A collaboration between Foster + Partners, FR-EE (Fernando Romero Enterprise) and NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants) has won the international competition to design Mexico City’s new international airport. At 470,000 square metres, it will be one of the world’s largest airports. Conceived with Foster + Partners engineering team, the project revolutionises airport design – the entire terminal is enclosed within a continuous lightweight gridshell, embracing walls and roof in a single, flowing form, evocative of flight.
Designed to be the world’s most sustainable airport, the compact single terminal uses less materials and energy than a cluster of buildings. The design ensures short walking distances and few level changes, it is easy to navigate, and passengers will not have to use internal trains or underground tunnels – it is a celebration of space and light. Flexible in operation, its design anticipates the predicted increase in passenger numbers to 2028 and beyond, and its development will be the catalyst for the regeneration of the surrounding area. The airport is planned on a new site with three runways, and an expansion plan up to 2062 with an eventual six runways.
With spans in excess of 100 metres, three times the span of a conventional airport, it has a monumental scale inspired by Mexican architecture and symbolism. The maximum span internally is 170 metres. The lightweight glass and steel structure and soaring vaulted roof are designed for Mexico City’s challenging soil conditions. Its unique pre-fabricated system can be constructed rapidly, without the need for scaffolding – the airport will be a showcase for Mexican innovation, built by Mexican contractors and engineers.
The entire building is serviced from beneath, freeing the roof of ducts and pipes and revealing the environmental skin. This hardworking structure harnesses the power of the sun, collects rainwater, provides shading, directs daylight and enables views – all while achieving a high performance envelope that meets high thermal and acoustic standards. The LEED Platinum design works with Mexico City’s temperate, dry climate to fill the terminal spaces with fresh air using displacement ventilation principles. For a large part of the year, comfortable temperatures will be maintained by almost 100% outside air, with little or no additional heating or cooling required.
Lord Foster said:
“Stansted Airport’s reinvention of the conventional terminal in the 1990s was emulated worldwide – this breaks with that model for the first time. It pioneers a new concept for a large-span, single airport enclosure, which will achieve new levels of efficiency and flexibility – and it will be beautiful. The experience for passengers will be unique. Its design provides the most flexible enclosure possible to accommodate internal change and an increase in capacity. Mexico has really seized the initiative in investing in its national airport, understanding its social and economic importance and planning for the future. There will be nothing else like it in the world.”