Located in the desert-like landscape of New Mexico, Spaceport will be the first building of its kind in the world. Its design aims to articulate the thrill of space travel for the first space tourists while making a minimal impact on the environment. Viewed from space, the terminal evokes Virgin Galactic’s brand logo of the eye, and is suggestive of an elongated pupil, with the apron completing the iris. Approached from the historic El Camino Real trail, the terminal’s organic form appears as a subtle rise in the landscape.
Organised into a highly efficient and rational plan, 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, while 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 a history of space exploration alongside the story of the region and its settlers. The strong linear axis of the channel continues into the building on a galleried level to the super hangar – which houses the spacecraft and the simulation room – through to the terminal building. A glazed facade on to the runway establishes a platform within the terminal building for coveted views out to arriving and departing spacecraft.
With minimal embodied carbon and few additional energy requirements, the scheme has been designed to achieve the prestigious LEED Gold 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; and maximum use is made of daylight via skylights. Intended to be built using local materials and regional construction techniques, it aims to be both sustainable and sensitive to its surroundings.
+ Project credits / data
Upham, New Mexico
Client: New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA)
Tenant: Virgin Galactic
Architectural Lead Design: Foster + Partners
Norman Foster, Grant Brooker, Antoinette Nassopoulos-Erickson, Joon Paik, Hiroyuki Sube, See Teck Yeo, Kristine Ngan, Architecture and Engineering, Project Manager, Structural and MEP Engineer: URS Corporation
Architecture: SMPC Architects
Environmental Design/LEED: PHA Consult
Cost Estimating: Balis and Company
Support and administrative facilities for the NMSA and Virgin Galactic.
Operational heart of the facility containing the hangar and hangar support for space craft.
Principal operational training area, astronaut lounge, mission control, spacesuit dressing rooms and revival lounge. The lounge and mission control have direct views across the apron, runway and landscape beyond.
Site Area: 300,000ft² / 27,880m² including apron
Gross Area: 110,000 ft² / 10,219m²
No. of floors: 3
Highest point: 60 ft
- Designed to achieve LEED Gold certification
- 100m long Earth Tubes buried in the earth berm as fresh air intake for cooling and ventilation.
- Underfloor Radiant Cooling and Heating. Coils cast in the concrete slab.
- PVs (not located on building but in parking area) for electricity Natural Ventilation during the mid-seasons.
- Responsive Facade Orientation to minimise the solar heat gain and maximise the view and daylight.
- High Performance Low-e glazing and use of efficient and natural shading system.
- Low Velocity Displacement Ventilation system through out Chilled Beam (active) on some locations
- Water conservation: Grey water recycling
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- Heat Island effect: Roof and Apron
- Recycled materials: carpet, tiles and metals etc.
- Building materials sourced within 500mile radius from the site
- Strategy for construction waste – provided by GC
Photographers: Nigel Young