Ferrari designer’s idea for tulip-themed control tower to grace huge new Istanbul airport

In a rare combination of architecture and automotive design, the developers of Istanbul New Airport – which aims to be the world’s largest – have picked a plan for an air control tower produced with the help of renowned Ferrari designer, Pininfarina.

Aerodynamic pizazz, the tulip, and a desire to rekindle the "excitement and glamour" of air travel lay behind the design, produced by Italy’s Pininfarina and US design giant Aecom.

The Aecom and Pininfarina collaboration was chosen from six entries submitted by international heavyweights including Zaha Hadid, Grimshaw-Nordic and RMJM.

It is Aecom’s first collaboration with Pininfarina, the design house known for its car designs for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, among others.

"We were looking for a striking design fit for a 21st century airport while remaining sensitive to Istanbul’s unique heritage," said Yusuf AkçayoÄŸlu, chief executive of Ä°GA, the Turkish consortium of contractors building the $4.9bn first phase of the airport.

A beautiful and highly functional piece that rekindles the excitement and glamour of modern air travel– Jennifer Dixon, Aecom

On a fast track for completion in 2018, the first phase is intended to handle 90 million passengers.

The tulip, a symbol of Istanbul for centuries and an important cultural reference in Turkey, inspired the tower’s design, Aecom said.

But it’s also about the thrill of going fast.

Jennifer Dixon, Aecom’s head of architecture in Europe, said they wanted to harness the "dynamism and romance" of Pininfarina’s style.

It was, she said, a "beautiful and highly functional piece that rekindles the excitement and glamour of modern air travel at the crossroads of Europe and Asia".

Istanbul New Airport is a contender in the race to be the world’s biggest, by passenger volume, in an emerging era of eastern global air hubs.

When fully built, its six runways and three terminal buildings are intended to handle more than 150 million passengers a year.

Also racing for the title of world’s biggest is Dubai’s new Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC), which also targets handling capacity of more than 150 million per year.

The biggest airport by passenger volumes now is Atlanta in the US which handled 31.1 million passengers in the year to April 2015, according to Airports Council International.

Next in line are Beijing (29.2 million), Dubai’s existing international airport (26.1 million), Tokyo (23.5 million), and London Heathrow (22.5 million).

With Istanbul New Airport, the developers are in a hurry.

In September 2015 Aecom was chosen to design the airport’s airside facilities, and was given one year to do it in order to meet an early-2018 opening target.

Ä°GA is a consortium of five Turkish contractors – Cengiz, MAPA, Limak, Kolin and Kalyon – awarded the concession to build and operate the airport. In October, Ä°GA secured a $4.9bn (€4.5bn) loan from a group of six banks for the first phase.

Photograph: The Aecom-Pininfarina design for Istanbul New Airport’s control tower draws inspiration from the tulip – and from sheer aerodynamic pizazz (Aecom)

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