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UK Airports Commission Rules Out Thames Estuary Airport Plans

© Foster + Partners
© Foster + Partners

The Airports Commission, the independent group charged with planning the future of the London's airport infrastructure, has finally ruled out an ambitious plan for a major airport in the Thames Estuary designed by Foster + Partners and supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson. Chairman of the Airports Commission Sir Howard Davies said the proposal had been ruled out because "the economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time-consuming to surmount."

Instead, the Airports Commission will select between three options to expand one of London's existing airports at either Heathrow or Gatwick. Read on after the break for the reactions to the decision.

Mayor of London Unveils Three Visions for the Future of Heathrow

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has unveiled three proposals to redevelop Heathrow Airport into 'Heathrow City,' a new town occupying the site that according to one study "could provide 90,000 jobs and 80,000 homes" in West London. Developed in parallel with Foster + Partners' proposal to create a new airport in the Thames Estuary, the three possible designs are part of a plan that Johnson believes will not only improve the capital's aviation capacity, but also the quality of living in the area around the existing Heathrow Airport.

The three proposals, by Rick Mather Architects, Hawkins\Brown and Maccreanor Lavington, all take very different approaches to the brief, which was to create a mixed use residential and commuter town, with a focus on education and technology industries. Find out more about the three different proposals after the break.

'The Transforming City' proposal / Rick Mather Architects. Image © Rick Mather Architects Courtesy of the Mayor of London's Office 'The Transforming City' proposal / Rick Mather Architects. Image © Rick Mather Architects Courtesy of the Mayor of London's Office 'Romance of the Sky' proposal / Hawkins\Brown. Image © Factory Fifteen 'Romance of the Sky' proposal / Hawkins\Brown. Image © Factory Fifteen

Norman Foster Reasserts Belief in Thames Estuary Airport

In response to the UK Airports Commission's call for evidence, Foster + Partners has released a detailed feasibility study supporting their plans for a new airport on the Isle of Grain in the Thames Estuary. Their plan proposes a four-runway airport built on a 35 square kilometre platform constructed partially in the mouth of the Thames. The scheme is popularly called "Boris Island" thanks to its most prominent supporter, Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

Norman Foster said "Since the Airports Commission submission a year ago, the need for increased airport capacity has become even more urgent. It is time to get serious about the issue of airport capacity. Britain needs an effective long-term solution, not the usual short-term fix that is Heathrow’s proposed third runway. London today needs to follow in the footsteps of its nineteenth-century forebears and invest boldly in infrastructure. Only long-term thinking will properly serve the demands of our future generations."

Read on for a breakdown of the information contained in the report

Foster + Partners' Thames Hub On the Chopping Block

The prognosis does not look good for Foster + Partners' plan for an airport hub in the Thames Estuary. The Guardian reports that the Independent Airports Commission has released an interim report, revealing a shortlist of potential options for the UK - and the Thames Hub (with an estimated price tag of £112bn)  isn't on it.  Yet hope (however slim) does remain for the proposal, as its persistent defender, London mayor Boris Johnson, has managed to convince the commission to revisit the idea in early 2014. Get the whole story at The Guardian.

Mayor of London Suggests Three Potential Sites for Major Airport

Identifying connectivity as the key to prosperity within the 21st century, London Mayor Boris Johnson acknowledged the wider economic and regeneration potential of a new hub airport at a City Hall meeting today. 

In his speech, Johnson recommended three optimal locations for the new airport: the Isle of Grain in north Kent; Stansted; or on an artificial island in the middle of the Thames estuary. These three suggestions come as a result of a year-long, independently peer-reviewed investigation by the Transport for London, which confirmed the inability of London’s current major airport, Heathrow, to meet demands by expanding.

More on London’s future hub airport after the break...

Demystifying the London Airport Conundrum with Ricky Burdett

There's no denying that London's airport capacity is insufficient (to put it mildly) - not just for its current needs, but, most worryingly, for the future. Nor are architects ignorant to the situation; in the last few years we've published proposals from the likes of Foster+PartnersZaha Hadid ArchitectsBeckett Ravine, and Grimshaw Architects, offering their own unique perspectives on what could be done.

However, for all the proposals (some emphasizing new off-shore airports, others on bulking up infrastructure or existing facilities), it's hard to untangle what's actually being done towards making these ideas reality. To clarify the situation, and lay our doubts at rest, we spoke with Ricky Burdett, one of the commissioners of the newly created Independent Airports Commission.    

In the video above, Burdett, a renowned architect and professor of Urban Studies at the LSE (who has previously served as architecural advisor for both the 2012 London Olympics and the Mayor of London, 2001-2006), explains the political situation in the UK that has been preventing action, and describes how the Independent Airports Commission has been assembled in order to help the government through this process. 

More info on this controversial commission, after the break... 

Foster + Partners to Submit Thames Hub Airport Proposal to Airport Commission

Foster + Partners have confirmed that they will submit their proposal for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary to the Airports Commission, an organisation investigating airport capacity in the UK, by mid-July. The submission will be an important step towards getting government approval of the plan. 

Update: Foster + Partners Thames Hub proposal moves forward

© Foster and Partners
© Foster and Partners

Foster + Partners, Halcrow and Volterra, the team behind the Thames Hub proposal, welcomed reports yesterday that the government will be considering a Thames Estuary Airport when it launches its consultation to discuss options for retaining the UK’s aviation hub status. The proposal, which includes a comprehensive environmental management strategy, is capable of being privately funded and built within 16 years. Estimations for the capital costs include: a new £20 billion, 150 million passenger estuary airport; £20 billion, four track orbital rail line and utilities spine; £6 billion barrier crossing and tidal power generation that will power the airport with green energy; and an additional £4 billion for improving infrastructure. On behalf of the team, Norman Foster stated, “We welcome reports that the government is considering the case for an estuary airport, and the extra airport capacity that it can provide, when it consults in March on options for retaining the UK’s aviation hub status as part of the nation’s aviation strategy.” Continue reading for more on this update.

Update: Foster + Partners Thames Hub proposal faces opposition

© Foster and Partners
© Foster and Partners

Foster + Partners Thames Hub proposal has continuously made progress throughout the year of 2011, however reports say the practice is facing some opposition in the new year. In early November, Foster + Partners revealed the £50bn project that plans to include a £20bn high-speed Orbital Rail line around London; a new £6bn Thames Barrier and crossing; and a £20bn international Estuary Airport, with annual capacity for 150 million passengers. As seen on BD, Councilors in Essex plan to rally up their colleagues in January in attempt to battle the “disastrous” proposal. Councilor Peter Martin stated, “Lord Foster has been known to build all over the world, so we cannot sit idly by and let this happen. We must have a loud voice when it comes to opposing the airport.” It will be interesting to hear their critiques of the project and see what pans out in the New Year for the Thames Hub proposal. What are your thoughts on the project? Reference: BD

Update: Foster + Partners reveal developments for Thames Hub Proposal

© Foster and Partners
© Foster and Partners

Thames Hub continues to make progress since Foster + Partners revealed the proposal in early November. The £50bn project includes a £20bn high-speed Orbital Rail line around London; a new £6bn Thames Barrier and crossing; and a £20bn international Estuary Airport, with annual capacity for 150 million passengers. Comprehensive environmental management strategies have been made in order to minimize the impact of development and create significant opportunities for new wildlife habitats. Continue reading for more details.

© Foster and Partners Thames Station © Foster and Partners Thames Barrier © Foster and Partners High-speed Rail Section © Foster and Partners

Foster + Partners chosen for Thames Estuary Airport

New Thames Estuary Airport Masterplan, Foster + Partners
New Thames Estuary Airport Masterplan, Foster + Partners

From the people who brought you Masdar, an airport in the Thames Estuary. Flights will be able to operate 24 hours a day at the planned site on the Isle of Grain, by the Medway in north Kent. London mayor Boris Johnson, previous champion of proposals to build an airport on two artificial islands on the Thames estuary, described the Foster proposal as ‘exciting’. Foster + Partners previously  designed Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport, built on an island reclaimed from the sea.