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From The Moodie Report’s Interim Abu Dhabi Bureau in December I could look out on an airport. There’s nothing unusual about that for me, I often stay at airport hotels for reasons of convenience.
What’s unusual about these views (from my room at the Premier Inn to be precise) is the nature of the airport I was looking out over. That gargantuan building site, shown in normal focus (above) and zoom (below), is the Midfield Terminal Building at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
The Midfield Terminal Building will be one of the world’s great airports when it opens in late 2017. Its scale, as I was to discover during a site visit captured in pictures and video below, is awesome in the utterly literal sense of the world (‘extremely impressive’ or ‘inspiring awe’).
This Blog has not appeared until now as I was operating under an embargo due to the announcement of the duty free awards for the new terminal, a momentous story The Moodie Report broke on 22 December.
As revealed. Aer Rianta International will run the perfumes, cosmetics, skincare, sunglasses and jewellery concession while Lagardère Capital will run the tobacco and the key dutiable category as well as confectionery and fine foods. Other contracts, including luxury, High Street retail, food & beverage and others will be awarded in coming weeks.
This Blog though is not about those awards. It is about the project itself. One could, and probably should, reel off statistic after statistic, just to give you some context to what is happening here.
The terminal will be the largest building in an emirate that is full of very large buildings. It will be one of the region’s most architecturally impressive structures. It will boast 700,000sqm of internal space, and will be visible from more than 1.5km. The central space of the terminal building could hold three full-sized football pitches and features a ceiling 52m tall at its highest point, higher than the Emirates Palace.
The complex will include approximately 28,000sqm of retail and food & beverage outlets. These are set around an 8,400sqm indoor park, another first for the region, which will host Mediterranean plants and features at its centre, and desert landscapes at its edge. Associated support buildings take up an additional 800,000sq m, and will include access to 16-20 aircraft parking stands dedicated to cargo.
Get the picture? We’re talking big. Very big. But I promise you, having seen some of the advanced terminal and commercial plans, we’re also talking beautiful. I paid my site visit with Daniel Coleman from the commercial team and Jerry Sparkes and Ben Peries (pictured in that order left to right below) who are both playing lead roles in delivering the project to the desired quality, on time. It was an enthralling tour.
Right now there are around 23,000 workers on site, looking from a distance like an army of orange ants crawling over the facility 24 hours a day. There are 25,000 tonnes of temporary steel in place to sustain the ultimate construction and hold up the magnificent arches that will form the epicentre of the terminal. Temporary! Some 352 travellators, escalators and lifts are being added – almost one for each day of the year. Can you imagine that?
As we look down at a floor plan of the main commercial area, we realise we’re standing where one of the luxury boutiques will be. Today it’s all bare concrete, steel, pylons and cranes. In less than two years it will be consummate upscale shopping. The successful retailers will take up their work stations as it were around November this year, leaving them just over 12 months to get things ship shape. Luxury line shape, I should say.
I can’t wait to tell one of the great aviation stories of all time. But for now I’ll let the pictures tell it for me as a Midfield of Dreams takes shape. Build it, says Abu Dhabi Airports, and they will come.