Too expensive: Taiwan orders simpler ceiling in Rogers’ design for new airport terminal

The body in charge of Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport is set to overrule a plan to install 130,000 hanging aluminium lamps at its planned new Terminal 3 because it is too expensive.

It is the latest blow for UK architect Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ (RSHP’s) celebrated design for the terminal, which was selected through a competition in 2015 but which authorities now blame for turning away potential contractors.

Since July, Taiwan’s ministry of transport has grown increasingly frustrated with RSHP’s signature design after three attempts to find contractors willing to bid for the terminal project failed during 2018 and 2019.

The lamps, designed to be adjusted in height to create an undulating interior space, were a key element of RSHP’s concept, which the firm said built on its pioneering approach to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Terminal 4 of Madrid’s Barajas Airport. 

Citing Taiwan’s state news agency CNA, Taiwan News reports that Taoyuan International Airport Corporation (TIAC) will present a report to the government on Friday (18 October) concluding that the hanging lamps must be abandoned.

In July, Taiwan’s transport minister Lin Chia-lung asked TIAC to review the design of Terminal 3 in order to find a builder. 

Then in August the minister ramped up his demands, giving the design team, which included co-architect Fei & Cheng Associates, with Arup and Taiwanese firm CECI Engineering Consultants as structural engineers, six months to change the design so construction could begin, or face being removed from the project.

"If it fails to meet our demand, we will consider terminating the contract with the design consultant company," Lin Chia-lung was quoted as saying by CNA’s English-language news outlet.

RSHP’s design for the 640,000 sq m Terminal 3 beat competition from Foster + Partners and UN Studio.

CNA said the terminal, designed to handle 45 million passengers a year, is the largest single public-sector construction project Taiwan has seen since the 1970s.

Its cost has risen steeply from the original estimate of $1.5bn. Earlier this year, the budget was increased from $2.4bn to $2.6bn, while the target date for completion has been put back from 2020 to at least 2023.

A statement issued on behalf of the design team in September defended the design but promised to cooperate with airport authorities and the government to find a way forward.

"The design of Terminal 3 that has been developed by the JV team was selected as a result of a formal design competition process in 2015 and it has been developed by the team in close coordination with and to the specific requirements of its client in the subsequent months," the statement said, reports Building Design. 

It went on: "The JV team is committed to helping TIAC to resolve its current budgetary and procurement challenges and continues to work closely with them to do so."

Image: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ rendering of Taoyuan’s check-in hall

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