The under-construction Techo International Airport (TIA), Cambodia’s largest once completed, is among the most important public infrastructures, reflecting its status as a gateway to the capital and its crucial role in the global economy, according to the heads of Foster + Partners, the firm that designed the facility.

It said the project represents a new vision for Phnom Penh, with a design that draws inspiration from the country’s ancient civilisation, its traditional forms and the tropical climate.

It added that construction of the airport, located about 20km south of the city centre, is progressing swiftly.

The firm’s master plan for the hub includes a state-of-the-art terminal at the heart of a new airport city. It aims to provide the highest levels of passenger experience and set new standards for sustainability.

Stefan Behling, head of studio at Foster, commented on the airport’s importance as a symbolic gateway and its role in the globalised economy. 

“The new airport will be an important part of Phnom Penh’s development as the nation’s primary inter-regional, inter-modal transport hub,” he said.

According to the company, the terminal building features a central head the nation’s primary inter-regional, inter-modal transport hub,” he said

According to the company, the terminal building features a central head house flanked by two aerofoil-shaped piers to minimise walking distances. 

The house encompasses passenger processing, security, immigration and retail facilities under a single roof canopy, which extends from the drop-off area to the airside, sheltering passengers from the elements. 

“The roof – supported by structural trees spanning 36m– is a lightweight steel grid shell, with an innovative screen that filters daylight and illuminates the vast terminal space. Designed to be highly legible at a human scale, there are minimal level changes throughout the terminal and views out to the apron to improve clarity and make movement intuitive. Interior materials are warm and welcoming, evoking the Cambodian vernacular in a contemporary manner,” it stated. 

Nikolai Malsch, senior partner at Foster, emphasised the airport’s symbolic significance. 

“Inspired by Cambodia’s history and built heritage, the terminal’s design stands as a modern embodiment of [Khmer] culture. The terminal roof is an expression of lightness and inherent modularity, serving as a symbolic gateway for every traveller’s journey,” he said.

Sinn Chanserey Vutha, undersecretary of state at the State Secretariat of civil Aviation (SSCA), told The Post recently that the airport stands on 2,800ha of land spanning parts of Kandal province’s Takmao town and neighbouring Takeo province. 

As of December, over 58% of the construction was complete, with finalisation of the first phase scheduled for 2024 and operations set to commence in 2025.

Vutha reported that the first construction phase, costing $800 million, included significant efforts.

The passenger terminal, managed by China Construction Unit III (CCTEB), is 47.4% complete; the power supply centre is 73.7% complete; parking lot works by Shanghai Baoye (Cambodia) are 52.2% complete; and the air traffic control tower, under Cana Sino Construction Corporation (CSCC), is 90.8% complete. 

“If nothing changes, the project will be completed by the end of 2024. We expect the airport to open in the first half of 2025, following pilot testing and certification for flight,” he stated. 

An illustration of Phnom Penh's planned international airport is displayed. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Having broken ground in 2019, TIA – formerly Techo Takhmao International Airport – is expected to complete its first phase in mid-2024, as per updated master schedule from the Cambodia Airport Investment Company (CAIC). 

CAIC, a joint venture between the SSCA and locally-owned conglomerate Overseas Cambodian Investment Corp (OCIC), operates with a 90:10 ownership structure, as per the OCIC website.

Thourn Sinan, president of the Pacific Asia Tourism Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, highlighted TIA’s importance for the country’s aviation development, as it will handle long-haul direct flights from various global destinations. 

“Once the airport is operational, we anticipate welcoming new long-haul destinations directly to our country. The number of tourist arrivals has been gradually improving and the airport’s completion will play a vital role in welcoming new flights,” he said.

According to Foster, they aspire to make the airport one of the world’s greenest, adding that their design approach combines sustainable technology with local craftsmanship, aiming to minimise running costs. 

The terminal, bathed in natural light and filled with lush greenery, will run almost entirely on energy from an onsite solar farm.

The terminal’s modular construction and phased timeline enhance constructability. The first phase includes the central head house and the northern aerofoil wings, able to cater to up to 13 million passengers annually. 

Future phases will expand capacity to accommodate 30 million passengers, as per the firm.