Mexico City’s new state-of-the-art, 9.2-billion-dollar airport will be among the most advanced in the world and become the main hub for Latin America within a few decades, Mexican government officials are boasting.
On Wednesday, President Enrique Peña Nieto revealed the winning designs for the airport submitted by famed British architect Norman Foster, and Mexico’s Fernando Romero, the son-in-law of telecom magnate Carlos Slim, currently the richest person in the world.
Both architects were on hand at the president’s Los Pinos residence for the unveiling of the project.
The airport will be built on a 4,600-hectare plot of federal land – a former lake bed – that adjoins the capital’s existing Benito Juarez airport. The project will require complex engineering solutions and will need to be served by a completely new transportation network.
The airport’s first stage is expected to be finished by 2020 and will include three runways with the ability to handle 50 million passengers annually. The airport’s current handling capacity is 32 million and there is no room for expansion. The second stage – leading up to 2050 – could see as many as six runways and passenger capacity increased to 120 million.
At the unveiling of the designs, Romero said the airport’s airy, X-shaped design incorporates several proud Mexican symbols, including the eagle and serpent that is seen on the nation’s flag.
Foster said the airport would be “the first of its kind in the world,” adding that, “it doesn’t have a conventional roof, vertical walls or columns in the normal sense.”
According to the Global Construction Review, the building will be “enclosed in a single continuous gridshell that will comprise both walls and roof. The longest span in the glass and steel terminal will be 170 meters.”
The airport is expected to be one of the most sustainable aviation facilities in the world, with a solar farm and a rainwater collection system.
By using federal land, Peña Nieto will hope to avoid the problems faced by former President Vicente Fox, who met with fierce resistance when in 2002 he sought to locate a new airport near the town of San Salvador Atenco on the outskirts of the capital. Unable to create a consensus over the expropriation of farm land, he was eventually forced to ditch the project when protests against the airport became violent.
Even with a second terminal finished in 2007, the Mexico City airport is overcrowded and, according to aviation experts, “well past its sell by date.”
Romero’s architectural firm designed the unique Museo Soumaya, a shiny cloud-like structure which houses much of Slim’s personal art collection and other famous works by European artists.
Foster, a Pritzker Prize winner who designed the Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport and Bejing’s Terminal Three building, has been responsible for a long list of renowned projects, including the restoration of the Reichstag in Berlin, where the German parliament is housed, the Hearst Tower in New York City, the Millau Viaduct in southern France (tallest bridge in the world), as well as several landmark buildings in the United Kingdom, such as London’s quirky “Gherkin” and the new Wembley Stadium.