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It is hard to predict quite what commercial flight will be like in future decades, yet we can be sure that many of today’s ambitious new airport terminals, some designed by the world’s most highly rated architects and engineers, will be redundant faster than you can say Concorde. Because so many more of us want to fly each year, ever further, more frequently and as cheaply as possible, aircraft and airports are multiplying at a stratospheric rate. Airport terminals, however, are big, highly specialised and costly buildings. Are they doomed to be demolished as numbers multiply or can new uses be found for them? Much, it appears, turns on just how big they are.
This spring, Aéroports de Montréal and Transport Canada announced the demolition of the colossal terminal at Mirabel Airport, the world’s largest – by area – when it was opened in 1975 by the charismatic Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. ‘Montreal’s Ghost’ had been all but vacant for more than a decade when the decision was made. There have been various plans to turn it into a school, a hospital and, most recently, an amusement park. They have all fallen through.