More than 13 million passengers passed through Kuwait International Airport’s Terminal 4 (T4) in 2016, far exceeding capacity. In response, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) commissioned a new terminal building to provide immediate extra capacity. As such, the project came with a complex scope and an extremely tight deadline. 

Working as the design consultant, we drew on our extensive global aviation experience to design and support the construction of the new 55,000-square-metre terminal as well as ancillary buildings, access roads and other facilities – within the compressed schedule of just 15 months. 

The departures hall at Kuwait International Airport Terminal 4.

From ‘fast track’ to ‘fast smart’   

The main challenge on this ambitious project was to deliver the complex, multifaceted project to the tight deadline given to us by the client. 

To do this, we conducted a Value Engineering (VE) study before the design phase to assess the optimum size of the terminal facility and analyse the project requirements. 

We then took a ‘fast smart’ approach to the project – overlapping the design phase with the construction phase to optimise construction activities, solve complex problems, develop innovative and cost-effective solutions, and at the same time deliver good design. Collaboration – and a culture of trust – between all parties was key to achieving this.    

The exterior of Kuwait International Airport T4.

Digitally enabled collaboration 

Our Madrid-based designers collaborated closely with the Kuwaiti owner DGCA and Turkish contractor CENGIZ to complete the project at Kuwait International Airport. Given that each team was located in a separate country, digital tools were critical to effective and efficient co-working between designer, client and contractor.  

For example, we developed cloud-based tools and specific add-ons to create automated workflows for analysing and digesting large amounts of data, while 3D modelling improved coordination between all the various stakeholders.   

Patterns based on Kuwaiti motifs are featured on the walls at Kuwait International Airport T4.

Design excellence a cornerstone 

Despite the ambitious schedule, design excellence was a cornerstone of the project right from the start. There was no compromise on quality: passengers walk into a bright double-height departures/arrivals hall and – while the interior is neutral to avoid stimulus overload – patterns based on Kuwaiti motifs can be seen on feature walls in specific areas such as baggage reclaim.  

Furthermore, user flows within the terminal building – whether passengers or those meeting family at arrivals – are carefully mapped. The movements of those passengers originating, terminating, or transferring are isolated in compliance with operational security measures. The terminal also has a flexible gate allocation and operation system that allows for future carrier expansion.  

By combining global aviation design experience with collaborative working and the use of digital tools, we were able to deliver this complex project at Kuwait International Airport to budget and within the limited timeframe.  

The new terminal building, which opened in 2018, can accommodate an additional 4.5 million passengers per year and has been easing congestion and enhancing passenger experience ever since.