Architect says airport will ‘never accommodate long-term needs’ as he defends the sustainability of his Thames Hub airport and other major infrastructure schemes
Norman Foster has defended the sustainability of expanding the UK’s airport capacity while taking another swipe at plans for a third runway at Heathrow.
In an interview in yesterday’s Observer, Foster launched a passionate defence of building mega infrastructure in the context of climate change, saying successful projects should be able to ‘anticipate the issues of future generations’.
While no final decision has been taken by the government, Foster’s plans for a Thames Hub, a major new airport in the Thames estuary with associated flood defence and high speed rail links, have been sidelined by the government’s Davies commission in favour of expanding Heathrow in west London.
Foster told the paper: ‘The reality of a hub airport is that you can never ever do that at Heathrow. If you do that at Heathrow now you can absolutely guarantee that we will still be pedalling furiously to stand still. You can never accommodate long-term needs there.’
Asked about the wisdom of promoting air travel given its high carbon emissions, he said: ‘The reality is that all society is embedded in mobility. You’re going to take that flight. You’d be better to take the flight out of an airport that is driven by tidal power and which uses natural light, and which anticipates the day when air travel will be more sustainable.’
He also said air travel compared favourably to eating beef in terms of emissions given the ‘amount of methane produced by cows and the amount of energy and water needed to produce a hamburger’.
I have no power as an architect, none whatsoever
He added: ‘You’re probably going to have your hamburger in spite of the fact that you’re going to make a much greater impact than any travel.’
In terms of Foster’s own ability to make a difference on key issues such as climate change, he claimed ‘advocacy’ was the only power that he has as an architect.
‘I have no power as an architect, none whatsoever. I can’t even go on to a building site and tell people what to do.’
Foster will be speaking alongside chairman of the government’s new infrastructure commission, Andrew Adonis, at this Thursday’s Urban Age global debate at the London School of Economics.