Foster + Partners chosen for Thames Estuary Airport

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.

The announcement came as Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingatwe used the Daily Telegraph to call on the government to overhaul its policy on airport capacity in the south-east or risk the UK losing business overseas. Wingate, like many other leading figures in the aviation industry, believes it is time ministers woke up to Britain’s lack of air space.

The idea for an airport in the Thames Estuary has been floating around since the 1970s, when the British government authorised plans for a third London airport (after Heathrow and Gatwick) at the Malpin Sands. The plan was abandoned in favor of a cheaper option, enlarging Stansted Airport. Since 2008 Boris Johnson has led scoping studies for an airport in North Kent. Suggestions have included the development of a major International hub at Cliffe which would link in with the newly established HS1 line to Kings Cross St Pancras and Northern England.

Now, at the Thames Estuary Research and Development Company (TESTRAD) has revealed that London-based Foster + Partners and international infrastructure consultant Halcrow will collaborate to generate a detailed transportation masterplan for the Thames Estuary.

Only 40 minutes from Central London, where the Thames meets the North Sea, this new node will provide railway connections, sea ports, an airport, tidal energy, and flood protection. Accommodating 150 million passengers a year, the plan intends to increase security and reduce concentrated pollution in urban centers by centralising it over a this delicate, complex, biologically vital ecosystem.

In reference to the plan, Lord Foster has stated:

These visionary proposals are far from future fantasy. They are both essential and down to earth. When you look at the eastwards thrust of London’s infrastructure, with the Channel Tunnel and the Olympics, you can see how it would be possible to create a 24-hour airport.

This move would greatly improve the quality of life for Londoners by reducing pollution and improving security. It would also allow London to compete with rapidly expanding airports in Europe and the Middle east. the arguments are extraordinarily persuasive and the precedents are also compelling. more than 10 years ago hong kong built what was then the world’s largest airport at chek lap kok, an island reclaimed from the sea – in just four years.

The plan will reduce the burden on Heathrow and Gatwick, but raises ethical questions about the architect, who in recent years has made himself into a standard-bearer for sustainability issues.

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Cite: Samuel Jacobson. "Foster + Partners chosen for Thames Estuary Airport" 02 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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