The Cargolux hangar is exceptional in more than one respect: its main hall is one of the few that is capable of accommodating an Airbus A380 - the largest commercial aircraft currently in service - and its dimensions are all the more monumental in that it has two bays enabling it to accommodate two aircraft simultaneously for maintenance operations. Its volume, a parallelepiped 200 metres wide by 140 metres deep and 42 metres high, emerges from the forests that border the southern edge of the runways of Findel airport on the Kirchberg plateau. It constitutes a landmark that is visible throughout the country.
In accordance with the joint wish of the architect and the client, the building is intended, despite the functional aspect of the programme, to be an antidote to the "shoe box". The harmonious management of the various flows - the company's customers, administration, parts stores, offices, workshops, etc. - was studied in detail. The volume of the main hall informs the configuration. Jean-François Schmit designed it as an extendible envelope which, like the body of an insect, would consist of interlocking segments of carapace. This approach made it possible to manage the leap in scale between the two major elements of the programme: the maintenance hall and the office area, linked by a large metal wave extending along the southern facade. A unifying element, it also serves to "humanise" the facility, visible from the public roads bordering the airport perimeter.
The administrative offices and workshops communicate both visually and physically. Circulations lead to the foot of the platform. These two entities occasionally share planted patios that bring natural light into the heart of a deep-core building. A podium accommodates the parts stores, which have direct access to the hall and are supplied by way of an underground internal street operating independently. The flow separation strategy begins at the entrance: visitors and employees enter the building directly on first-floor level, by way of an annex building incorporating the heating plant and the canteen. They reach the reception area after crossing a glazed metal bridge, a key element of the composition that draws its inspiration from airport passenger boarding bridges.
The building also addresses the issue of sustainable development. It was fitted with enhanced insulation, even on the huge doors closing the hangar. The installation of photovoltaic solar panels on the main facade is also planned, but had to be postponed for budgetary reasons.
The maintenance centre is built mainly of steel. The structure and envelope are not separate but form an integrated whole: the thickness of the beams was put to advantage for the installation of saw-tooth roofs with one vertical slope that form large "gills" augmenting the bracing of the vertical walls, while contributing to the natural illumination of the space and to acoustic comfort because their inclined attitude attenuates reverberation in the workplace. Like many industrial buildings designed by Jean-François Schmit, the structure is also a technical gridiron that incorporates overhead cranes for the movement of various loads, such as engines. A Y-column separates the two bays and intersects the span of the beams in the middle of the hall.
The Cargolux hangar is designed for expansion: the master plan devised by Jean-François Schmit permits the construction of one or even two additional bays. These extensions are dependent on the financial health of the air cargo industry.