London's Proposed Thames Hub Airport Could Be the World's Biggest

Foster + Partners' ambitious plans for a £50 billion airport in the Thames Estuary

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Foster + Partners

Earlier this month, Foster + Partners launched their proposal for a “Thames Hub,” a master plan to radically overhaul Britain’s transport, logistics and communication networks. Together with the engineers of Halcrow and Volterra, the London-based practice has envisioned a new airport on the Isle of Grain in the Thames estuary, connecting to a Thames port and branching into an orbital railway linked to lines in the north and throughout Europe.

The self-funded study presents an integrated vision for infrastructure development in Britain, proposing a “Spine” that would synergize rail and aviation as well as energy transmission, freight logistics, flood protection, and regional development into one holistic urban system. Details of the plan include new barriers to mitigate the city from rising storm levels, methods to harness tidal power and generate carbon-free energy, a system of high-speed rail lines for passenger and freight routes, and newly developed wildlife habitats landscaped within the Spine.

Lord Foster, chairman and founder of Foster + Partners, hopes that his grand vision will significantly improve Britain’s capacities, freeing congestion and streamlining links between Britain and the rest of the world. The architect seeks to face the challenges of our time with the same bold outlook as his forebears who were driven to implement sweeping social and technological changes in light of the industrial revolution. Britain in particular was renowned for its history of innovative and ambitious engineering during the 19th century.

The firm has already demonstrated a hint of this tradition with its repertoire of sublime international airports and mega-structures. But according to the Financial Times, the Thames Hub vision is deliberately short on architectural aesthetics, not only because most of the proposed infrastructure will be subterranean, but because the scale of the project requires us to consider it “on a level that transcends appearance.” In the age of an economic downturn and the rise of small-scale, variable urban interventions, it will be interesting to see whether or not such a grand vision will grip the public enough to come off the drawing boards.

[Images courtesy Foster + Partners, via Designboom]

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This post originally appeared on Architizer

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