Georgia’s Kutaisi Airport Taps UNStudio for Terracing Expansion Just 4 Years After its Opening

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Less than five years after the opening of Georgia’s Kutaisi ‘King David the Builder’ International Airport, rapidly increasing usage (from 12,915 passengers a year in 2012 to more than 300,000 in 2016) has prompted the airport to begin plans for an expansion that could serve as many as 1,000,000 passengers by 2020.

To achieve these goals, the airport has returned to the architects who designed the original structure, UNStudio (with local architects Artstudio Project), to develop a unique airport concept featuring terraced waiting areas and a rooftop viewing garden.

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The terminal extension will continue the linear design language of the existing building, while introducing a new topological element that references the lines of the Caucasus Mountains that can be seen on the horizon. 

In order to preserve visual connection and circulatory flow throughout the airport, UNStudio and airport consultant IATA located key programmatic functions within

Interior Concept Diagram. Image Courtesy of UNStudio
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Photo of the existing Kutaisi ‘King David the Builder’ International Airport / UNStudio. Image © Nakani Mamasakhlisi
Extension Concept Diagram. Image Courtesy of UNStudio
Phasing Plan. Image Courtesy of UNStudio
Interior Impressions. Image Courtesy of UNStudio
clear ‘functional islands’: the Departure hall, Security area, Central passenger hall, Back of house offices and Arrival hall.  

“By enhancing the transparency and openness of the Departure, Central and Arrival halls it became possible to provide a pleasant and comfortable travel experience,” explains UNStudio. “Using the correct human scale, flow, spatial language and materialisation for these areas forms the basis of providing comfort for every visitor.”

Interior Concept Diagram. Image Courtesy of UNStudio Interior Concept Diagram. Image Courtesy of UNStudio
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Balancing the architectural “umbrella” in the existing wing, the new elevated plaza will become a green recreational hub and waiting area where passengers can prepare for their flights or greet their families. The plaza will stretch all the way to the roof, allowing visitors to view the activity of the airport from an overhead vantage point.

“The elevated plaza runs up to the roof level and, by splitting the length of the terminal, creates another moment of orientation,” describe the architects.

“From here it is possible to facilitate the use of the outdoor environment where family and friends can easily observe the arrival of their loved ones, or where passengers can enjoy a little break out time before a long journey.”

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Photo of the existing Kutaisi ‘King David the Builder’ International Airport / UNStudio. Image © Nakani Mamasakhlisi Photo of the existing Kutaisi ‘King David the Builder’ International Airport / UNStudio. Image © Nakani Mamasakhlisi

The project will be carried out over several phases that will allow the airport to continually operate throughout construction. Showing the massive capacity growth of the project, the entire existing building will be transformed into the Departure hall, while Arrivals, customs and the underground luggage handling will all be located in the new extension. 

Extension Concept Diagram. Image Courtesy of UNStudio Extension Concept Diagram. Image Courtesy of UNStudio
Phasing Plan. Image Courtesy of UNStudio Phasing Plan. Image Courtesy of UNStudio
Interior Impressions. Image Courtesy of UNStudio Interior Impressions. Image Courtesy of UNStudio

To further improve connections between the airport and Georgia’s major areas of population, the airport will be connected to a new railway linking the capital, Tbilisi, and the Black Sea coast. 

“Visitors are entering this fascinating and hospitable country from all directions,” added UNStudio. “United Airports of Georgia wants to make sure that they are serviced in the most efficient way - but also with a local touch.”

  • Architects: UNStudio, Artstudio Project
  • Location: David the Builder Kutaisi International Airport, Georgia
  • Un Studio Team: Ben van Berkel with Frans van Vuure, Roman Kristesiashvili and Alexander Kalachev, Melinda Matuz, Christoph Zechmeister, Pietro Scarpa, Derrick Diporedjo and Sabrina Li
  • Local Architect: Artstudio Project Ltd, Tbilisi
  • Client: United Airports of Georgia LLC
  • Airport Consultant: IATA, Montreal, Canada
  • Building Surface: 4,500 m2 + 13,000 m2
  • Building Volume: 115,200 m3
  • Building Site: 16,000m2
  • Area: 17500.0 m2

Kutaisi 'King David the Builder' International Airport / UNStudio

Architects Ben van Berkel, Caroline Bos, Gerard Loozekoot with Frans van Vuure and Filippo Lodi, Roman Kristesiashvili, Tina Kortmann, Wendy van der Knijff, Kristoph Nowak, Machiel Wafelbakker, Gustav Fagerström, Thomas Harms, Deepak Jawahar, Nils Saprovskis, Patrik Noome Project Year Photographs + 16 Text description provided by the architects.

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