Why Istanbul Wants to Build the World's Busiest Airport

Back in 2013, when Istanbul was still competing to host the 2020 Olympics, the city announced plans to build "the world's largest and busiest airport terminal." The Olympic bid ended up failing—but Istanbul still wants to build its mega-airport.

Today, Grimshaw—the team of architects behind St. Petersburg's new airport and dozens of other huge transit projects—released images of its plans for the "Istanbul Grand Airport," which will be the city's third. They're planning almost one million square feet of vaulted ceilings and luxury-packed terminals—with six runways, the hub would support 130 million passengers a year, which would put it well above the current record holder, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

Why Istanbul Wants to Build the World's Busiest Airport

Istanbul already has two airports, which together, handle about half of that number. The problem is that they're hemmed in by city on all sides, and as it expands as a hub for commercial airlines, it can't handle additional routes. Instead, the plan is to build a $5.6 billion hat trick, well outside of the city, to handle the influx—which is being driven by the fact that Istanbul is an ideal stopping point between Europe and Asia, where air travel is booming.

Does Turkey really need a gargantuan new airport? It turns out that Istanbul is a big challenger to traditional transfer hubs, like London and Paris. In 2012, it increased its traffic by almost a quarter, while European hubs are falling behind. According to Bloomberg, that's because Turkish Airlines is "is emulating Emirates and other Gulf carriers in building its base into a global transfer hub." When you're flying to China from Europe or vice versa, Turkey obviously wants you to stop in Istanbul.

So there you have it: $5.6 billion for a mega-airport—which amounts to a small city—might sound like a flawed "if you build it, they will land" strategy. But, in fact, it's just good planning. [Architect's Journal]