model can be used to demonstrate with accuracy an architectural scheme, it is also an abstraction of the design concept.

The key attribute of to a decent successful model is how well it demonstrates and bring out the design concept of the actual architectural structure of the design scheme.

RJ Models set up a team of 20. Refining the key elements of Terminal 3 and working exquisitely on the components that make the building. The process took 3 weeks.

Every part of the model was meticulously crafted and put together. From the load bearing vertical beams that connect the lateral roof, to the triangular skylight glazing that permeates light into the building, the entire model structure, appropriately demonstrates the aesthetic high-tech structure of terminal 3.

During the construction of the network of “dragon scales” glazing (for the skylights), the process of color separation were particularly testing

Another design feature of the airport is the colors that are used on the steel trusses and frames that support the building. 3 main colors red, orange and yellow change gradually from red to orange to yellow, creating a subtly zoning system aiding passenger orientation.

The “dragon ridge” consists of 3 main colors changing gradually from red to orange to yellow.

In order to dampen the brightness of the colors, a single layer of white grill ceiling hangs below the roof. On the one hand, it runs in the north south direction, on the other hand, it cleverly creates a balance between the use of strong and light colors (Sourcing from the Internet)

Symbolic of “dragon spitting jade pearl” is the multi-level carpark. The expansion of T3 carpark has an area of 340,000 square meters and has 7000 parking spaces.

RJ Models used fine spraying technique for the paint on the T3 model, creating a gradual and natural transition of colors from red to orange to yellow.

In contrast to the model’s usual day scene setting, in order to really bring out the artistic aspect of the model for the night scene, the surrounding of the model was darkened, subtly bringing out the beautiful and elegant curve of the airport structure design.

The night scene of airport subtly brings out the beautiful and elegant curve of the airport structure design.

Even the interior of the airport was built with meticulous precision.

A good model is one that follows faithfully the design scheme and built with meticulous precision. But a model that touches the viewers has, more often than not, an artistic sense built into it too.

Comparison between Beijing Capital International Airport T3 model and the completed building.

RJ Models constructed a second set of Beijing Airport at 1:500, it was dispatched from Shenzhen and was delivered to and set up at Foster’s exhibition center in Switzerland for display.

The proportion between rationality and sensibility can only be possible with RJ Models craftsmen’s wisdom and experience accumulated through the years.