Spaceport America by Foster + Partners


Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners have completed the world’s first space terminal for tourists in New Mexico.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

Flying displays by Virgin Galactic space vehicles WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo marked the opening of Spaceport America.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

The low-rise building is dug into the landscape beside the El Camino Real road and is entered through a cleft between the two wings.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

Full-height glazing wraps around the end of the building, facing onto the runway beyond.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

The spaceport hangar is located in the centre of the building, with administrative areas to the west and flight training and preparation areas to the east.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

The project was designed in collaboration with New Mexico architects SMPC and project manager URS Corporation.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

Operators Virgin Galactic are currently running a test flight programme.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

Dezeen originally published visuals of the spaceport back in 2007 - see our earlier story here and see more stories about Virgin Galactic here. For more about Foster + Partners, including their circular campus proposals for Apple, click here.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

Photography is by Nigel Young, apart from where otherwise stated.

Here's some more information from Foster + Partners:

Dedication ceremony for the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space

A dedication ceremony was held at Spaceport America in New Mexico – the world’s first commercial space terminal. More than 800 guests attended the event, which included flying displays of Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

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The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, a combined terminal and hangar facility, will support up to two WhiteKnightTwo and five SpaceShipTwo vehicles. The 120,000 square-foot building has been designed by Foster + Partners, working with URS Corporation and New Mexico architects SMPC.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

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The Gateway will also house all astronaut preparation and celebration facilities, a mission control centre and a friends and family area.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

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Entrance is via a deep channel cut into the landscape and its retaining walls form an exhibition space that documents a history of space exploration alongside the story of the region. With minimal embodied carbon and few additional energy requirements, the scheme has been designed to achieve LEED Gold accreditation.


Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

Click above for larger image

The low-lying form is dug into the landscape to exploit the thermal mass, which buffers the building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as catching the westerly winds for ventilation; and maximum use is made of daylight via skylights.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

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Built using local materials and construction techniques, it aims to be both sustainable and sensitive to its surroundings.

Spaceport America by Foster + Partners

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Sir Richard Branson said:
"Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic. We are here with a group of incredible people who are helping us lead the way in creating one of the most important new industrial sectors of the 21st century. We’ve never wavered in our commitment to the monumental task of pioneering safe, affordable and clean access to space, or to demonstrate that we mean business at each step along the way.”

  • No doubt it'll be a wretched hive of scum and villainy by the end of the week.

    • Boba

      Ha! I was just thinking the same thing. The 6th photo even looks like Jaba's hut.


    It’s not a space terminal.

    it’s just a garage …

    is it a joke ?!!

    Foster is tired …

    Close your eyes…think about a space terminal…now think about the FIRST SPACE TERMINAL of the world…are you thinking about that…

    I am disappointed…Foster and Partners are a great architectural design office.

    • Max

      You're right, it's a garage but also the construction quality doesn't seem to be up to par with the design. I guess that's the reason we don't get to see any interior pics. I love the plans and the approaching view from the road though!

      • Juan

        I suspect the interior isnt finished yet, I think i saw the progress on it recently, think it was on the BBC , but yeah maybe thats why there aren't any interior shots :p

    • smell the coffee

      Same with Sanaa's garage in nyc. Lemme see the budget. Garages and white paint are getting expensive. (c=
      Smells like architects have one more specialty. "So what kind of work do you do?" asks the client of the future, "Mostly organic green garage depot architecture." says the accountant. Nod nod, stroke of the chin.

    • Juan

      Well considering the "space ships" in question have to be carried by planes, I don't see anything wrong with it being a garage, what did you expect? a helium filled structure floating 5000 feet up in the air?

    • Eddy

      Do you guys have any idea how difficult it is to build a building? Thought not. I think it's a pretty brave garage.

  • David

    mmm – a manta ray. Heck, why not! Its time the underwater kingdom found its voice.

  • this is first small private airport built by private company, not NASA. This one built for life, not for movie…

  • solstickan

    Manta Ray? It looks more like a flower. Ready to pollinate

  • I'd love to see the entrance and entryway.

  • xtiaan

    Id barely trust any flights into mexico, let alone going to space, these are amazing photos though…

    • Juan

      Its not in Mexico, its in New Mexico, (United States)

  • Our public infrastructure crumbles, yet billionaires build spaceports in the desert, so that other billionaires can have joy rides.

  • Rob

    a strange marriage between space technology and supersymmetric organic expressionism. is there any specific reason why this brown zoomorphic thing has been hidden behind a false dune? if you wanted to remain more or less invisible –at least when entering the spaceport- why did you hire Foster in the first place?

    • captain falcon

      it is buried to stop the building overheating in the sun. there is a thermal labyrinth buried in the dune to cool and dehumidify air before it is suppley to the internal spaces, it is actually very well designed for this extreme climate

  • Anton

    I may agree that it doesn't look much like a space port more like a garage but i do fancy that this building is very conceptual with the site especially on that picture from the road.

  • The whole story, the progress, the intention, the vision, the layout here is wonderful future facing leadership!!
    The third photo is amazing, i love the way it blends into the mountain scenery. I also love the sense of humour of the symbols on the flags as you approach the entrance, space invaders!! Well done sir norman, well done sir richard, you do us Brits proud globally and now cosmically!!

  • antepostnow

    erich von daeniken revived with an armstrong-esque eye – guess this is somewhat what the client wanted. so let us leave the poor architect alone. there is worse :-)

  • eugmir

    reality is not as exciting as the shiny renders were… its essentially a hanger for a different kind of plane

  • James

    Whats with all NFoster animal and food concept driven architecture?!
    Surely it could have been less obvious. Why the symmetry?
    But I guess the pleb public have to find some way to relate to the enigmatic beast that is architecture.

  • Joe7Pak

    Gee, from above it looks like, ummm, well, … female private parts … and then there’s these rocket ship thingies that look like, errr, … you know … and, uh, wow.


    • Dr Freud

      Mate, you clearly met the wrong women.

  • Nino

    Ugly brown toilet seat.

  • kc1

    I think that the design is great, a lot better than previous projects that they have built recently! well done for daring to do something different that challenges our perception of what architecture can do! ; )

  • lot

    It is great! Like from James Bond movies – the secret space terminal. I love this shady climate and that organic mass of certain character successfully composed into that landscapce…

  • lisko

    Saarinen 1962 JFK … ??? … somehow ???

  • lisko

    Reminds me of :JFK airport , Saarinen , 1962