Smaller aviation cities are growing in popularity, such as Saudi Arabia's NEOM City in the Middle East, and now Asia could soon have an aviation city too. Slated to begin construction soon, Thailand is investing nearly 300 billion baht ($8.82 billion) in its aviation city project, known as U-Tapao 'Eastern Aviation City.' This is one of the country's largest megastructure projects.
The massive investment from the Thai government is planned to revamp the historical U-Tapao airport, which dates back to the Vietnam War and is located in the Pla subdistrict of the Baanchang district of the Rayong province. The revamped vision of U-Tapao International Airport is to see the post-war building become a new international airport occupying approximately 1,040 hectares of land.
A new passenger terminal building will also be connected to the revamped airport, primarily serving low-cost flights with a dab of full-service carriers, connecting passengers to flights to Don Muang Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport. But the massive size of land occupied won't just include one terminal building, as the construction plans also include a free trade zone for commodities, a flight training center, and an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul center.
The international architectural design and consultancy firm One Works was appointed as the lead masterplan designer for the airport by the GMR Group and Thai AirAsia, among other project stakeholders. When coming up with the airport master plan, One Works decided on the following guidelines:
- The proximity of the passenger terminal to more expansive facilities
- Inter-modality and high level of accessibility, both locally and regionally
- A functional mix of buildings based on receptive, tertiary, catering, retail, and leisure activities
- Incredible architectural detail reflective of Thai culture
- Reduced environmental impact
- High sustainability standards
- Increased integration of public areas - private buildings
With these guidelines in place, One Works designed the U-Tapao 'Eastern Aviation City' to be the most innovative multi-modal transport hub in Asia, seeking to maximize passenger comfort and put Thai culture at the forefront. The architecture is designed for ease of navigation and comfort, with optimized walking times, smartly designed nature-inspired interiors, and maximized spaciousness.
The interior is also designed with Thai culture in mind and is inspired by the architecture of nearby coastal towns in the Rayong Province. Natural light will be diffused through overhead skylights, lush interior trees, vegetation, and vibrant retail and food & beverage offers that are in the spirit of Thai street food, which is accessible to everyone. With the optimized walking times, passengers are afforded more time to dine, shop, and relax.
One Work’s ‘Eastern Aviation City’ master plan will not only serve the needs of travelers to and from the airport but will also bring together everything a genuine community needs to thrive. Also within the airport's infrastructure is a centrally-located Smart Eco Hub Retail area and Culture Village to provide a unique entertainment component for all visitors.
Besides putting the needs of passengers and the Thai culture as a priority when brainstorming designs, the master plan simultaneously ensured the expansion of U-Tapao International Airport could ultimately reach the 60-75 million passengers per annum required to meet demand in this rapidly growing market.
This highly intuitive and visionary airport will enable Thailand’s aviation industry to grow as it'll provide an additional 15,600 jobs for the local economy within the first five years and will also promote public and private sector innovation; and enchant passengers and visitors with a unique customer experience reflective of traditional and contemporary Thai values. (Reuters; Photo © One Works)