Abu Dhabi plans to aggressively expand its airport, which will have the capacity to handle 30 million passengers by 2017.
New airport to represent Abu Dhabi
Since the Abu Dhabi Government first launched its airport expansion programme in 2006, a total of almost Dh25bn (US$6.8bn) has been earmarked for the project.
Abu Dhabi International Airport has built a new 60 metre wide, 4,100 metre long runway capable of handling the largest airliners flying - the Airbus A380 superjumbo, and the new Boeing 747-8, the longest airliner ever built.
That was in 2008. Also that year Terminal 3, with a floor area of 70,000 square metres and 33 check-in counters, was opened.
Last year, the Abu Dhabi Airport Company (Adac) commissioned a striking 110 metre-high air traffic control tower, which dominates the skyline for miles around. At the same time, the airport upgraded Terminal 1 and built new aircraft parking stands.
Adac yesterday announced preferred bidder for the construction of the new Midfield Terminal. It is a consortium made up of Consolidated Construction Company, (CCC), TAV and Arabtec.
Together with the development of the East Midfield site - a 200 hectare space for cargo handling, ground handling, in-flight catering and other support operations - the airport will grow to eight times its current size.
When it opens in 2017, an airport that before the upgrade began handled just 6.9 million passengers in 2007, will be capable of handling almost 30 million.
Realising the vision has been the work of international architects from Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), which won the master architect's contract to design the new terminal complex in 2006.
The building they have created, when viewed from above, will form a distinctive X shape and will rise out of the unused land on the other side of the runway to the existing airport. Excavation of the site has already started and with the signing of the final contract next month, the construction of the concrete structure will begin.
With each leg of the X stretching almost 2km, the construction phase will operate several different sites working at the same time, each requiring close coordination with the other.
Then there will be workforce management. No figures have been produced for the numbers needed to build the terminal but KPF has cited the construction of Beijing International Airport's Terminal 3, which required almost 50,000 workers to build.
Also, a major part of the brief from Adac was to create an environmentally friendly building.
"The special thing about this building is the environmental features that are part of its initial conception," said Mustafa Chehabeddine, KPF's principal architect on the project. "The series of waves and arches create a façade that automatically cuts out 50 per cent of sunlight entering the building. We were aware that the sun was a prominent issue and did not want to create a glass building then simply air-condition the hell out of it. We wanted to create a structure that confronts the problem by creating areas of shade."
But the main challenge was working with the concept of the airport as hub, and not just a destination; crucial to Adac's vision of making it work as a springboard for its main customer Etihad Airways' global ambitions, and in competition with its neighbouring airports in Doha and Dubai.
"These destinations are all fighting for transfer passengers and, as such, the quality of the space you stop in suddenly becomes very important," Mr Chehabeddine told airport-technology.com, an aviation industry website, in February. "This is without a doubt a new phenomenon - the airport as a city, rather than the airport as a processing machine. For transferring passengers, this is going to be their only experience of Abu Dhabi, so it needs to represent the city. It's about minimising waiting and queue times; passengers can now spend time in it as opposed to rushing from gate to gate.
"It's not just an airport; it's part of a city … a civic space."
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