The façade construction specialist seele realised the 70,000sqm glass façade as well as 90,000qm roof surface of the terminal of Berlin Brandenburg Airport.


glass façade



weightless transparency – berlin brandenburg airport

The truly impressive aspects of Berlin’s new international airport, which in future will handle all flights to and from the German capital, are its clear design and compact layout. Architects of Gerkan, Marg und Partner have arranged the airport buildings and circulation routes in a U-shaped symmetrical form with a central approach axis leading to a central main terminal. A huge roof covers the whole terminal. This roof, measuring 200m x 240m, appears to float above the entire passenger-handling zone and projects beyond the façade to form an entrance canopy supported on a row of columns. It thus creates a visual link between landside and airside.

  • seele was responsible for the design and construction of the roof to the terminal building (90,000sqm) and also the glass façades (70,000sqm) that bathe the main pier and main terminal in daylight. The architects called for an apparently “weightless” roof, and seele succeeded in turning that vision into reality. Long rooflight zones integrated into the roof surface ensure pleasant, natural illumination inside the building. Thermally insulated Kalzip standing seam roofing in the form of individual prefabricated elements was supplied and installed by seele.

    In order that this huge roof structure can expand and contract as temperatures and loads fluctuate, it is joined to the structure below at two points only. The delicate façade structure, developed by seele, can also easily accommodate any movements due to thermal actions or varying loads. Only the bottom edges of the panes of glass are fixed in horizontal transverse rails; the upper edges are attached so that they can slide in the plane of the façade. This concept combines maximum transparency with the strength needed to resist wind loads. The roof seems to float – exactly as called for by the architects in their design brief. And seele fulfilled all the logistical requirements as well: All façade works were completed on time in spring 2012.

    Reference overview and Header image: © seele/Taufik Kenan

Large expanses of glass on the main pier façade as well result in impressive sightlines between taxiway and terminal – an architectural experience for all arrivals and departures. © seele/Taufik Kenan
With a total area of about 90,000sqm, the roof to the terminal building forms the focus of seele’s work at the new airport. © seele/Taufik Kenan
The transparency of the terminal’s glass façade reveals how the roof continues uninterrupted from the canopy over the entrance zone through to the inside of the terminal. The terminal is simply a powerful spatial experience. © seele/Taufik Kenan
A total of 12,766 panes of glass measuring 3.20m x 3.20m and weighing 900kg were needed just for the façade to the terminal. © seele/Taufik Kenan

Columns minimised, experience maximised – seele design permits clear views into the distance

The terminal will be one of the best-loved places at the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. And one of the most inspiring, because the view out through the huge glass façade is fascinating – made possible by seele’s exceptionally delicate, almost invisible structure with its 40 vertical fish-belly girders. There are 14 different types of girder and, as vertical members, they ensure that the glass curtain wall can resist the wind loads. The dimensions of the fish-belly girders are impressive: 20m high and up to 4m deep. This design by seele enables the façade to bulge inwards by up to 100mm. This movement is compensated for by steel cables with movable connections to the horizontal struts. The fish-belly girders are suspended from the roof of the terminal, but only the steel cables reach as far as the ground. That means there are no steel sections interrupting the views through the glass at floor level. seele specified prestressed stainless steel cables for horizontal stability, and these are visible both inside and outside the terminal building. In order that the steel sections are integrated perfectly into the façade, seele optimised the cross-sections of the horizontal struts.

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To stabilise the façade against wind loads, seele specified slender vertical fish-belly girders suspended from the roof. However, to prevent interrupting sightlines, only the steel cables continue to the floor.
The minimal lines of the delicate fish-belly girders reinforce the maximum transparency of seele’s glass façade, which makes a visit to the terminal a real experience.
The vertical bracing to the glass curtain wall is provided by 40 fish-belly girders in 14 different variations. They are 20m high and up to 4m deep.


Client Flughafen Berlin Schönefeld GmbH
Architect gmp Architekten / J.S.K Architekten / IGK-IGR
Engineer Schlaich, Bergermann und Partner / Schüßler-Plan Ingenieurgesellschaft / Prof. Michael Lange Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH
Date of completion 2012
Scope of work by seele
  • Design and construction of 70,000sqm glass façade for terminal and main pier
  • Design and construction of 90,000sqm roof to terminal building