The Long Road to the Goal
Spotlight on Terminal 3

Some long-time Frankfurt residents say there hasn’t been a day in fifty years without a construction site or crane in sight. But it isn’t only the city that’s constantly altering its appearance. Frankfurt’s “gateway to the world” – the airport – has also seen a steady parade of changes over the decades. Like now. The starting gun went off for building Terminal 3 in the airport’s south in the fall of 2015, but work to plan it actually began much earlier.

An Eventful History

Work to build Frankfurt Airport at its current site began in 1934. It included erecting two gigantic airship hangers, one of which was located exactly where Terminal 3 is now taking shape. At the inauguration event on July 8, 1936 it was hailed as a “world airport”. But after the Hindenburg, one of the largest airships ever built, went up in flames while docking in the United States with live radio coverage of the debacle, the age of the “zeppelins” came to an abrupt end, also in Frankfurt.

From “Gateway to Europe” to “Gateway to the World”

Between 1945 and 2005 the area to the south was used by the United States Air Force. The Rhein-Main Air Base, as it was called, was the largest American military airport outside the United States and the primary airlift and passenger hub for U.S. forces in Europe. It was home to up to 7,000 military personnel and their families. When the base was closed down in 2005, the area ceased being billed as the “Gateway to Europe” and was integrated into Germany’s “Gateway to the World”.

Talks on the Airport’s Expansion

Talks between Fraport and the city of Frankfurt on the airport’s expansion began in the late 1990s, leading to a two-year mediation process. Fraport, representatives of the government of the state of Hesse, nearby residents, citizens’ initiatives, employer associations, and trade unions were all involved in the process of developing and agreeing on terms for expanding the airport. In 2000, the Hessian government finally gave the green light for the expansion project. Shortly afterward, Fraport’s supervisory board also voted to proceed. The zoning plan was finalized and the official building permit issued in 2014.

Architectural and Implementation Competitions

Architectural offices all over Europe submitted their ideas for the new terminal at Frankfurt Airport. In the end, the London-based architects of Fosters and Partners convinced the eight-member jury with their modern, sustainable concept, winning the competition on June 28, 2002. This was followed by a second contest among 10 candidates to pick the best design, which Christoph Mäckler of Frankfurt won providing a modern vision of a terminal with a feel-good ambiance. The three parts of the main building – the check-in hall, the security area, and the central marketplace – are conceived as modular units, which will allow their ongoing adaptation to changing requirements.

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Actual construction kicked off on October 15, 2015 with a formal groundbreaking ceremony. Following more than 15 years of intensive preparations, the start of one of Europe’s largest-ever privately funded infrastructural projects was celebrated on the airport premises. Four hundred Fraport employees and 200 invited politicians and business leaders participated in this momentous event.

“After more than 15 years of intensive planning, approval processes, and checks, today we’re pleased to start building Terminal 3 at Frankfurt Airport. This new terminal will ensure the future viability of Germany’s largest aviation hub in the face of international competition while creating new jobs and prospects for our employees. It will also contribute to the long-term economic prosperity of the entire region and beyond.” (Stefan Schulte)

Related Topics: Highlights of Terminal 3