The first glimpse of western Sydney airport left the world awestruck with its extravagant linear design. It is approximately twice the size of Sydney’s main airport. Envisaged to replace the Sydney airport as the primary airport by 2060, the Western Sydney Airport allows rapid urban development in Sydney. Bagged the contract of the concept design in a competition in 2019, Cox architecture and ZHA have attempted to respond to Australia’s natural beauty as well as its aboriginal heritage. Located in the Parkland City region, 50 km from Sydney’s CBD, this airport backs the future expansion of Western Sydney. Set on land of around 1,780 hectares, the airport is to develop in multiple stages over 40 years. 

Western Sydney Airport by Cox Architecture - Sheet1
Western Sydney Airport_©
Western Sydney Airport by Cox Architecture - Sheet2
WSA location_©


The concept stands firm on its grounds. Having the flavors of both Australia and Western Sydney, it showcases a strong regional identity. The colors and fabric evoke the Australian essence on the other hand the social and cultural experience is rooted in that of Sydney. Cumberland Plain’s flora and the Blue Mountain that neighbors it have influenced the design in unmistakable ways. The spaces are built upon Dharug and Eora’s history while providing a distinctive experience to the users. 

Western Sydney Airport by Cox Architecture - Sheet3
WSA metro line_©
Western Sydney Airport by Cox Architecture - Sheet4
View of WSA_©

Construction and connectivity

Western Sydney Airport by Cox Architecture - Sheet5
Indicative airport site stage 1 development_©

With a 3,700 m runway in the north-western half of the airport site, the stage 1 planning handles both domestic and international flights. With the construction of the terminal and supporting infrastructure during the first development, an accommodation capacity of approximately 63,000 passengers per year is anticipated. The commercial spaces included in the first stage of development will increase with response to demand over time. The first runway shall accommodate 1,85,000 ATMs per year, approximately accounting for 37 MAP. In around 2050, a second runway, 37,000 m long is expected to meet additional demand.  By 2063, following the development of a second runway and additional infrastructure, the ATM is expected to increase to 3,70,000 per year. 

Western Sydney Airport by Cox Architecture - Sheet6
Indicative airport site long term development_©

The construction of the northern runway and the development of the northern half of the airport site is proposed first to reduce the earthwork requirements associated with it while it proves the shortest distance to connect utility trunk lines around the airport site. 

The airport has two main operating modes during a single runway operation: arrivals and departures in the southwest direction; and arrivals and departures in the northeast direction. These two parallel runways have been developed at an orientation of 50/230 degrees.

Stage 1 development construction location_©

The M12 Motorway is linked to the airport in the north and acts as the main access to the port. The Northern road connects to the airport in the southwest, which is anticipated to provide commercial access as well as operational support areas. This connecting lane is expected to have two trafficable lanes in each direction while the lane within the airport site is to have at least one trafficable lane in each direction. Stage 2 of the Western Sydney Airport development will see the extension of the WSA metro line from Bradfield to Glenfield via Leppington.

Sustainability and waste management 

In response to the on-site waste post land clearing, ZHA and Cox architecture have strategically devised four ways to minimize material spoilage. These methods include:

  1. Waste avoidance: reduction of onsite earthworks concerning drainage and pavement construction.
  2. Re-use on site: the reusing of on-site waste materials successfully reduces the import of materials and land to dispose of the waste produced on site.
  3. Re-use off-site: useful reuses such as asphalt and concrete recycling, re-shaping engineered fill, embankment widening; and 
  4. Disposal: being their last and least preferred option, off-site disposal is adopted only when the other strategies are used and exhausted to their limits. 

To make sure the environmental management program is effective and facilitates its purpose, the contractor, WSA Co, is monitoring, inspecting, and auditing the airport site and work progress routinely. They have been establishing reliable steps to correct the defects and shortcomings in the management process. Wastewater treatment plants have been proposed on site until and unless a new water treatment plant is established nearby, in which case, the wastewater will be sent for treatment off-site through a pipeline. The treated water will be used for irrigation of the landscape on site, while the rest of the wastewater will be disposed off-site while taking appropriate environmental measures. Sustainability being their key consideration, the airport terminal is expected to bring in natural light and cut down on carbon emissions while its roof generates solar electricity and harvests rainwater. The high-performance glass and its climate-responsive façade reduce energy consumption while keeping user comfort in check.

With a foundation of cutting-edge technology and innovative design alongside IoT, this structure will be one of Australia’s best. Giving rise to 1,400 direct and numerous indirect jobs, WSA is making a worldwide impact with its development. This gateway creates value beyond just air travel, with customer interests at heart. Australia will see one of its greatest projects ever while expanding to a third urban hub.


  • Western sydney airport (2022) Western Sydney Airport. Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. Available at: (Accessed: October 16, 2022). 
  • Home (no date) Western Sydney University. Available at: (Accessed: October 16, 2022). 
  • Western sydney airport (no date) COX. Available at: (Accessed: October 16, 2022). 



She chases colours and prints. In her pajamas and tote-bags, writing makes her bounce (and fall face front sometimes). Kind and approachable (no she shall not poke you with her fountain pen). She’s stubborn and if she’s not architecturing, you’ll find her in a kitchen cooking something witty and delicious.

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