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Unlike many other high-profile airport construction projects, the design of Zurich's new Midfield Terminal aims for simplicity rather than exuberant style. RICHARD ROWE talked to architect, Marc Angelil, about a very Swiss building.

Contemporary airport design has a tendency to be either deeply dull or wildly flamboyant, depending on the resources available, says Marc Angelil a member of the architectural team designing Zurich's new Midfield Terminal. One says nothing to the passenger, while the other talks too much.

With Zurich's new addition, Angelil has chosen to go the Swiss way by attempting to marry sound ecological principles with simple functionality. At the forefront of the design was the need to keep resources to a minimum while still giving real project identification.

"We realised very soon in the process that the building had to be extremely straight-forward both from the point of view of the users and for orientation purposes," explains Angelil. "The budget was also very small, so the question was how low you could go with the cost, but still achieve the highest possible spatial quality."

Certainly, designing a high-quality, 27-gate terminal the length of five soccer pitches, capable of accommodating up to 40,000 passengers on peak days, but with minimum investment and maintenance costs, was no easy task. Zurich was also Angelil's first experience of airport design, although with TPS Aviation consulting, there was no shortage of aviation know-how.

Angelil and his team challenged their energy into exploring relationships between space, light and movement, in an overall architectural concept based very much on an economy of means.

"With the cost constraints so strong, there was a real risk that the project could be very banal," explains Angelil. "However, with the compact volume, the careful use of architectural form as well as the selection of straightforward, basic materials contribute not only to minimal investment costs, but also accentuate a distinguishable image. Although simple, we have still addressed complex relations."

Although definitely Swiss in feel, the Midfield Terminal will be a long way from the `destination' terminal that can be found elsewhere.

"It is not stylistically driven at all, quite the opposite," says Angelil. "You will have a sense that this is Switzerland, not based on the image of the building or the iconography, but in the attitude and feeling transmitted to the passengers."

Angelil has been working on the project since 1995 when a collaborative team of Martin Spuhler, Angelil/Graham/Pfenninger/ Scholl Architecture, plus engineers, Heyer Kaufmann Partner, Nicolet Chartrand Knoll and Electrowatt Engineering, first put forward its pre-qualification submittal.

The two-stage competition was organised by the Zurich Airport Real Estate Company (FIG), the Airport Development Authority (FDZ) and Swissair. By December 1996, Angelil knew the team had won and work proper could begin.

This project is the largest to date for Angelil's team and it is also their first experience of designing a structure that is part of an overall transport infrastructure rather than just a building.

"This is an important project in the Swiss context," says Angelil. "And although this was our first airport project, we didn't think that we needed to be specialised in airports. On the contrary, it perhaps allowed us to establish a certain distance from preconceived ideas about airports. We could come in very fresh."

The Midfield Terminal is one of two major additions to the airport. The second is the Airside Centre and transport hub, designed by a team led by the UK's Nicholas Grimshaw.

A much more complicated project, Angelil says he had not desire to get involved in the Airside Centre: "It is extremely complex and a bit like performing open heart surgery while trying to maintain a conversation with the patient."

But the Midfield Terminal is not without its difficulties either. Legislation has seen to it that the energy consumption of the entire airport has been frozen at 1994 levels. This meant that the Zurich Airport Authority wanted a building that was ecologically progressive. It was time for some canny and quite ingenious environmental control systems.

Angelil took the approach that rather than expending energy the new building should actually create energy. Mechanical systems have been kept to the absolute minimum -- there are no air conditioning or extra heating systems -- which forces the building itself to provide what Angelil describes as "necessary systematic environmental responses".

With this in mind, a glazed buffer zone around the building is designed to form a thermal layer which contributes to balanced temperature changes both inside and out. While continuous glazing means there is less need for artificial light, it also provides heat gain in the winter. Meanwhile, the cantilevered roof of the terminal provides shading and reduces the need for cooling in the summer.

As Angelil explains, energy efficiency is emphasised through the use of natural renewable resources. Even the actual foundation piles are used as key parts of the energy concept using the stable ground temperature to heat or cool the building as required. A circulating liquid within the foundation piles is used to moderate the air temperature.

There is no need for a centralised air handling system. Instead the building uses decentralised units which reduces ductwork and corresponding floor to floor heights -- a saving that makes a big difference in terms of construction costs.

On the roof, the use of photovoltaic cells within the shading panels of the metallic roof structure makes good use of solar energy for electrical power. Rain water is also collected on the roof, stored in a series of tanks and used as water for the terminal's toilet facilities.

In fact, the whole roof is landscaped which provides water retention and minimises the load placed on site drainage systems. Landscape materials include seasonal planted areas as well as crushed recycled glass gravel.

The well-being of passengers has been a major concern inside the building, too, and every effort has been made to ensure that passenger flow is clear, easy and as pleasant as possible.

Passengers reach the terminal by an underground People Transport System (PTS) linking with the main terminal areas and the new Airside Centre. Passengers arrive in the centre of the building, in a concourse that is lit naturally and allows a direct view of aircraft parked at the stands.

The flow of passengers up a series of escalators to and from the departures and arrivals areas has been engineered carefully. Dark corridors are avoided, natural light is plentiful and there are undisturbed views over the airfield and out to the surrounding countryside.

Briefs have changed on the project, as they always do, but Angelil says that this has mattered little because of the flexibility of the building. Certainly, and this, of course, has added to the cost, the team has been asked to design in a basement area to accommodate maintenance stations for the PTS as well as an area for baggage handling and sortation systems originally meant to remain at the existing terminal. And these are unlikely to be the final modifications.

Unlike the Airport Authority itself, the question of how to accommodate Schengen when, or if, it finally arrives, has not been a huge concern. It is "a question of logistics, not building," says Angelil. One of the latest suggestions was that the Midfield Terminal should be completely international, but time will tell. It is a juggling act that remains in the hands of the Zurich Airport Authority, and in the meantime, the designers will press on.
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Publication:Airports International
Geographic Code:4EXSI
Date:Apr 1, 1998
Previous Article:MIX AND MATCH.

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