Scrapped Mexico airport awarded international prize

By Andy BrownJuly 02, 2021

New Mexico City international airport Work was suspended in December 2018 on the partially built airport, which would have served Mexico City

Mexico City’s abandoned airport project, which was partially built, has scooped a prestigious 2021 international architecture award. The project, cancelled by Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in December 2018, won the top prize in the transportation concept category at the Rethinking the Future Awards 2021.

Esteemed architects Norman Foster and Fernando Romero were collectively behind the project’s design, which was to feature a X-shaped glass and steel roof as a reference to the letter in the country’s name.

The annual awards organization, now in its ninth year, stated that the pair had sought to “revolutionize airport design and the experience of travelling.”

Foster, a key figure in British modernist architecture, and Mexican businessman Romero designed the airport in response to a competition and were selected as winners in 2014. Their design proposal, serving six runways, for a lightweight gridshell structure that forms the walls and roof of a 555,000-square-meter terminal.

What happened to the New Mexico City airport project?

Work commenced on the New Mexico City International airport project at the site of an ancient lakebed in Texcoco, with 30% completed before it was abandoned. The first phase was expected to open in 2020 and would have featured three runways and included a terminal to accommodate 68 million passengers per year.

“The best public business we’ve done has been not to build the [Mexico City] Texcoco airport, estimated at 300 billion pesos,” Obrador claimed at a recent press conference, about his decision to cancel the $15 billion project.

Why was the New Mexico City International airport cancelled?

Obrador, who stated during his 2018 presidential campaign that he would cancel the New Mexico City International airport project, explained that the cancellation will cost 100 billion pesos ($5 billion).

He pointed out that building an airport instead at the Santa Lucía Air Force base, north of the capital, will cost 75 billion pesos ($3.7 billion). His decision to cancel the Texcoco project generated savings of approximately 125 billion pesos ($6.2 billion).

Obrador, who took office in December 2018, was concerned about the cost. The Mexican government was set to fund 60% of the project, with the remaining 40% from bank loans and debt security.

Why build New Mexico City International airport?

The New Mexico City International Airport -- Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México (NAICM)  was spearheaded by outgoing Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. This new airport was designed to replace the current Mexico City International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez) to accommodate increasing numbers of passengers.

This was the second cancelation for a planned airport at the Texcoco lakebed, with the Mexico government having proposed the urgency for a new international airport in 2002 and 2014.

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