Terminal For Stansted Airport

(Stansted, England) 1981-91

Stansted Aeroport Project

(Left) Exterior view

Stansted air terminal is unique in having a single internal space 15 metres high and 198 x 162 square metres in surface, with totally transparent walls of glazing. The structure is made of white steel shells floating on top of 36 steel pylons whose spokes open to support the delicate grilles of the curved roof.

Jacques Ferrier, an employee of Foster Associates, has described the construction process in some detail. Various aspects were resolved by several weeks of simulation with a full-sized prototype by Tubeworkers of Clave-don, designed by Ove Arup & Partners. According to Ferrier, the umbrella solution allows a reduction in the span of the roof beam from 36 to 18 metres because of the 45 degree slope of the spokes. The spokes are pre-stressed and each umbrella has its own internal bracing which enables the spokes to remain in tension. Computer calculations were performed to verify the efficiency of the vertical load transfer. The shaft of the umbrellas (17 x 3.5 x 3.5 metres) also took this constraint into account. Ferrier describes how each spoke was positioned separately and held by temporary cables. Once four spokes were in place and held by the four beams, the eight final cables were fixed at the summit of the pylon and placed in tension. The central bolt, which Ferrier says is the largest ever made in Great Britain, is called a 'Jesus bolt'; it is the key to the stressed node and tightened to 80 tons. The canopy supported by the umbrellas consists of 121 roof panels, each weighing 11 tons.

Foster's design for the terminal was grounded in his perception that the traveller, in other, more conventional airports, has become 'the victim of a complex check-in process, whose most important functions are assumed by the airport building. It is here that the passenger is managed and guided through in

(Left) Exterior view

(Top and above) North-south section and floor plan of the undercroft

(Opposite) Interior perspective view

Stansted Project

an optimal manner, to achieve an optimal throughput. Controlled by mastering systems, he or she passes through a confusing labyrinth of corridors, stairs, travellators, different floor levels, functional rooms and gates.' As a remedy, Foster attempted to 'restore some of the excitement and clarity of early days of air travel, when waiting aircraft were visible on the tarmac and the logic of the terminal building was easy to comprehend----In the early days of flying, the passenger stood at the edge of an airfield and watched aeroplanes take off and land before he himself set foot on the runway to proceed.'

In order to fulfil this purpose, all public facilities are provided on a single concourse floor in a single universal space, with arrivals and departures side by side, so reducing walking distances for the 15 million passengers a year who are eventually expected to use the airport. Directions are provided by signs. Passengers proceed through a check-in area, security and immigration controls and departure lounge to a tracked transit station on the same level. From there, automatic tracked vehicles transport them to satellite buildings from which they board aircraft. All passenger facilities at concourse level that require enclosure, such as shops, banks, kitchens and lavatories, have been designed as free-standing structures easy to dismantle. The undercroft below the main concourse is intended to service the main concourse and contains the baggage handling system, all the engineering plant for the building, the vehicle servicing area, and storage.

Foster's search for 'clarity' led to the special lighting system. The building is illuminated by natural light that filters into the building through the roof and glazing of the side walls. All artificial light is directed upwards towards the roof from invisible sources. This allows a delicate reflected light to fill the building, enhanced by the grey, white and silver interior, thus turning the building into a gigantic light fixture. After dark, the concourse is lit solely by the artificial light reflected from the internal surface of the roof. The sense of clarity which characterizes the whole terminal is also helped by the 36 pylons, calculated for maximum lightness, which house the services that provide heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting.

Foster's aim in the Stansted terminal, to recapture the excitement of the early days of travel facilities, is the same as that of Santiago Calatrava's Stadelhofen Railway Station in Zurich (pp. 254-57) and his Satolas Railway Station in Lyon (pp. 284-85), even though the means by which this is achieved is different.

With Stansted Airport, and through Foster's craftsmanship, the 'universal space', the multi-functional, transparent megacontainer envisaged by Mies and his contemporaries, reaches its anticipated potential.

Miralles Plnos Arquitectos


(Els Hostalets de Balenya, Spain) 1987-91

Hostalets Balenya

A cultural centre housing twenty different functions (including a theatre, a library, studios, a bar and reading room), La Pista makes a clear break from the trend of critical regionalism which has dominated Spanish architecture in the past two decades. Almost nothing could be more different from the sensitive way in which critical regionalist projects, ranging from Rafael Moneo's Bankinter in Madrid (pp. 78-79) to Amado and Domenech's recent courthouse complex in Lerida (pp. 238-41), have been responding to the traditional urban context, preserving its collective memory without falling back on received formulas.

Vet, in its way. La Pista is also contextualist. The apparent difference lies in the context itself. While most other critical regionalist works are to be found in historic centres, this project is located on the 'dirty real' edge of the peripheral road encircling the town of Hostalets, not far from Barcelona. Rather than deny its surroundings, it incorporates the poetics of the 'anti-city' into the new design. This is not to say that the architects simply mimic the environment. On the contrary - and this must be emphasized - like the inner city regiona-lists, they make the familiar look strange. In so doing, they distance themselves from what Mumford called the anti-city; in other words, they adopt a critical stance.

La Pista defines itself as a boundary. The three-storey building is flat on the street sides, Its fortress-like surface reflecting the sloping outline of the road. On the inside, it responds to the fragmentation of the sloping, partially excavated site by itself presenting an image of fragmentation in its sharp, unaligned, triangular floor plans.

The roughness of shapes is coupled with the roughness of the concrete texture. In this, as Josep Maria Montaner, the Catalan architectural critic, has remarked, it has an affinity with the British neo-brutalist roughness of texture -which was, incidentally, associated with the broader cultural manifestation of the 'angry young men' of the 1950s and 1960s.

As is the case in projects such as the Zollhof Media Centre (pp. 286-89) and the Valencia Television Station (pp. 234-35), the influences at work in La Pista can be traced back, ultimately, to the Russian Constructivist architecture of the 1920s in the use of

(Opposite, top to bottom) View of the ramp

The terrace

Perspective drawing of the interior

(This page, top to bottom) Third floor plan

Second floor plan

First floor plan

Ground floor plan fragmented, anti-classical geometry. Miralles and Pinôs themselves acknowledge that a particularly important source of inspiration for their work here is the early work of Konstantin Melnikov who, of the Russian Constructivists, is perhaps the roughest and most industrial-looking in his treatment of surface texture. A clear reference is made to Melnikov's famous USSR Pavilion at the Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs of 1925 in La Pista's ramp, in the way its I-beams are exposed. Furthermore, the emphasis on the trusses comes from Melnikov's Leyland Bus Station in Bakmetevskaia Ulitsa in Moscow (1926). Such citations are not for lack of ideas nor inspired by nostalgia, neither is there any irony in them. The architects' intention is to amplify and universalize such ideas in today's historical and cultural context.

A remarkable feature of La Pista is the intentionally 'difficult' system of circulation and the misleading directionality it imparts to the space, which provides contrast. This quality is not, however, intended to create merely an effect of surprise and variety, as is the case n Romantic and even Modernist architecture. Contrast and the jagged motif of the external appearance of the building are its most memorable aspects, forming a microcosmic cognitive mapping' of the dislocating forces oose in the outside world of the urban periphery.


Stansted Project

Collages by the architects of the interior space under construction


Small Airport Terminals

Building Workshop Ronzo Piano HOUSING, RUE DE MEAUX

(Paris, France) 1988-91

(Top) Elevations

This is no ordinary low-cost, subsidized, prefabricated social housing. Each of the 220 apartments, which are broken down into 40 different inventive spaces, has a double exposure. One is onto the street, the other onto the whispy cloud of green' formed by the grove of young silver birches planted in the generous, gently sloping inner courtyard (25 x 66 metres).

Each apartment has its own basement, waste disposal unit, entry-phone, ultra-modern thermal control and a brightly lit interior space, thanks to either a terrace, a screened loggia or large glazed openings.

According to the French architectural critic Jean-Pierre Menard, the building's exceptional formal and functional qualities are in part due to the fact that, rather than being funded by the public sector, it was financed by Mutuelles du Mans, who were willing to invest 6000

French francs per square metre instead of the usual 5000 francs. This allowed Piano relative freedom of manoeuvre in adapting the usual rules and regulations which govern the production of low-cost subsidized housing in France.

As one has come to expect of Renzo Piano in the light of his previous tours de force, this is a highly instructive example of technological innovation. Here, in the middle of the famous ceinture rouge ('red belt', so-called because of the extensive use of brick) of the popular, traditionally working-class 19th arrondissement of Paris, Piano's concern seems to have been to preserve the memory of the traditional, urban vernacular, but by means of the most advanced, rationally industrialized building techniques, in what amounts to a critical regionalist vein.

Piano's use for the costly extension of IRCAM of a skin of prefabricated panels made of

(Top) Elevations

(Above) Cross section and elevations (Opposite, top) Typical unit plan (Opposite) Volumetric site plan ami'i

Stansted Aeroport Project
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