Foster + Partners’ $13.3 billion airport for Mexico City has been cancelled midway through construction after the public voted against the project in a nationwide referendum
Mexico’s president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador pledged to respect the outcome of the public vote, which saw 70 per cent support the move to scrap the Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México – or NAICM.
A referendum on the giant infrastructure project in Texcoco, north-east of the capital, was a key campaign pledge for Obrador who was elected in a landslide win in July.
Following the vote, which was held over four days and saw a turnout of only 1.2 per cent, Obrador said: ‘The decision taken by the citizens is democratic, rational and efficient. The people decided’.
Instead, Obrador plans to upgrade the city’s current international airport and build two new runways at a military airfield north of the city near Toluca.
Outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto, who spearheaded the project, had argued the new airport would create 450,000 jobs and ease traffic at Mexico City’s overcrowded Benito Juarez Airport.
But during his election campaign, Obrador, who takes office in December, argued the project had been tainted by corruption and was too expensive.
Another key concern was the site’s geological complexity – the drained bed of Lake Texcoco absorbs water runoff during the city’s intense rainy season – with Obrador calling the outcome of the vote ‘a triumph for the environmental movement’.
The project’s cancellation has been met with protests from Mexico’s business community, which warned that it could threaten the country’s economic stability.
Fosters was selected ahead of rival bids by Zaha Hadid Architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Pascall+Watson to win the 743,000m² commission four years ago
The ambitious project, originally planned to complete in 2018, had been hailed as a ‘revolution in airport design’. It has been on site for the past three years, with its first phase scheduled to complete in 2020.
Foster mexico airport
Fosters’ scheme – designed in collaboration with Fernando Romero Enterprise and Netherlands Airport Consultants – featured an enormous lightweight gridshell roof about three times larger than the span of a conventional airport terminal building.
Speaking about the proposals in 2014 (see below), Mexico City-based Fernando Romero said: ‘We are united by the interest that this airport becomes an emblematic project that contributes to build the identity for the Mexico of the 21st century.’
The project is not Fosters’ only project in the Mexican capital. In April this year, construction work resumed on the practice’s 57-storey Reforma 432 tower on the city’s main corridor, the boulevard Paseo de la Reforma, after seven years of delays and obstacles.
Fosters was approached for comment.