A design team comprising Australia’s COX Architecture (COX) and international design firm Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has won the competition to design Australia’s new Western Sydney (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport.

The ZHA/COX team was selected from a shortlist of five design teams out of more than 40 submissions in total. As master architect, ZHA/COX will provide an overarching design for the entire airport precinct, including design guidelines for future expansion. The team will also prepare the design documents for the execution of the first phase of the new terminal precinct.

The design had to be scalable and include a plaza, a public transport interchange and an integrated international and domestic passenger terminal. It was also recently announced by airport representatives that players in the New South Wales (NSW) Wheelchair Rugby League will act as accessibility consultants during development.

The ZHA/COX design incorporates sustainable design principles. It makes extensive use of daylight, natural ventilation and water recycling to create a modular, energy-efficient design, said the team. According to the designers, the building will also be sensitive to its local context, reflecting both the natural landscape and the cultural heritage of the area’s indigenous inhabitants.

The winning design takes inspiration from the local flora of Western Sydney and its unique natural qualities, such as Australian light, said David Holm, COX director. “These spaces, colours and materials have been incorporated into the design to give the project an unmistakable regional identity,” he said.

Cristiano Ceccato, ZHA project director, added: “The design is an evolution of Australian architecture past, present and future. It draws inspiration from both traditional architectural features, such as the veranda, as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding bushland.”

ZHA has considerable experience in the airport sector, with recent contracts including designing, with ADPI, the new Beijing Daxing International Airport and as lead consultant for the new Navi Mumbai International Airport. COX, meanwhile, is designing Sydney International Airport’s Marketplace, which is a food and beverage space at Terminal 1.

Western Sydney Airport, which will be located 44km west of the Sydney central business district, is scheduled to be built in four stages. On opening in 2026, it will have a single runway and capacity for an initial 10 million passengers per year. By 2060, this will expand to include a second parallel runway and an annual passenger capacity of 82 million. Earthworks started on the 1,780-hectare Western Sydney Airport site last September.

Discussions with potential airline operators at the new airport have started, with airport management recently attending the World Routes event for the first time in Adelaide in September. The airport received “positive feedback” from operators at the event, said David Mulally, marketing and communications general manager, Western Sydney Airport. “Now is the time to start building relationships,” and explained that discussions are ongoing with “a large number of carriers” and all types – low-cost, full-service and freight operators. The airport will initially focus on operations within the Asia-Pacific region.

Local carriers Qantas and Virgin Australia have yet to commit to services at the new airport, but are engaged in the terminal design process “to make sure we design a terminal that meets their needs,” said Mulally. “A seamless experience is what we are constantly hearing from airlines and passengers through both technology and smart design,” he adds.