Norman Foster co-design picked for US$9.2 billion Mexico City airport
British architect is co-designer of winning idea for US$9.2 billion gateway to quadruple capacity
Associated Press in Mexico City
British architect Norman Foster and Mexico's Fernando Romero have had their design chosen for Mexico City's new US$9.2 billion airport, which is expected to quadruple current capacity to 120 million passengers per year.
Communications and Transportation Department Secretary Gerardo Ruiz said both architects were picked by a committee, and that contrary to past controversial airport proposals, authorities would not expropriate any land.
Foster is one of the world's leading architects and designed Hong Kong's airport and Beijing's Terminal 3. Romero is the son-in-law of Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos Slim.
The new Mexico City airport will cover nearly 4,600 hectares of former lakebed, about 10km from the present, overcrowded facility. It will have six runways and is expected to be completed in 50 years. The old airport can handle only 32 million passengers per year. It will eventually be turned over to the city for recreational and educational use. Ruiz said construction of the new airport would begin next year.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said three runaways were expected to be up and running by 2020, handling 52 million passengers per year.
"The new airport will be a grand work, a symbol of modern Mexico," Pena Nieto said.
Critics of the massive project say the proposed site is not suitable for a new airport. Former environment secretary Jose Luege told Radio Formula that the area was prone to flooding. Ruiz denied that and said impact studies had already been conducted, and that there were plans for areas where rain water could be harvested to avoid floods.
The airy, lightweight, membrane-roofed terminal is designed in the form of a giant "X."
The airport would be "a modern, on the vanguard [project] that will have a great dose of Mexican symbolism", Ruiz said.
Mexican officials said they hoped the new airport became Latin America's main air hub.
Foster, who has received some of the world's top architecture awards, said the airport would have spacious halls that could be used for art exhibitions.
Romero, who designed Carlos Slim's Soumaya Museum, said the airport would honour the Mexican flag's coat of arms, which has an eagle on top of a cactus that is devouring a snake - a reference to Tenochtitlan, the pre-Columbian city the capital is built on.
The entrance to the terminal will have a garden of cacti and other elements to symbolise the snake and the eagle's wings.
In 2002, the government tried to expropriate land from a group of farmers on the outskirts of Mexico City to build a new airport. But after violent clashes with farmers from the town of San Salvador Atenco, the government dropped the airport plan.
The airport proposed by Pena Nieto's administration will be built on federal land.