In 2004 the futuristic-looking Terminal 2E collapsed at Paris CDG Airport, killing four people.
In the early morning hours of May 23, 2004, a portion of the newly inaugurated Terminal 2E at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) collapsed, killing four people. The collapse near Gate E50 happened without any warning killing two Chinese citizens, one from the Czech Republic and one from Lebanon. Three other people near Gate 50E suffered injuries but survived the shocking event.
When a building breaks down and collapses for no apparent reason, it can be a terrifying experience. Investigators were left to ponder how a structure less than a year old could fail in such a dramatic way.
The 1,467-foot long innovative concrete tube-style futuristic-looking terminal was designed by French architect Paul Andreu, an accomplished airport draughtsman.
Having also designed the French terminal for the English Channel Tunnel, Andreu used the principles of tunnel construction for the new airport terminal. Passengers passing through Terminal 2E praised the building, calling it beautiful and practical. With no internal roof supports, passengers could move through the terminal effortlessly.
Immediately after the collapse, engineers speculated that the terminal's tunnel-like shape may have been a factor in why the building failed. With no internal support, the building had to rely on its outer shell to bear all or part of the weight. Investigators looking into the collapse were quick to silence the engineers saying that it was the engineer's job to assure the safety of an architect's designs. When speaking about the building's failure to the New York Times, the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, Terence Riley, said:
''When incidents like this happen, the press loves to trot out this morality play suggesting that the reason for the disaster is that the architect wanted to do something new or unusual.''
He added when four workers died in the collapse of a parking garage at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, a building with a more straightforward design than Paul Andreu is known for, ''nobody thought the architect had caused it.''
In a preliminary report released two months after the collapse by an investigative commission, it was suggested that steel support rods could be to blame. Using tunnel building technology, Paul Andreu used steel hoops supported by steel rods to emulate the surrounding earth's pressure on tunnels. Some of the rods may have pushed through the concrete, weakening the integrity of the building.
A year after the fatal accident, a final report into what caused the collapse was published, pointing out that there was no single fault but several reasons why the building failed. With a complicated design that had little margin for safety, they cited the following flaws:
Sources privy to the investigation disclosed that the builders had worked as closely to the limits as possible to keep the $900 million project costs within budget.
The terminal's designer Paul Andreu later denounced the construction companies building the terminal for not correctly preparing the reinforced concrete. Following the investigation, the rest of Terminal 2E was demolished and rebuilt on the existing foundation using a more traditional glass and steel structure. The terminal reopened to passengers again on March 30, 2008.
Journalist - Mark is an experienced travel journalist having published work in the industry for more than seven years. His enthusiasm for aviation news and wealth of experience lends itself to some excellent insight, with his work cited in Forbes amongst other publications. Based in Alicante, Spain.