Kansai International Airport

  • Izumisano-shi, Japan
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A new airport is to be built on an artificial island under construction in the middle of Osaka Bay, the aim being to make it the main gateway into Japan. For Jean Nouvel, this is an opportunity to develop an overall concept for the airport area based on the poetry that arises from the meeting of an ephemeral, theoretical, timeless idea and the precision, realism and artificiality of the built, and also on the contrived interplay of the atmospheric (the sky and the water) and the man-made (the island).


The project, then, is not limited to designing the terminal: it also involves defining the framework of an area endowed with a strong visual identity, taking into account the strict constraints dictated by the specific features of a complex and inflexible operation. The boundaries and the different parts of the area will be clearly delineated and marked out. Systems specifications dealing with all situations have been proposed for the buildings to be erected on the island – a hangar, offices, hotels – as well as for the main signage system and lighting elements which will meet the demands of overall consistency.


The terminal will be a prominent feature of the island’s identity, and will follow the same logic. The sky will be brought into the departure lounges, and large-scale circular hoppers lined with mirrors will disperse natural light throughout the building. The deliberate ambiguity between inside and outside will be fostered by huge frameless picture windows and marks on the ground that continue into the terminal from outside. The island will be seen as a specific locale whose lighting and markings are part of the show.



Olivier Boissière