T5’s big brother is open for business


The new international terminal at Madrid’s Barajas airport which covers some six square kilometres, and dwarfs Heathrow’s terminal 5 in every respect, is now open for business.

The £1 billion project was planned and designed by a consortium including Richard Rogers Partnership and TPS, the design and project management division of Carillion Business Services, as well as Spanish firms Estudio Lamela and Initec.

The new terminal will eventually double the capacity of the airport taking it over 70 million passengers annually, potentially making it the fifth-largest airport in Europe and well-positioned to compete for traffic with the other major hubs in Europe, such as Paris, Frankfurt and London.

The distinctive roof design follows the form of a bird’s wing and the structure uses post-tensioned beams, the first time a major project has used this kind of construction in Spain. The inner surface of the roof is clad in bamboo, which had to be specially grown in China, and rigorously tested to ensure compliance with the various regulations.

The terminal consists of four parallel linear blocks, each with three levels. The upper two levels are for departures and the lower for arrivals. The first block has the drop-off and pick-up zones, the second the departure area including check-in and arrivals reclaim and arrivals concourse areas, the third the retail and processing areas, and the fourth, some 1.2km long, contains the gates with related ramp accommodation and the outer baggage areas.

Between the blocks are novel ‘canyons’, where the roofline dives down to the lower levels, enabling daylight to penetrate into the building, with these canyons being crossed by dramatic steel bridges.

The satellite building, positioned some 2000 metres from the main terminal, will be accessed via a people mover system. The system has been designed to be flexible to handle the initial international long haul peak and then be capable of accommodating the forecast ‘Schengen’ (European commuter) peak spill from the main terminal. To achieve this, international arrivals are processed on the second level, international departures on the first level and Schengen on the ground floor, with full segregation and control authority processing maintained at all times.

The actual process of planning the new terminal was far less controversial than T5. Whereas T5 required a prolonged public inquiry, Barajas was given the go-ahead by the Spanish Government – the airport was seen as being of national importance, obviously over-riding any local concerns or considerations. That said, the new terminal appears to have the almost unanimous support of the local community: over 70 percent of the local population are employed by the existing airport, with the nearby town expected to grow from 4,000 to 25,000 inhabitants within four years.

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