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Foster + Partners Face Saudi Airport Controversy

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Foster + Partners Face Saudi Airport Controversy

Tim Gibson

28 July 2020

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BRITISH architecture firm Foster + Partners is facing controversy over their recent proposal for a private airport in Saudi Arabia.

The Amaala International Airport will exclusively service a luxury resort on the Red Sea.

The resort will feature 2,500 hotel rooms, more than 800 villas and 200 high end shops.

Foster + Partners have designed the private airport terminal and control tower. Taking inspiration from the airport’s desert surroundings the building is made to appear like a shimmering mirage.

The project is due to be completed in 2023 and host a million passengers a year.

Above: The airport is designed to resemble a desert mirage (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).

In May 2019, Foster + Partners became a founding member of Architects Declare, a movement dedicated to reducing the construction industry’s contribution to the climate emergency.

Currently, construction is responsible for 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions globally.

Other founding firms of Architects Declare include Zaha Hadid Architects, David Chipperfield Architects and Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners.

They have all pledged that their future designs will have a positive impact on the environment.

Above: Described as "ultra luxurious" the airport will only cater to the super-rich (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).

Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) have written an open letter to Foster + Partners calling on them to be leaders during the climate crisis and pull out of designing the Saudi airport.

The aviation industry contributes 4.9 percent of all carbon emissions, while global passenger numbers are expected to double to 8.2 billion a year by 2037, despite the pandemic.

Above: The airport will directly link to the Amaala resort and will be primarily used for private planes (image courtesy of Foster + Partners).

If Foster + Partners do not withdraw from designing the airport, ACAN have asked the firm to temporarily step down from Architects Declare.

The open letter has ignited a heated debate within the industry, with many pointing out that even if Foster + Partners step away from the project the airport would still get built in one form or another. 

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