...problems during construction appear to be more profound, says a senior contractor on a nearby job. "We know they had problems. They stopped production altogether [for weeks]," he says, speaking on terms of anonymity.

"Work stopped early during vault erection while the contractor jacked up the shells to allow repairs to columns," says the observer. "They repaired all the columns with external glass-fiber reinforcing [and] the deflection of the shell was bigger than expected," he adds.

The engineer believes AdP ordered a complete review of the design before work resumed. AdP had produced the outline design and, under normal French conditions, GTM would have taken charge of detailed work. However, GTM reportedly denies any design responsibility.

By press time, AdP was unable to provide staff to clarify several of these issues because of the pressured situation. The company could not predict when conclusions would emerge from the investigations. GTM referred questions on construction faults to AdP. Hervé declined to comment at all.

While AdP has closed Terminal 2E, the almost symmetrical twin, Terminal 2F, remains functioning. Completed in 1998, 2F introduced an internally exposed concrete vault, designed by the then chief architect Paul Andreu, now an independent practitioner. However, the older terminal’s vault is a nonstructural ceiling supported externally by long-span arching trusses.

AdP reports no problems with the 2F vault, but changed the design for its new neighbor. In 2E’s 450 x 70-m main building, lighter and easier to install timber forms the ceiling. The change was done to save time and cost, says AdP’s project architect, Anne Brison. But Andreu’s interest in the concrete vault found itself in the new terminal’s concourse, though with a significant difference. As the failure shows, the concourse vault is structural, unlike 2F’s more resilient ceiling.

Moving Far Beyond


Paris airport’s evolution over the last three decades has been intricately linked with the career of Paul Andreu, until recently Aéroports de Paris’ chief architect. The collapse of his last major Paris project will be a bitter blow as he carves out a second career, which took him to Beijing, where he heard the bad news.

Andreu is an architect who stretches engineering to achieve his aesthetic goals. He admits to having little interest in molding designs to structural purity.

To achieve his goals he is known for establishing dominance over the design team. Nevertheless, he is said to be sympathetic to contrary views. “He’s an intelligent man,” says a senior engineer on a current project. “He wants to understand,” adds the engineer, but “if you are wrong or not convincing enough you don’t get what you ask for.”

Andreu left AdP last year, having reached the French civil servants’ retirement age. The architect is continuing an international career that began early on with AdP.

His current masterpiece is the elliptical steel dome that crowns China’s new national theater in Beijing. Andreu entered the design competition for that job in part to prove his range went beyond air-ports.