Creating first world airports

Two Philippine airports have so far brought renown to Philippine design and infrastructure – Clark International Airport (CRK), recently a finalist in the UNESCO Architecture and Design Awards; and Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) Terminal 2, which has garnered multiple international design awards since opening in 2018. 

As it happens, both projects were designed by the partnership of Philippine infrastructure innovator Megawide and Hong Kong’s Integrated Design Associates (IDA). Both MCIA and CRK carry the signature glued-laminated (Glulam) timber roof structure designed and built by the partnership of Megawide and IDA.   

Airport architecture inspired by natural Philippine landscapes

The concept of each terminal was inspired by the natural landscapes of the locale. For Mactan-Cebu Terminal 2, the overall concept was inspired by the warmth of the people, and of the place. Cebu is a famed beach destination, and so its roof structure is shaped like the island’s soft, undulating waves. 

Mactan-Cebu International Airport Terminal 2

Clark Airport’s roof structure pays homage to the peaks and valleys of the mountain ranges in Zambales, which includes Mt. Pinatubo, and Pampanga’s Mount Arayat.

For Chairman and CEO Edgar Saavedra of Megawide, the company’s commitment to the vision of a First-World Philippines is conveyed in the concept and execution of these airports.

He says that from the start, Megawide was not interested in building the typical, “modern-looking” airports of steel and glass. “There’s so much inspiration to take from the Philippines in terms of architecture. That’s how we can set our international gateways apart and elevate our infrastructure.” 

Saavedra added, “We always seek to keep our structures as honest as possible. This is a term that Winston Shu, our architect for MCIA and CRK, used to describe our design philosophy.  When we say honest, we mean we don’t have to paint or clad or embellish a building too much – as much as possible, keep it bare and clean. This complements the glulam roof structure very well and allows it to stand out.” 

Glulam: Binding technology and innovation

Together with Hong Kong’s International Design Associates (IDA), Megawide pioneered the use of Glued-Laminated Timber or “Glulam” technology in the Philippines for the iconic roof arches of MCIA and CRK. 

IDA’s Principal Architect Winston Shu revealed that Clark Airport’s roof is probably the “largest single roof built of Glulam in the world.” He pointed out that “despite the arches reaching different heights, they are modularly the same in span and details.” The arches of CRK vary between 12 meters and 16 meters. The central arch reaches 20 meters in height with a span of 30 meters.

“At the height of 20 meters, or about eight storeys, CRK has a taller and larger roof line than that of the MCIA, which was another award-winning collaboration between Megawide and IDA. CRK effectively has the highest airport roof arch in the Philippines.”

“CRK’s roof area spans close to 50,000 sq. m. and used around 7,000 cu. m. of Glulam.” Shu explained. 

Meanwhile, MCIA Terminal 2 was the first roof structure in Asia with a full timber roof structure when it was completed in 2018. It used about 4,000 cubic meters of Glulam, with arch heights of about 15 meters. The entire roof has an area of about 24,000 square meters. 

He further explained how the aesthetic of the timber roof was complemented by Megawide’s other technologies, such as precast. “The building design adopts a construction process that optimise the use of light-weight timber roof, precast concrete, modular repetitions to overcome the risks of typhoon, earthquake, tropical weather, ensuring the project can be completed on time and within budget.”

Among the world’s best

With the recent success of CRK at UNESCO’s Prix Versailles, it joins MCIA as one of two internationally acclaimed Philippine airports. MCIA has received back-to-back design awards for Terminal 2, including winning the prestigious World Architecture Festival in 2019 and Best Regional Airport from CAPA – Centre for Aviation in 2018. 

In all, Saavedra shares Megawide’s pride in helping deliver the government’s vision of first-world transportation infrastructures in Clark and in Cebu: “They are among our signature executions, and it is the company’s singular honor to deliver these kinds of projects for the nation that every Filipino can be proud of.”