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Britain's Norman Foster to design a sprawling, new $9.15 billion Mexico City airport
Foster said the new airport will set "new international standards," promising to create one of the most sustainable airports in the world.

By: Carola Sole

MEXICO CITY (AFP).- Famed British architect Norman Foster and a son-in-law of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim were named Wednesday to design a sprawling, new $9.15 billion international airport for Mexico City.

The glass-roofed terminal -- shaped like an X reminiscent of the eagle's open wings in the Mexican flag -- will have six runways and serve 120 million passengers per year, four times the existing airport's capacity.

The new facility will be built next to the current Benito Juarez international airport, which has two terminals but struggles to accomodate the growing number of travelers in Latin America's second biggest economy.

The current airport will be turned into a city space for recreation and educational use.

Officials said Foster's firm and his Mexican colleague Fernando Romero, who is married to Slim's daughter Soumaya, were unanimously chosen by analysts after an eight-month competition between 20 bidders.

The project was unveiled at a ceremony hosted by President Enrique Pena Nieto at his official Los Pinos residence with the two architects on hand.

Officials did not announce a date for the project's completion. But Pena Nieto said it would not be finished before his term ends in 2018.

"This administration will not have enough time to put this new airport into operation, but it is important for Mexico to have a world-class airport," he said, adding that the current airport was overstretched.

Foster, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture in 1999, has designed the Hong Kong airport and Beijing's dragon-like Terminal 3.

Celebrated for his ambitious glass and steel designs, he is also behind London's "Gherkin" skyscraper, the restoration of the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin and the dramatic Millau Viaduct in France.

Fernando Romero Enterprise FR-EE, meanwhile, has designed Mexico City's Soumaya Museum, which was commissioned by Slim.

Foster said the new airport will set "new international standards," promising to create one of the most sustainable airports in the world.

Travelers arriving at the airport will be greeted by a circular garden lined with cacti and a road whose shape was inspired by the snake eaten by the eagle in Mexico's flag.

"This airport is the first of its kind in the world. It has a different shape, different structure, it doesn't have a conventional roof, it doesn't have vertical walls, it doesn't have columns in the normal sense," Foster said.

"The colors, the patterns are very special to Mexico ... and also the quality of monumentality in the works of earlier civilizations," he said.

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

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