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Richard Rogers conceived Barajas Airport as 'an airport that is fun, with lots of light, great views and a high degree of clarity'.

The 'fun' is provided by the roof, a wave-like structure formed by great wings of prefabricated steel supported on slender concrete trees and lined internally with slatted bamboo. The steel supports change gradually from blue to green to yellow to red along the length of the building, giving each portion of this repetitive structure an identity of its own.

Vast rooights provide daylight throughout the upper level, while 'canyons' bring light down to the lower oors.

The glazed facades offer uninterrupted views of the runways and surrounding countryside. The skilful use of ample shading and natural light has substantially reduced energy demands.

A low-energy displacement ventilation system suffices in the pier area, with a more conventional air-conditioning system operating elsewhere.

This is a vast project. As well as the 1.2km-long terminal and 1km-long satellite handling 36 and 26 planes respectively and up to 35 million passengers each year together, there is a railway station and multi-storey car park with space for 9,000 cars. But it is highly legible. There is a straightforward linear diagram, with a clear sequence of spaces for departing and arriving passengers.

Below ground, in the area containing baggage-handling facilities, some of which are 20m deep, the structure takes on a more heavyweight character, a massive concrete base supporting the glass and metal pavilion above.

Mariella Frostrup You arrive at the airport, and immediately you feel excited about the city.

It's actually an anticlimax when you leave.

Ian Ritchie You know you are in Spain (though not necessarily Madrid) simply by the exuberance of the rainbow - a stunning and warm space. The cross section is more interesting than the long section. The long section is very simple. It's just about the vista. It's an extrusion; how much do you want - how many planes and gates?

Isabel Allen But the great thing is that it works at any scale. It's a showstopper when it runs the full length of the main airport, but it doesn't read as truncated at a more intimate scale. The satellite building doesn't seem in any way unresolved. Presumably everything is there - the sock shops, the coffee bars and so on, but the architectural expression is so strong that you don't read it as clutter. You come away with the memory of that great curving roof.

Martha Schwartz For me what's incredible is that it's intimate despite being so vast. The timber of the roof mediates between the enormity of the building and the human scale. It creates a new feeling and series of expectations about Madrid, and therefore fulfils the hopes of the client.

Ian Ritchie When you arrive at the satellite (from the plane) you turn through more than 360º in negotiating your way to the transit train; maybe the passport line was too wide to fit. Not brilliant for orientation, but fortunately the signage is really clear. I don't like unglazed terracotta (in the satellite transit station area). It sucks light. There is some evidence of cost-cutting. A feather duster is going to be needed for the oceans of lampshades - they're already covered in dust. Apparently the original design proposed glass surrounds as protection, but they were cut out at some point.

Mariella Frostrup If Zaha's building felt like the work of a brilliant student, this is the work of an architect at the height of his powers. I'd visit again just for pleasure.

I never thought I'd say that about any airport.

Subcontractors and suppliers

Terminal Ferrovial, FCC, ACS, NECSO, SACYR; satellite Dragados, OHL; finishes COSMA; concrete structure UTEs; steel structure Emesa, Horta; roof Corus; bamboo Lindner; limestone Levantina, Luis Sanchez; granite Marcelino Martinez; glazed facades Cristaleria Espanola, Eurocomercial Meyco; lifts Schindler, Otis, Thyssen Krupp; metal panels Hiansa, Gasell; ceramic coverings Terreal Saint Gobain; drains Fullflow; lighting diffusers IASO; concrete surface finish Keim; aluminium frames Geze Architect Richard Rogers Partnership, Estudio Lamela Client Aena Internacional Structural engineers Anthony Hunt Associates, TPS with OTEP, HCA, Initec Facade engineer Arup Quantity surveyors Hanscombe, Gabinete Acoustic consultant Sandy Brown Associates Artificial-lighting consultants Spiers & Major, Biosca y Botey Fire engineering Warrington Fire Research Centre Landscape consultant dosAdos Contract value: 1,826 million euros (£1,238 million) Opening date: February 2006 Gross internal area: 760 million m 2

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