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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Paul Andreu, famed architect behind Abu Dhabi airport, dies at 80

Andreu also designed Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris

French architect Paul Andreu, pictured in 2004, died aged 80 on Thursday. AFP
French architect Paul Andreu, pictured in 2004, died aged 80 on Thursday. AFP

Paul Andreu, the famed French architect behind Abu Dhabi airport, has died at the age of 80.

Andreu was an expert on airport design and worked on about 40 airports including Charles de Gaulle (CDG) in Paris, Cairo and Terminal 3 of Dubai International Airport.

He also completed several major projects in China such as the Grand National Theatre of Beijing. He also designed the French terminal of the Channel Tunnel, the rail link which connects England and France.

CDG opened in 1974 and the circular geometry of the original terminal influenced the design of many airports across the world, including Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi airport opened in 1982, replacing Al Bateen which now operates mainly for private and charter jets.

"Although it is a medium-sized terminal, it has a lot of aircraft, all centered around the satellite, so that planes empty, fill up and then leave as quickly as possible," was how the project was described by Andreu's team.

The star of the original terminal is the beautiful curved ceiling at the circular waiting area near the arrival and departure gates. Passengers enter the area through a sloping walkway that slowly reveals the design. The ceiling drops downwards and is covered in lime green and blue tiles that form an Islamic pattern.

The ceiling of Abu Dhabi airport, said to be designed like a palm tree against the sky. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Airports
The ceiling of Abu Dhabi airport, said to be designed like a palm tree against the sky. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Airports

Abu Dhabi airport has since been expanded but the original terminal is unlike many across the globe.

Deborah Bentley was Abu Dhabi representative for the Royal Institute of British Architects from 2011 to 2014.

“The architecture of the majority of Abu Dhabi's transportation buildings have celebrated the experience of travel. The Al Bateen airport building has beautiful elegant tapered arcade of concrete columns,” she said.

“Terminal 1 at the airport by Paul Andreu has a series of unique spaces, from the tented ceiling in the departure check-in area, to the amazing mosaic ceiling at the arrival and departure gates.”

Andreu was born in Gironde, southwest France in 1938. He was a member of the prestigious Academie des Beaux-Arts and was also the recipient of the National Grand Prix in Architecture in 1977.

Despite a stellar career across several decades, Andreu is most associated with CDG airport.

Planes connect with circular buildings, which in turn surround a central circular waiting area and the design reflects a place of exchanges between road and air.

Andreu was also involved with the expansion of the airport since it opened in 1974.

In 2004, several people were killed when one of the terminals collapsed at the airport. Andreu was reportedly very upset by the event and stopped work for a time.

Among the many tributes for Andreu, who died last Thursday, included one from Paris Aeroport, which oversees operations in the French capital's two airports.

“He designed the terminals millions of passengers are walking through everyday,” it said.

Andreu was also a painter, writer and engineer.

A message posted on his website announcing his death paid tribute to the wide breadth of his work.

"Paul Andreu was a complete artist, who fervently devoted himself to the practice of architecture with the talent that we know, but also, what we know less, to literature and painting," it said.

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