Heydar Aliyev International Airport: A Majestic Gateway into Azerbaijan by Autoban Studio

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Samuel Nguma

Samuel Nguma is an Editor for Archute. He enjoys taking long walks and reading short stories. He is an ardent lover of architecture which he studied at the University of Nairobi.
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Azerbaijan is increasingly becoming a hub for top-tier architecture. The most recent addition to this burgeoning scene is the Heydar Aliyev International Airport, located in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku. This iconic terminal is characterized by interior architecture and experiential design curated by the highly-regarded Autoban Studio, based in Istanbul.

Bearing all the hallmarks of the multidisciplinary studio’s experimental, genre-defying approach, the contemporary interiors overturn airport conventions of cavernous space and impersonal experience. Taking inspiration from Azerbaijani hospitality, Autoban’s Red Dot award-winning design spans the entirety of the terminal’s passenger spaces, and includes striking custom-made wooden ‘cocoons’ that create a sense of welcome and discovery, and opportunities to either meet or retreat.

This use of narrative and unconventional forms is typical of the Autoban’s idiosyncratic approach. This is because for more than a decade, the studio has developed a reputation for its imaginative, human approach to design – creating spaces that are firmly rooted in cultural, social and geographic narratives, but still offer unexpected and thought-provoking experiences to their inhabitants and visitors.

At the Heydar Aliyev International Airport, their bespoke furnishings and lighting schemes defy airport typologies – opting for tactile natural materials such as wood, stone and textiles, gently and warmly lit. The cocoons – which vary in size and house an array of cafes, kiosks and other amenities – exist at the convergence of architecture and art, creating an inviting, intriguing landscape within the huge transportation hub that challenges expectations of the airport environment.

The design team also conceived, designed and furnished four handsomely appointed ‘Salam Lounges’ exclusively for business class use, extending the best of their hospitality expertise to these premium passengers. With a strong belief that the architectural concept should marry with the interiors design language, these spaces distil the very best of elemental design to create a one of a kind ambience.

Now spanning over 65,000 square metres, more than six million passengers a year are projected to pass through the airport, enjoying a thoughtful, highly functional and memorable gateway to the country and the wider Caucasus region. With such an iconic entry into Azerbaijan, it’s only fair to continue to expect ground-breaking aesthetic design, the likes of Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Centre.

Project Information
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Collaborators: Ove Arup, Woods Bagot
Area: 65,000 sqm
Status: Completed, 2014
Photographs: Kerem Sanliman

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About the author

Samuel Nguma

Samuel Nguma is an Editor for Archute. He enjoys taking long walks and reading short stories. He is an ardent lover of architecture which he studied at the University of Nairobi.
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