Art and the Mexico City Airport

By Julie Etra

In the December 2015 issue of The Eye , I wrote about the design of the new airport in Mexico City (https://theeyehuatulco.com/2015/12/07/plans-for-mexico-citys-new-airport). It is now under construction, close to the existing Benito Juarez International Airport. According to El Informador, the new airport is about 3% complete, and should be fully operational by 2020.

When discussing art as part of the project, there is no way to really separate art from architecture or engineering, as the project in its entirety will be an artistic work that incorporates the most prominent symbols of Mexico in its very design: the golden eagle (aguila real) with one foot resting on a flowering opuntia (nopal) cactus pad while holding a snake in the talons of the other foot, emblematic of the national flag. A cactus garden and entrance will receive arriving passengers and the walkway will be built with materials that represent the snake. The roof of the entrance to the terminal building is meant to evoke the eagle with its wings spread in flight.

The airport design is led by two global firms, Foster + Partners of Britain and FR-EE (Fernando Romero Enterprises) of Mexico; renowned architect Norman Foster points out that “This design is pioneering a new concept for the expansion of an airport, to meet new levels of efficiency and flexibility, it will be beautiful. The passenger experience will be unique. Its design will offer the most flexible approach possible to accommodate internal changes and an increase in capacity. Mexico really has taken the initiative to invest in its domestic airport, understanding their economic and social importance, and planning for the future. There will be nothing else like it in the world.”

The new airport will serve twenty-one airlines, with open circulation, one level, and 96 gates. Grading is almost done, with construction of the foundation scheduled for the end of March 2017, one of seven critical phases. Grading is in itself a challenge on the shrink-swell soils of the former Lake Texcoco. Construction of the control tower and runways 2, 3, and 6 will begin in late April 2017, following completion of the access roads. A contract with railroad and terminal operator Ferrovalle will allow for construction of rail service and connections for commercial goods and supplies, which will follow the tower and runway work. Ultimately there will be six runways.

Security standards, set by the Association of International Air Transport (IATA) in addition to the Army, will include video surveillance systems, lasers, and movement sensors.

Engineering is obviously state of the art; the airport ostensibly will be the first carbon neutral facility outside of Europe. Design is very site specific, taking into account soils, access, etc. and although construction appears simple it is very sophisticated using lightweight material and special glues to accommodate the large expanses of the dome exterior. It is engineered to withstand an 8.0 earthquake. As a LEED-certified and sustainable facility, heating and cooling will be minimized due to the mild climate and ambient temperature in Mexico City throughout most of the year, as well as the open circulation intrinsic to the design. Water will be100% recycled.

You can see the art and design of the new Mexico City airport by going to https://vimeo.com/147686009.

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