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The Beetle has landed.

Star architects don't always run away with the prizes. Frankfurt architect Christoph Mackler has just been chosen to design a new [euro]900 million Terminal 3 (over Foster and Partners and von Gerkan, Marg) in a three phase international competition in which 40 architects participated. Terminal 3, nicknamed the 'Growing Beetle', will be constructed on the Frankfurt airfield from which the Hindenburg Zeppelin left for its ill-fated last voyage in 1937, and where, since 1945, the Americans have maintained a US troop gateway to Europe and beyond. The site reverts to Germany in October this year.



'This is not architectural triumphalism but a return to functional aesthetics', stated Wilhelm Bender representing Fraport, which is the airport authority and client. Christoph Mackler has compared his project design to a modular 'big machine' with the ability to change size and form in response to whatever aero-technology has to offer.

Extending mainland Europe's largest airport is a major investment in the regional economy. Terminal 3 will increase airport related employment from 65 000 to 100 000 and boost passenger capacity by 25 million to over 80 million annually. With these statistics, it's not surprising that Fraport describes the new transport node as an important aspect of Frankfurt's 'cultural identity'.


The various modular elements of the terminal piers--gate boxes which can be locked together in series for larger passenger volumes, flexible combinations of fixed bridges to serve large or small planes, and slot-in elements housed in separately articulated zones for vertical and horizontal circulation and ducts--are demonstrated in a wooden model which operates as smoothly as an interlocking Chinese puzzle. The Beetle convinced an expert jury of architects, engineers, Lufthansa, Fraport administrators and national politicians, because it allows uninterrupted use of the airport during any future building modifications.

It is no coincidence that the passenger arrival and departure hall has been compared with Mies van der Rohe's Berlin National Gallery or the plug-in elements with the work of Archigram. Mackler maintains that 'We must return to Bauwerk (the process of building) and away from Kunstwerk (art object). For example, the big flying carpet roof typical of airports is inflexible because it's not easily reduced or extended. It has too much form and too little function.' Mackler's Bochum University students are re-examining the '60s, the era of Piano and Rogers' Pompidou Centre and experimental modular design. But there are also wider social responsibilities. 'Public clients, and their architects, must document the times and concentrate on the functional because they are dealing with public resources for public use,' maintains Mackler. With his philosophy, rematerialisierung der Modern, Mackler seems to want to play down the iconic and revive site specific and appropriate architecture, in the original spirit of the Modern Movement.
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Author:Dawson, Layla
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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