High-Speed Winds Rip Open Norman Foster’s Beijing Terminal Roof
November 28, 2011
Last week, while Americans prepared to gaze before the mammoth inflatables set to parade down Manhattan, China was managing a peculiar airborne spectacle of another sort: the roof of Foster + Partners‘ Terminal 3 in Beijing Capital International Airport was partially torn open by fierce winds, sending white and yellow foam composites snowing all over the second busiest airport in the world. Read on.
Like the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, this is not the first time the world has seen the iconic standalone terminal building battered by winds. According to China Daily, just last year in December, high-speed winds damaged two parts of the same roof, though the affected area was not as extensive as that of the most recent incident.
There is no doubt the episode has reawakened skepticism concerning the safety of China’s mega-structures. Despite China’s ability to execute astonishing technological feats that leave the rest of the world thinking “only in China,” the frightening pace of the country’s recent building boom has prompted many to pause and wonder just how these iconic works of architecture and engineering were designed and built so quickly.
Foster + Partners’ Hong Kong office has been silent about the matter, though other architects involved in the Terminal 3 project, completed in 2008, have categorically denied that the wind damage is reflective of faulty design. The blame has instead been relegated to product suppliers and construction teams, who allegedly failed to execute a “perfect” design.
As China Daily reports, there is an acknowledged disparity between the simulated winds tested upon the metal roof and actual weather conditions, and to even greater alarm, the roof area is so vast in size that comprehensive routine maintenance is admittedly impossible. Although responsibility is quickly being passed to the less glamorous manufacturing and construction industries, Norman Foster’s ruptured roof is a sensational reminder to all that innovative architecture must consider the limits of its context and understand the manpowered boundaries in which it operates. And, as we always knew, a shiny new façade does little to betray its inner workings.
[Images courtesy the architects]