Terminal 2E at Charles de Gaulle, which was completed in June, was the last airport building to be designed by Paul Andreu before he retired as chief architect of Aéroports de Paris.
He designed all six terminals for Charles de Gaulle, the main airport in Paris, starting with the first building in 1974. They are all at the cutting edge of design in the same league as designs by architects such as Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Santiago Calatrava. What makes the achievement all the more remarkable is that he was not a high-flying architect running his own practice but a company man employed by Aéroports de Paris since 1967 – before he graduated.

Interviewed by Building in 1998, Andreu commented: "No architects cared about airports 20 years ago: they were more into city halls, museums and concert halls.

"But now we see the top architects moving into airport design. That's because the airport is where society is called into question, more so than a museum or concert hall."

With 35 years of professional experience and 40 design schemes for airport terminals around the world behind him, Andreu, now 65, is probably the most experienced airport designer in the world, as well as being one of the most inspired.

He quickly rose to head ADP's 400-strong department of architecture and engineering, and in later years concentrated on a team of 100 devoted to projects abroad.

Despite being an employee of a large, specialised and highly competitive developer, Andreu grew more architecturally inspired as he matured. "More and more I see my work as space and light," he said.

No architects cared about airports 20 years ago

Paul Andreu

Qualified as an engineer as well as an architect, he became fascinated by lightweight steel and glass structures. For several projects he appointed the Anglo-French structural engineer RFR founded by Peter Rice, engineer of the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

In contrast to the jumble of terminal buildings at Heathrow airport in west London, all the terminals at Charles de Gaulle are arranged with Gallic rationality. Except for the first one, they are strung out like pods on either side of a linear transport link.

The disaster-hit arrivals and departures building of terminal 2E takes the form of a 700 m long banana-shaped tube 32 m wide.