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Airport World takes a closer look at Ilan and Asaf Ramon Airport, Israel’s new $470 million gateway to Eilat.

Israel has opened its first commercial greenfield gateway, Ilan and Asaf Ramon International Airport (Ramon-Eilat), located in the Timna Valley, about 18 kilometres north of the Red Sea resort city of Eilat.

Commissioned by the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) and designed by Amir Mann-Ami Shinar Architects and Planners in partnership with Moshe Zur Architects, the new airport has replaced both the downtown gateway in Eilat and nearby Ovda Airport.

Located on a 1,250 acre site in the Negev Desert and more popularly known as Ramon-Eilat, the new airport features a minimalist and futuristic design.

It is also the first airport in the state of Israel to have been planned and constructed from scratch for commercial and not military use.

And it is already proving popular with passengers, with hugely positive reviews from the travellers that have passed through its facilities in its first few months of operations.

It is widely believed that the new airport will become a major game changer for tourism to the region as well as to nearby Jordan and Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

Ramon-Eilat’s facilities include a 50,000sqm passenger terminal building and a 3,600-metre long runway that will allow it to handle domestic and international traffic and aircraft up to the size of the B747-400.

The two support structures surrounding the terminal measure a combined 36,210 square-metres and include a 45-metre high Air Control Tower.

“The futuristic world of aviation” and “the seemingly timeless natural surrounding of the airport’s desert location” were the key influencers behind the airport’s design, according to the design team, which worked together with ARUP and 45 consulting firms, nearly all local Israeli engineers, on the $470 million project.

“In designing the airport we learned from the desert scenery,” says Amir Mann. “It required a vision of the most suitable design solution that responds to the existing landscape and climate.

“Our objective was how not to compete with the overwhelming emptiness of the site, while creating a place that welcomes passengers through the departure and arrival processes, reflecting through that experience the uniqueness of the desert environment, as a functioning international southern gate to Israel.”

According to the design team, the mushroom-like rock formations found in Israel’s National Timna Park served as inspiration for the initial geometry of the Passenger Terminal Building and create a self-shading volume.

It notes that Ramon-Eilat’s envelope consists of a steel and concrete skeleton structure, cladded to the exterior with insulating pristine-white aluminum triangular panels. While the building’s interior features a contrasting bamboo-wood cladded scheme.

The design team adds that both the interior and exterior claddings are continuous from wall to roof, forming a singular cohesive and complete architectural space and object.

Describing the interior, the design team says: “Glass curtain  walls divide the Passenger Terminal Building at its entrances, exits and patios, sectioning the passenger traffic and controlling the security processes.

“Light wells allow sunlight to penetrate the depth of the building, allowing spatial incisions to enrich the interior by making all streams of passenger movement visible for the incoming and outgoing traveller.

“The design introduces the building into the desert landscape through exterior patios and a central open-air café with a biological pool and garden.”

The use of locally sourced natural materials, including flora and fauna – trees and plants were uprooted, preserved and replanted on site – and installation of eight hectares of photovoltaic panels that ensure that the terminal is a zero-energy building, also make Ramon-Eilat one of the world’s greenest new airports.

The airport is expected to handle around 1.8 million passengers in its first year of operations, with the figure expected to rise to 2.2 million by 2022 and up to 4.25 million by 2030.

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