The controversial afterlife of Zaha Hadid: from Britain to Baghdad

Passengers will promenade along gently rising and falling ramps that twist and turn inside the building to spectacular visual effect. This, though, is an eminently logical move, controlling the speed at which the influx of passengers moves. With no stairs to navigate, all is a seamless flow, the building informed by spatial currents and confluences rather than corridors and stairwells.

“This is an elemental building,” says Gaetano Di Maio, the highly experienced engineer, builder and director of works for the Terminal project guiding me around the, as yet, empty building. “But, everything you see here is on the limit, architecturally and technically. It’s been a demanding building, a challenge for me every day. Look at that ramp, how it’s cantilevered so far over the entrance hall with no apparent support… that’s not easy to do.”

For a moment, I think Di Maio is on the attack. Architects, eh? But, then he walks me out into the blistering sun to look at the prognathous concrete bridge that will lead passengers to ships. This frames calculated views of, from one side, a dark blue sea and azure sky and, on the other, the skyline of Salerno itself climbing vertiginously up a rock face. 

“Beautiful,” Di Maio says. “This is a beautiful building.”

And so it is, despite an interior free of the slightest hint of comforting décor. Bands of windows, however, act like frescoes, capturing views of a city crowned with a Byzantine castle, fringed with streets of immense character and hemmed with a sweeping tree-lined promenade, all bright blossom in June. Despite its sophisticated geometries and parametric computer wizardry, Hadid’s terminal seems to have washed up on Salerno’s shore as if always destined to arrive here.