With an integrated vision that links an ambitious economic development concept to sustainable urban design, landscape, and mobility strategies, Team KCAP won the international competition for the Keflavík Airport Area Strategic Masterplan in Iceland. The multidisciplinary team led by KCAP includes WSP, Felixx, MIC Mobility in Chain, VSO Consulting, Buck Consultants International, Buro Happold, Base Design, Maurits Schaafsma, Amberg Loglay and Kanon Arkitektar. The competition was organised by the Keflavík Airport Development Company (Kadeco), which leads the development of a 55km2 area surrounding Iceland’s global aviation hub.
Kadeco’s CEO Pálmi Freyr Randversson praised the winning proposal as ‘a crucial step to realising our future vision for the airport area. I’m thrilled to partner with Team KCAP on this project of national importance.’ The masterplan seeks to transform strategic locations in the airport area into a showcase for the country’s ambitious economic development and sustainability strategies. It was this approach—together with the proposal for collaborative development between public and private sectors—that earned the team the first prize. The second and third prizes were awarded to international consortia led by Arup and Jacobs respectively.
The winning proposal aims to capitalise on Keflavik’s strategic position between Europe and North America, its plentiful supply of renewable energy, and the captivating landscape of the Reykjanes UNESCO Geopark; it sets the path for long-term sustainable development and acts as a catalyst to innovate the Icelandic economy. At the same time, the masterplan seeks to ensure that the airport and local communities of Reykjanesbær and Suðurnesjabær grow together in a mutually beneficial manner. With that in mind, Team KCAP’s proposal emphasises projects that have a strong local ownership and respond to existing needs.
The team’s strategy identifies catalyst sites that can achieve a high impact in terms of identity and value creation. These sites form a polycentric urban archipelago, connected by the landscape of the Airport Corridor. Landscape innovation will be deployed to integrate climate mitigation, and will play a fundamental role as the ‘identity carrier’ for the airport area. Tapping into the government’s climate action plan that identifies reforestation as a top priority, the landscape concept connects the Airport Corridor into a national network of reforestation projects. A future oriented mobility vision comprising the Keflavík-Reykjavík Link (BRT), local public transport and active mobility linkages connects the airport area’s urban nodes for travellers, workers and inhabitants alike.
Different development strategies have been assigned to the catalyst sites, from greenfield interventions to the transformation and densification of existing built areas; carefully phased timelines allow for the different areas to be developed simultaneously and incrementally, according to market demand. The catalyst sites facilitate diversification into new sectors such as the production of green hydrogen, electric aviation, hi-tech agriculture, and marine aquaculture. Keflavík Airport Area will attract new high-value companies and create opportunities for a diverse workforce; the economic strategy will deepen the talent pool for innovative sectors by attracting international experts as well as improving educational opportunities for the local population. This is based on the team’s belief that knowledge and skills acquired overseas can be brought back to benefit the Icelandic economy, and that investment in economic development should also target the development of the labor force.
To transform the Masterplan Framework for Keflavík Airport Area into reality, the multidisciplinary team developed a cohesive yet incremental strategy for the catalyst sites. ‘A project of such significance requires a bold and at the same time sensitive approach. A step-by-step roadmap will provide investors with a trajectory that responds to the possibilities, to the market, to the culture of development and to the stakeholder landscape over time. This gradual approach should also apply to stakeholder relations, which need to be developed with great care so as to create a resilient and ambitious organisation,’ says Anouk Kuitenbrouwer, partner in charge at KCAP. Positioning Kadeco – the client – as a forward-looking collaborative partner, capable of realising a vision for change, is vital for the future of the project.
KCAP, Zurich (urban planning and urban design)
WSP, London (economic and real estate development, collaborative development and organisational readiness)
Felixx Landscape Architects & Planners, Rotterdam (landscape architect)
MIC Mobility in Chain, Milan (mobility and transport planning)
VSO Consulting, Reykjavík (local coordination, urban planning)
Buck Consultants International, Nijmegen/The Hague (cargo planning)
Buro Happold, Berlin (climate and aviation mitigation, environmental performance and energy supply strategy)
Base Design, Brussels (placemaking and wayfinding)
Maurits Schaafsma, Amsterdam (airport area masterplanning)
Amberg Loglay, Zurich (emerging aviation technologies)
Kanon Arkitektar, Reykjavík (local architect and landscape architect)
Client Kadeco (Keflavík Airport Development Company), Keflavík
Program Strategic Masterplan for the development of the Keflavík Airport Area
Images, drawings, diagrams © KCAP, © Felixx, © MIC-KCAP