Gallery: Gensler Proposes Floating Thames Airport to Ease Airport Conge...

Floating Airport Design by Gensler
Floating Airport Design by Gensler

Image © Vyonyx

Suffering from crippling congestion at its famous Heathrow Airport, the British government recently put out a call for a modern design solution. Gensler, an international architectural firm that’s designed hotels and stadiums around the world, recently unveiled its pitch: a floating airport that would be built not on the shoreline, but right in the middle of the River Thames. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time architects have suggested a floating airport in the very same location, but there might be good reason why such an idea has never come to pass.

Image © Vyonyx

Gensler’s concept is intended to be a rebuttal to last year’s proposal by Foster + Partners, which included a airport and transport hub located on the banks of the Thames estuary. Not to be outdone, Gensler’s concept reportedly eliminates the need for the creation of an artificial island in the middle of the river. (Some have even suggested building the island out of trash). Instead, “we’re going to float the scheme on giant platforms,” explained Ian Mulcahey, the firm’s global head of planning. While this may have a smaller environmental impact than a trash island or digging up the ancient riverbed to pour massive concrete pylons, calling the floating airport scheme “environmentally-friendly” could be a bit of a stretch.

The new London Britannia Airport (Gensler’s proposed name) would instead feature four floating runways tethered to the seabed and departure concourses leading to underwater rail tunnels, which would connect passengers to central London as well as European rail networks. According to the firm, the design’s inherent flexibility creates a platform whereby runways can be floated in as required and taken away for maintenance in the future. The concept allows for future expansion to accommodate 6 runways when required.

The airport has also been designed to generate much of its own power from marine turbines situated within, and adjacent to the floating runways. While the idea of a self-sufficient airport is wonderful, viability is uncertain. Tidal power is still in its infancy in the UK, not to mention that the Thames hardly enjoys the same powerful currents as the open ocean.

Gensler also claims that the floating airport’s river location would not only minimize noise disruption to existing communities while enabling 24 hour passenger arrival and departure, but it also avoids any demolition of homes. But this doesn’t appear to account for wildlife communities—the fish, birds, and other creatures currently living in the estuary would be pretty disturbed by jumbo jets landing over their head all day.

The best part of Gensler’s design is the fact that it includes a creative reclamation of the Heathrow Airport property should their plan be accepted. They propose recycling the land and buildings into an eco city – Heathrow Gardens – that can utilize the existing infrastructure to provide additional homes for 300,000 people and employment for over 200,000.

+ Gensler

via World Architecture News


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  1. ronangel September 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    The forthcoming public meeting in Chatham “a disaster waiting to happen” about the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery and its effect on the people of Kent and new airport proposals. Taking place 27th September 2012 Admission FREE

  2. mike barker mbe September 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Scorp 1035.

    Fog is not a problem as aircraft can take off and land with their radar aided guidance systems. It may not be long before we have pilotless Airliners, like we have military aircraft and drones that would be safer removing pilot fatigue and error.

    The aircraft disasters have largely, but not all, been caused by pilot error.

    It is vision of the passengers that slows progress but many aircraft land in fog by computer, with many passengers unaware.

    I believe we should have major Estuary airports based on my vision with power generation, in say the Severn and Humber Estuaries that are safer for the public and safer for aircraft ditching. They also do not have the planning permission problems associated with increasing existing capacities adding to people problems.

    No one has provided a professional risk assessment of the increase traffic flow an extra Terminal at Heathrow would cause. The stacking of Aircraft is a problem today and another runway would increase danger of collisions.

    It is another limited understanding of danger our Politicians are expert at, as with the Montgomery.

    The DfT are responsible for the Montgomery but have not one expert on their books to guide them on the expert advice they have sought from DERA and rejected, without any expert supporting their view.

    They fail to get motorways and interchanges right let alone manage the largest UK collection of 10,358 bombs in this wreck within 2,000m of Sheerness High Street that would kill all in Sheerness and many far beyond.

    It would give a new meaning to the Sheerness Tescos slogans of “Every little helps or buy one and get another free!”

    “Kick one and get 10,358 free”

    I offered to clear this wreck five years ago, so you will shortly be seeing High Court action against the DfT and Chief Constables of Kent, Essex and London who state it is not their responsibility that I maintained it was from a terrorist attack, from a very easy accessible, tempting terrorist target.

    I asked them to suggest to the Dft to hold a meeting with any world expert they chose to support their irresponsible non-intervention policy with only deceased experts of yesteryear proposing such with nowhere near the expertise I have.
    Nothing happened five years later!

    The biggest mistake the DfT and the police have made that is actionable, is deliberately allowing people to be at risk from this massive number of bombs and not protecting the public until it is cleared. The DfT have stated it could explode if another vessel collided with it, or it fell over or had an internal collapse, or a terrorist attack, so no one can say that as it has been safe for the last 68 years, it will continue to be safe. The actual risk is more dangerous now than it has ever been, not from the removing the bombs but what could cause them to explode.

    The Provisional IRA showed more responsibility in warning people before their bombs exploded. In fact they are owed a great debt making me the expert that I am!

    Thanks Gerry and Martin!

    I provided the systems to make every known terrorist bomb safe in less than a millisecond without touching it. I stopped x-Rays being taken of devices on 12th November1971 when I made safe the very first bomb in Belfast with my water gun invention, now called “Pigstick”, for which the Chief Army Bomb Disposal Officers nominated me for a gallantry MBE that is no longer given.

    Without determining a safe zone, they do not know how many would be killed and seriously injured or how far people should be evacuated until the risk is removed. The inhabitants do not know how far they should move if they chose to be risk free!

    A single bomb unearthed in Tescos Car Park would have a 2,000m zone advised by the Army EOD Unit and the police would evacuate everyone and the bomb would be cleared. But 10,368 bombs within the same high street is suddenly regarded not as dangerous, when I think most readers would consider it 10,368 times more deadly but not the Government of course! It reduces our pension and benefits debt!

    Nice one Cameron! Just waste more resources spying on your electorate that trusted you and in return, you want to tap our phones and read our emails, as you don’t trust your electorate.

    Your electorate have reason not to trust Prime Ministers, like Blair the compulsive liar! How about tapping his phone and reading his emails? That is an activity normally associated with perverts!

    The people in Sheerness have been treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed manure!

    I offered to have its explosion computer modelled in 2007 but the “know all” government rejected my offer and have not had one carried out by themselves. They produce very expert 3D multi-beam sonar colorized scans of the outside of the hull but do not dare go inside to see how the munitions are cooking!

    Our “stuck for an idea” Politicians exceled themselves naming an old clock tower after Her Majesty as their gift for Her Jubilee! I bet Prince Charles laughed with his mummy at such a sensitive gift from her devoted government.

    Perhaps if they passed the hat around and bought her a card with some snacky bites for her Corgis, it might have been more appreciated! Now she is reminded, every time it strikes night and day, within ear shot, of the musing thought of herself holding the Old Ben high in the air for her politicians to know when it is time for well-earned drink in the bars!

  3. Mike Barker MBE September 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I totally agree with Jeff and Ron Angel, regard the Montgomery that I am offering to clear, as the World’s leading Scientist expert in bomb disposal, including terrorist nuclear bombs.

    The copper azide considered to be the reason for not clearing the wreck, could not be formed from the copper of the brass detonator cap reacting with the primary initiator explosive because the temperature is not high enough in the water to provide the Activation energy required for the chemical reaction to take place.

    In addition cuprous azide is used as an initiator in a 40 mm grenade and a dart of the US Naval research center NAVSEA.

    So all the experts have been wrong who have not offered to clear the wreck and I am the best and will confidently lead the way into the wreck first in a protected submersible to remove any debris danger safe before I let divers to enter the holds to support me.

    This floating airport is not a runner, even with the Montgomery cleared, as we need the other benefits that will add value to reduce the cost of a two or four island solution.

    My suggestion is to link Kent and Essex with a Road and rail tunnel to bring extra business to Kent and Essex with access to Europe. This saves the cost of another wind dependent QE2 Bridge.

    The sea flow control four islands would enable will make the existing Thames Barrier obsolete and provide complete flooding protection up stream of the islands. This would save a proposed second Thames Flood Barrier that would not protect the flood plains to the extent of choking the wide Thames Estuary with computer modelling that I can get organised.

    In addition the UK Governments are very limited when it comes to vision, advancing the decay of intelligent Scientists and Engineers, as we see China, Japan and Korea thrashing us in the business Olympics.

    Atomic power is a natural resource, like gas and oil and it will run out. So where is the significant government investment in lunar power. Wind power and wind turbines are ill-thought through and very ugly, as seen on beautiful Rocky Mountains of the US.

    Wind comes and goes like farts but also causes vibration perturbations on the wind turbine bearings that will be too costly to maintain over their predicted life span.

    Tidal power is untapped and in great abundance and is continuous day and night 365 days a year that drives the turbine blades, without any perturbations.

    Some brave entrepreneurs are trying but have limited capital and a long way from production. It is high risk.

    The UK is unique in having such a large coastal length compared to its land mass which together with being in the line of the Gulf Stream, provides a vast range of tidal flows that have been identified that now need to be exploited. I will be looking to China and elsewhere because the UK has not got the design capability I need to support my vision. The thought of selling the surplus to France rather than buying from France that we do, pleases me no end.

    Such very large slow rotating powerful tidal vanes would not kill fish, dolphins etc. as in the Severn Scheme that the government rightly slashed but probably for the wrong reasons. However my scheme would certainly use the high tidal power without the environmental damaged of the Severn Scheme. It is also necessary to provide passage of shipping that mine would facilitate.

    This is what being a world leading scientist is about – Vision!

  4. scorp1035 September 10, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Don’t put all you eggs in one basket, use Stansted and Manston for extra capacity today not 10 years time or more, what about the fog you get in the estuary?

  5. Scorp1035 September 9, 2012 at 4:01 am

    Another crazy idea for the Kent people to live with, Stanstead one of the nicer airports is only running at less than 50 per cent capacity and Manson at even less, with the advantage its near to the channel ports and fast rail link to London. and the added capacity could be up and running today not in 10/15 years time.

    The SS Montgomery is a real problem, again sorry for the people of Kent, because why is it OK to make safe for an airport but not for the people in Kent don’t we matter!

  6. ronangel September 8, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Re: Cardiff Jeff’s comment The wreck of SS richard Montgomery must be made safe or removed before work on this excellent sounding plan is even thought about. The 1400 tonnes of high explosives still aboard would create a massive seaquake as well as tidal wave were it to explode without any warning for a number of reasons. Although the floating runways and other embarking terminals would probably be built strong enough to withstand this and any major storm or weather conditions, the underwater shockwave would be very lightly damage the railway and any other underwater infrastructure unless built to extremely high standards as are atomic bomb shelters to withstand considerable movement for many miles, the cost of which would be extremely high, also the cost of water tight automatic doors along the tunnel ( as on The London underground, since before wwII which are powerful enough to cut a train in two preventing the flooding and loss of use of the lower levels for at least 10 years) to prevent instant flooding would make the project unfeasible with out finding a solution to the matter of the wreck before the project gets even to first drawing board stage.
    See very relevant url for up to date information and links:

  7. CardiffJeff September 7, 2012 at 6:28 am

    And what of the SS Richard Montgomery? This sunken vessel in the Thames has been described as a ‘ticking time bomb’ and would need to be neutralised before any such scheme could be seriously considered, surely.

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