Bangkok, Thailand



As a national capital and a regional crossroads of commerce and tourism, Bangkok has long supported one of the world’s busiest airports—currently 15th in passenger volume. In designing Suvarnabhumi Airport, the city’s new international hub, Chicago-based architects Murphy/Jahn realized from the outset that the passenger terminal would need to accommodate a vast scale of operations and express its pivotal importance to Thailand. Suvarnabhumi, meaning “land of gold,” has a capacity of 45 million passengers annually, with 56 jetway (plus 64 bus-to-plane) gates, served by some 6 million square feet of floor area. Planned subsequent phases will increase its capacity to 100 million passengers per year.

This view over the Arrivals area shows an accretion of sales and info booths encroaching on the architecture, where architect Murphy/Jahn  envisioned a generous space, separated from the exterior only by a wall of clear glass (above).

The design, winner of an invited international competition held in 1994, presents a powerful image: a lofty pavilion under a gigantic canopy hovering over an area exceeding 1.2 million square feet, with tubular concourses extending from it. Though the concourses feature the kind of emphatically repeating structural modules that characterize entire recent air terminals, such as Norman Foster’s in Hong Kong or Richard Rogers’s in Madrid, Suvarnabhumi rises to a dominant central volume. Like those other major airports, however, Bangkok’s could not have been realized without feats of structural engineering. It also demanded significant rethinking of interior climate control.
Since opening in late 2006, Suvarnabhumi has faced more than the usual spate of start-up stumbles and critical press. Objections—focused on everything from circulation, seating, and restrooms to cracked runways—have been intensified by accusations of corrupt construction management and concession leasing.
Since Suvarnabhumi represents a huge public and private investment, said to exceed $3 billion, including aircraft-maintenance facilities, parking garages, and a hotel (in addition to the sleek new highway connecting the terminal to the city and the mass-transit link currently under construction), the airport management is trying to address the problems.
Initial glitches aside, the airport will clearly remain Bangkok’s key connection to the world.
But the engineers who made it all possible were not yet involved when the scheme won the project competition. Once those consultants came on board, it became apparent that the proposal’s scale demanded exceptional engineering, both to make the structure itself feasible and to manage the energy to operate it. The architects found ideal collaborators in two Stuttgart engineering firms: Werner Sobek Ingenieure, for structural issues, and Transsolar Energietechnik, for climate control.



MJTA Consortium consisted of: Murphy/Jahn

TAMS Consultans / Earth Tech

ACT Consultants Co,. Ltd.



Helmut Jahn, FAIA

Sam Scaccia. FAIA

Thomas Chambers, AIA

Sandford Gorshow, AIA

Carl D'Silva, AIA

Joseph Stypka, AIA, FCSI

Dan Cubric, Assoc. AIA

Phil Castillo, AIA

Martin Wolf, FAIA

Brian O'Connor, AIA

Jaak Jurisson

Chad Mitchell, AIA

Joan Hu

J.J. Tang

T.J. McLeish

Bess Tremonto-Cook

Lawrence Malsky

Michael Castrogiovanni

Mattias Lassen

Scott Seyer, AIA

Alice Kriegel

Anja Rosenburg

Ricahrd Drinwater, AIA


ACT Consultants:

Associate Architect / Engineer

TAMS Consultants / Earth Tech


Project Management:

Werner Sobek Ingenieure


Structureal Concept / Concourse

Superstructure / Facades

Transsolar Energietechnik

Climate and Environmental Concept



Main Terminal Superstructure


John A. Martin & Associates

Structural Concrete


Flack + Kurtz

Mechanical / Electrical / Plumbing


Yann Kersalé

Lighting Art


Baggage Consultant:

BNP Associates, Inc.


General Contractor:

Italian-Thai Development

Takenaka Corporation

Obayashi Corporation



Rainer Viertllbock, 011 49 172 815 1417



Exterior Cladding:

Metal / glass curtainwall:

Permasteelisa, KAMA Joint Venture



Ritta, Italian-Thai Development


Fabric membrane:

B & O Hightext




Viracon, Thai-German Specialty Glass



Chadwick Airport Consortium






Metal doors:








CCM Airport Equipment



CCM Airport Equipment


Paints and stains:



Wall coverings:




Floor and wall tile:

Terrazzo tile throughout the terminal -



Raised flooring:




Fixed seating:




Elevator / Escalators:

KONE - elevators

Mitsubishi - escalators

Hitachi - moving walkways


Baggage Handling System:



Stainless Steel Floor Planks and Stairs: