New Terminal T4 Barajas Airport | The Plan
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New Terminal T4 Barajas Airport

Richard Rogers | Estudio Lamela

If airports have become machines for processing people and baggage, then architecture should be the art of humanising that process. Airport traffic is growing at the rate of 8-10% annually, a doubling in numbers of over the last 7-8 years. Airport terminals are forced to process far more people than ever before, and, with two specific commercial forces driving the industry – the booming traffic in low-cost travel and the increasing consolidation of airlines into international airlines (which may result in the operation of just 4-5 major airlines in a decade’s time) – change is the only constant.
Changes at every conceivable level – physical, infrastructural, technical, technological, commercial – have meant that airports are in enormous flux as urban places. This makes them a ‘fascinating’ field for architects to operate in, says Simon Smithson, who runs the Madrid office of Richard Rogers Partnership, and oversaw as project architect the design and realisation of the 1.000 milion euros NAT (New Terminal Area) at Madrid’s Barajas Airport (to the north west of the existing Terminal complex dating from 1933), commissioned by AENA (Spanish Airports and Air Navigation) which was formally opened at a private reception of 500 guests by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on February 4 this year. At this event it became clear that the airport will have a huge impact on Madrid’s position in Europe. The only task the Spanish need to complete is the Metro connection to the city centre. They have made the new Metro station and hope to complete the track system that will make the building reachable from Madrid’s city centre in 15 minutes in the near future.
The project is the largest RRP has undertaken to date, 1 million square metres of buildings that make up the Terminal and the satellite (for international flights), and serve three new runways. Approaching the building by road, its undulating linear ribbed metal roof stretches out in front of you,...

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