(Updates with quote, additional design details)
By Roberto Aguilar and Alexandra Alper
MEXICO CITY, Sept 3 Mexico's government on
Wednesday unveiled the winning design for a new, futuristic,
spider-shaped airport for the capital that will ease delays and
boost capacity at a cost of 120 billion pesos ($9.17 bln) in
public and private funding.
British architect Norman Foster and Fernando Romero, a
son-in-law of Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, showcased their
winning, airy design in the form of an X with arching spans at
the presidential palace.
The new six-runway project will be built next to the Benito
Juarez International Airport on the eastern flank of Mexico
City, where the government already owns land.
"This airport is the first of its kind in the world," Foster
said. "It doesn't have a conventional roof, it doesn't have
vertical walls. It doesn't have columns in the normal sense."
He cited challenges that include frequent earthquakes and
the fact that the capital lies on a lake bed.
Mexico's government will finance the first stage of the new
airport and aims to issue up to 30-year bonds to finance later
stages, a senior project official said.
Federico Patino, financial director of the project, told
reporters it would initially be financed from operating cash
flow generated by Mexico City's current airport, which totals
around 8.3 billion pesos ($634 million) a year.
"The airport infrastructure cost is around $10 billion, and
we are going to raise $6 billion in (financial) markets," Patino
said. "The strategy includes short and medium-term financing.
"Once we have an adequate base, we will in the longer term
issue up to 30-year bonds," he added.
The project follows an abortive bid to build a new airport
near the chosen site under former President Vicente Fox. That
effort met with violent protests in which demonstrators armed
with machetes and Molotov cocktails took 19 officials hostage
after the government initially offered locals around 70 cents
per square meter for land. It was canceled in 2002.
Foster is one of the world's most famous architects, and his
practice, Foster + Partners, has designed dozens of high-profile
projects around the world, including Beijing Airport and
London's Wembley Stadium.
His firm also designed a London office building later
nicknamed "the Gherkin" for its rounded shape, which has become
one of the city's leading landmarks.
Romero is married to Soumaya Slim, a daughter of one of the
world's richest men, and is the head of FR-EE Fernando Romero
The firm designed Mexico City's distinctive Museo Soumaya,
which houses much of Slim's personal art collection behind its
sloping, silvery walls.
Slim, who controls Mexican telecoms giant America Movil
, is behind a diversified empire that spans mining,
banking and retail. Analysts say Slim's Grupo Carso and builder
ICA are likely to bid for construction contracts.
(1 US dollar = 13.0885 Mexican peso)
(Additional reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Gardner,
Cynthia Osterman and Dan Grebler)