In August 2014, architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) were finally granted planning permission for the construction of an East Wing at Geneva Airport in Switzerland. The new US$326m facility would replace the existing building constructed in the 1970s as a temporary structure to serve non-Schengen long-haul flights.
“It’s really about passenger comfort and providing six contact stands for long-haul, wide-body aircraft,” said Dennis Austin, associate partner at RSHP. “It’s also about bringing Geneva onto a level playing field with Zurich, a bit of inter Swiss competition, if you will. The airport has a lot of relationships with the Middle East and North America so it’s a facility long overdue.”
However, the process of getting to the second design development phase has not been straightforward and has involved several redesigns and resubmissions to the appropriate aviation authorities.
“When we released the new design in November 2013, the airport immediately decided that its operational needs required less of the Schengen/non-Schengen flexibility. So we spent a lot of 2014 revising the scheme to remove all of the Schengen stands and facilities, which took a lot of cost out of the project as well.
“The airport decided that they were never going to be a significant hub, so their wish-list for transferring these types of passengers to these types of flights would never really come to fruition.”
The resulting design created a seamless 430,500ft2 facility with wide-open spaces, easy wayfinding and large glazed glass façades that make full use of the natural light.
“Essentially the redesign removed Level 2, which used to be the Schengen facility. It reinforced the diagram of the building as a single-level departure, so Level 1 is all about departing
passengers and Level 2 is nothing but
a high-level arrival corridor. Arriving passengers never really enter the building. They enter a valve and are injected immediately onto Level 2. We removed an enormous amount of floor plate for Level 2, which created a larger volume in the building and created a better experience for arriving passengers.”
As part of the original design brief,
RSHP had to ensure that the East Wing contained a number of innovative design features. The buildings close proximity to neighboring complexes meant that they had to deal with a number of building restrictions and strict energy performance laws meant that the building had to be energy efficient.
“The competition was quite clear, the site was incredibly constrained. Literally 1.5m off the rear façade of the building is a series of buildings that are part of a landside campus. There’s also an office building behind us that houses IATA’s headquarters and they have ‘rights of light’ demands.
“Our solution was two-fold. First and most importantly we lifted the building up by one level so that the Route de Ferney, the Swiss-French connecting road, could pass underneath us as it does with the rest of the building. We also leaned the building by 26° toward the aircraft away from the adjacent office building to give them enhanced daylight.”
When it came to addressing the environmental footprint of the new building, RSHP implemented a series of innovative methods and technologies that combine to create an energy neutral building. This includes installing 110 geothermal piles for heating and cooling, 43,000ft2 of photovoltaic panels on the roof, LED lighting throughout, and low water consumption via methods such as rainwater harvesting. The architects are also using locally sourced and sustainable materials wherever possible.
“Every aspect of our electrical needs, FIDS, retail, all of our 19 hour per day lighting systems, all of our horizontal and vertical transportation systems, all of our needs, will be produced by our energy-gathering systems.
“We will sell a bit of power back to the grid, and from time to time we will take from the grid, but we are standalone. In case of major failure we have our own generators; the back-up battery power for all our equipment is at least 72 hours.”
The result is that RSHP and the rest of the RBI-T consortium responsible for the project can now look to the future and can remain optimistic when entering the second development phase. They are set to issue contracts to complete the rest of the foundation and roadworks in February 2016, and will issue contracts for the construction of the East Wing building in November 2016.
Interview by Daniel Symonds
Images copyright of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Lead designer – Graham Stirk
February 20, 2015