The tinted-glass facade is set between slabs of concrete,
a locally favored material, making a modernist cake topped
with a layer of white icing.
Above: The terminal is just over 3,000 square
feet (about one-third the size of the food court
at JetBlue’s terminal in JFK), but there’s space
for a security checkpoint, check-in and waiting
areas, and a café.
trip to less than an hour. “Since we really want to promote
this area as a touristic attraction, of course you need a good
transportation possibility,” says Kate Aleksidze, the director
of United Airports of Georgia. “If we would not manage to
open it in December and opened it instead in June, people
would be there, but we would miss the whole winter season.”
Mayer H., who has worked on other Georgian government
projects before—the border station between Georgia and
Turkey, highway rest stops, and a train station for a new line
to Azerbaijan—wasn’t used to designing so quickly, but he
took it in stride. “That’s the way that we work with them,”
he says. “It’s very fast, and then sometimes we don’t hear
from them for weeks, and then they want it again tomorrow.”
He attributes it to the country’s tumultous passage from
Soviet vassal to fledgling democracy. “They have no patience
to wait,” he says.
In this case, the urgency came from the highest levels. In
early 2010, according to Georgia Today, the country’s largest
English-language newspaper, President Mikheil Saakashvili
said of Mestia, “You can call it a whim, but I want to land
in a helicopter in person on New Year’s Eve this year.”
As it turned out, he got his wish early. The president was
on hand to open the airport on Christmas Eve.
Below: The air-traffic-control tower (in
section, right) is a modern version of the
region’s medieval stone towers. Above: The
interior was left partly unfinished because
Georgia’s fearsome winters make construction
impossible. It will be completed this spring.