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"Architect visits scene as investigations resume at Paris airport terminal"
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Architect visits scene as investigations resume at Paris airport
Agence France Presse
PARIS - The renowned French architect who designed the showcase terminal
at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport, which partly collapsed at the
weekend, visited the site of the deadly disaster.
Paul Andreu, 65, stepped off a plane from Beijing where he has been
supervising construction of the National Grand Theatre in Tiananmen
Square, and went straight to a meeting with engineers in the departure
area of terminal 2E.
The architect refused to speak to reporters. He has said he is aghast at
the accident, which killed four people Sunday. A 30-metre (-yard)
section of the ultra-modern tubular building collapsed to the ground
after the concrete vault gave way.
Airport director Rene Brun said that unaffected parts of Terminal 2E
like the check-in area could be opened "in a matter of weeks" if
substitutes for the departure area can be found. But he said the
departure area itself could open again in "several months, perhaps even
more than a year."
However no re-opening will be permitted till the results of the
technical enquiry is known, and the airport authority ADP has said the
entire 750 million euro (900 million) dollar edifice will be demolished
if a design flaw is shown to have caused the accident.
On Monday there was a further scare when workers detected new fissures
and cracking noises in the structure, and the terminal was evacuated.
Only investigators working for the judicial and technical enquiries have
since been allowed at the scene.
The airport's operations director Hubert Fontanel said that temporary
supports will be installed in the section of the terminal where the
latest damage appeared. "It is important for the investigation to keep
the structure in its actual state," he said.
The affected section is symmetrically opposite the part that was
destroyed in Sunday's collapse. Both areas differ from the rest of the
structure in containing access points to three boarding walkways, and
there was speculation this may have been a factor in the disaster.
Meanwhile ADP officials confirmed reports that cracks several
millimetres long had appeared during the early stages of construction on
a number of the concrete pillars that are used to hold up the 650-metre
tunnel-like departure area.
Engineers reinforced the existing pillars with carbon fibre, and a
different technique was subsequently used for putting in place the
remaining ones. Fontanel said the problem had appeared in a different
section of the terminal from Sunday's collapse, and there was no
evidence there was a link.
Investigators are likely to focus on a possible design fault, or on poor
workmanship and the use of sub-standard materials. They will have access
to reams of studies, technical calculations and tests, as well as to
contracts with the some 400 companies that carried out the work.
A leading French architect said there was a growing culture of "speed
and performance" in the allocation of prestige building projects, and
warned against the pressure to use cutting edge techniques that had yet
to be proved.
"The (terminal) was like a performance, at the very outer limit of the
material. Everything was calculated and taken into account. But in this
outer limit all you need is a piece of metal in the wrong place or a bad
lot of concrete -- no-one can protect himself against that," said Paul
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