Architects Foster + Partners have won a competition to build the world’s first private spaceport in New Mexico.
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Building will be set in the desert and will be used for both commercial and space tourism launches.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space tourism venture will have its headquarters at the site.
>> see our recent story on Marc Newson’s design for the Astrium space tourism jet
Below is a press release from Foster + Partners followed by one from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority:
5 September 2007
Foster + Partners to design the world’s first private spaceport
The Foster + Partners and URS team has won an international competition to build the first private spaceport in the world – The New Mexico Spaceport Authority Building – it was announced yesterday. The sinuous shape of the building in the landscape and its interior spaces seek to capture the drama and mystery of space flight itself, articulating the thrill of space travel for the first space tourists. Making a minimal impact on the environment, the scheme will be the first facility of its kind and a model for the future.
The Spaceport lies low within the desert-like landscape of the site in New Mexico and seen from the historic El Camino Real trail, the organic form of the terminal resembles a rise in the landscape. Using local materials and regional construction techniques, it is both sustainable and sensitive to its surroundings.
Organised into a highly efficient and rational plan, the Spaceport has been designed to relate to the dimensions of the spacecraft. There is also a careful balance between accessibility and privacy. The astronauts’ areas and visitor spaces are fully integrated with the rest of the building to convey the thrill of space travel. The more sensitive zones – such as the control room – are visible, but have limited access.
Visitors and astronauts enter the building via a deep channel cut into the landscape. The retaining walls form an exhibition space that documents the history of the region and its settlers, alongside a history of space exploration. The strong linear axis continues on a galleried level to the ‘superhangar’ – which houses the spacecraft and the simulation room – through to the terminal building.
Designed to have minimal embodied carbon and few additional energy requirements, the scheme has been designed to achieve the prestigious LEED Platinum accreditation. The low-lying form is dug into the landscape to exploit the thermal mass, which buffers the building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as catching the westerly winds for ventilation. Natural light enters via skylights, with a glazed façade reserved for the terminal building, establishing a platform for the coveted views onto the runway.
Lord Foster said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be part of the dynamic team chosen to design the world’s first space terminal. This technically complex building will not only provide a dramatic experience for the astronauts and visitors, but will set an ecologically sound model for future Spaceport facilities.”
The winning team comprises URS, Foster + Partners, SMPC Architects, PHA Consult, Balis and Company and Exploration-Synthesis Partners.
SPACEPORT AMERICA DESIGN UNVEILED
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
LAS CRUCES, NM – A team of U.S. and British architects and designers, accompanied by officials from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) and Virgin Galactic, will unveil the design renderings of Spaceport America at a press conference Tuesday, September 4, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Construction on the 100,000 square-foot hangar and terminal facility is scheduled to begin in 2008.
The design is from a U.S.-British team, consisting of URS Corporation and Foster + Partners. They created a low-lying, striking design that uses natural earth as a berm, and relies on passive energy for heating and cooling, with photovoltaic panels for electricity and water recycling capabilities. A rolling concrete shell acts as a roof with massive windows opening to a stunning view of the runway and spacecraft.
A prominent United Kingdom architectural firm, Foster + Partners has extensive experience in designing airport buildings. They are well known for constructing many high-profile, high-tech glass and steel buildings worldwide. Company founder Lord Foster said, “We are absolutely thrilled to be part of the dynamic team chosen to design the world’s first space terminal. This technically complex building will not only provide a dramatic experience for the astronauts and visitors, but will set an ecologically sound model for future Spaceport facilities.”
The world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport is designed to convey the thrill of space travel while making a minimal impact on the environment. The low-lying, organic shape resembles a rise in the landscape, and will use local materials and regional construction techniques. A careful balance between accessibility and privacy is achieved, as visitors and astronauts enter the building through a deep channel cut in the landscape. The walls will form an exhibition area leading to a galleried level above the hangar that houses the spacecraft and on through to the terminal building. Natural light enters via skylights, with a glazed façade reserved for the terminal building, establishing a platform for spectacular views onto the runway.
Kelly O’Donnell, Chair of the NMSA, is pleased with the design of the hangar and terminal facility. “The design created by the URS/Foster team is outstanding in the way it blends in with the environment, creating a shape that is both distinctive and functional while complementing the landscape,” O’Donnell said.
Working together with Foster + Partners on the project, URS Corporation is one the largest engineering and design firms in the world, and a prominent contractor for the United States government. With offices in the Americas, Asia-Pacific region, and Europe, URS is a full-service, global organization providing architectural and design services in 20 nations. “The URS team is very pleased to have been selected for this breakthrough project,” said Jens Deichmann, vice president of URS Corporation. “Our team of New Mexico, regional, and international talent is excited to help the State of New Mexico and Virgin Galactic advance their goals of commercial space travel and scientific and engineering education.” Designed to have minimal embodied carbon and few additional energy requirements, the spaceport has been planned to achieve the prestigious LEED Platinum accreditation. The low-lying form is dug into the landscape to exploit the thermal mass, which buffers the building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as catching the westerly winds for ventilation.
The terminal and hangar facility are projected to cost about $31 million, and will provide a destination experience for visitors to Spaceport America. It will include Virgin Galactic’s pre-flight and post-flight training facilities and lounges, as well as the maintenance hangar for two White Knight 2 and five Spaceship 2 aircraft. The building will also be home to the NMSA, and provide a destination experience for visitors.
Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic said, “I am delighted that New Mexico has chosen this excellent team to design Spaceport America. Their track record is exciting enough, but the vision for the world’s first purpose-built private spaceport is truly out of this world.” Looking to the future, Branson said, “Next year will see the first test flights of Spaceship 2 and it is fantastic that we will now have a permanent home to go to, which will be every bit as inspiring for the astronauts of the future as Burt Rutan’s groundbreaking technology.”
NMSA is currently finalizing contract negotiations with URS and Foster + Partners. The team will then begin working with the NMSA and Virgin Galactic to finalize the design of the facility, and the NMSA expects to put the construction of the facility out for bids in the first half of 2008. Meanwhile, the other elements of the spaceport, including roadways, runway, security, water, power and communication systems, are currently being designed by DMJM: AECOM and will be put out for construction bids later this year. Construction of Spaceport America will begin in 2008, immediately after the FAA issues the site operator’s license to the NMSA. Completion is expected in late 2009 or early 2010.