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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on August 20, 2018

Project Watch - Tocumen International Airport

Expansion of the international airport to establish an important new hub for the Americas.

Project details

Location: Panama City, Panama

Important developments: New South Terminal

Scheduled completion: Early 2019

Principal companies involved: Foster + Partners; Ocar Ramirez and Associates; Odebrecht; Mallol & Mallol

Total investment: $1.4 billion

The expansion of Tocumen International Airport in Panama City is set to revitalise the aviation landscape in Central America.

This ambitious project to create a new South Terminal will increase the total capacity of the airport to 20 million passengers a year by 2022, with 85,000sqm of new buildings, 20 new boarding gates, improved customs facilities and a new baggage-handling system.

Once complete, the airport will feature a total of 68 gates spread over an area of 148,000 square-metres.

Designed by Foster + Partners and constructed by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, the new terminal is said to be inspired by the Panamanian landscape, evoking a unique sense of place to welcome visitors to the country and removing the anonymity of the international hub experience for transit passengers.

At the heart of the new airport is a lush open garden, planted with the trees and flora of Panama’s tropical forests, visible within a curved glass enclosure.

Two symmetrical of piers extend to the east and west from the central retail area, and the entire building is unified beneath an aerodynamic bronze-coloured roof.

A light interior materials palette complements the metallic tones of the roof, and glazed facades open the airport up to the airfield and landscape beyond.

As the focus of a hub is on transfer passengers, the terminal’s planning minimises connection times, with strong visual connections across the airport to allow intuitive wayfinding.

Viewed in plan, the curve of the building’s facade has been carefully balanced to minimise walking distances, while extending to accommodate a large number of aircraft stands.

Antoinette Nassopoulos Erickson, senior partner at Foster + Partners, said: “The terminal is designed around the passenger experience and flows. The sinuous form evolved from a diagram to provide the optimum elevation to accommodate the additional gates within a constrained site.

“The unique diagram also enables us to create a central retail focus at the heart of the terminal – a vital part of the contemporary airport experience.

“We have designed two internal courts which extend and connect directly to the gates. On the upper levels, the food and beverage areas and airline lounges offer great views of the Panamanian landscape, with direct visual connections to the departure gates to make passengers feel at ease.

“The airport also has open gates, which optimise space requirements, while allowing passengers to connect with their surroundings and facilitate easy connections for transfer passengers.”

Engineering and architecture were conceived together, resulting in a comprehensive environmental strategy that balances complementary active and passive measures.

Openings in the roof allow daylight to penetrate the furthest reaches of the building, and a deep overhang protects the glazed facades from solar gain, thus minimising the need for mechanical cooling.

As Panama falls within a seismically active zone, Foster + Partners also adopted the state-of-the-art performance-based seismic structural design methods to design the structure. Importantly, the structure is designed to enable a fast-track schedule in tropical conditions.

Speaking to Airport World about the terminal back in 2015, Tocumen International Airport’s former general manager, Joseph Fidanque III, said: “Our new terminal will be iconic and beautiful and there will be nothing else like it in Central America.”

He also promised that T2 would boast “state-of-the-art technologies” and have 9,000sqm of new retail and F&B outlets that he hopes can boost Tocumen’s revenues to help pay for its development and help keep airline fees down.

The dream will shortly become reality as the new terminal is expected to be fully operational by the first semester of 2019.

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