• Matthew Chan

Hong Kong International Airport

Structure: Hong Kong International Airport

Location: Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Area: 1255 hectares

Architect: Foster + Partners

Before the construction of the Hong Kong International Airport we see today, another structure, the Kai Tak Airport, stands in the densely populated Kowloon City District. In 1988, multiple difficulties regarding the operation of the old airport was resolved, when it was reconstructed and replaced by a new one located in a piece of reclaimed land around Lantau Island. Previously, the old airport far exceeded its annual passenger and cargo design capacities, and one out of every three flights experienced delays, largely due to lack of space for aircraft, gates, and a second runway. Also, there was an increase in noise pollution, especially during the nighttime, when aircrafts were located at a close proximity relative to residential areas. The replacement of the airport seemed like a reasonable and straightforward decision.

Designed by world-renowned firm Foster + Partners, the HKIA is an award winning magnificence of architecture. Countless people have praised the interaction visitors and travellers could have with the building and their experience. Out of the elements that make up the airport, the most famous one is undoubtedly its roof. It has a continuous flowing and scalloping pattern, slightly protruding out of the edges of the building, creating a sense of unity that also somehow mirrors the iconic design of commercial airplanes. From Foster + Partner’s website, a sentence from an article of The Guardian is quoted, stating that “From above, the roof gives the building the appearance not of the sea serpent seen from road, train or ferry, but of an aircraft on a scale that not even Howard Hughes would have dreamt of.”, alluding to the design of the roofs to breathtaking levels.

Besides the iconic roofs that make up the instantly recognizable part of the HKIA, its internal use of space could not be left out. The height of the interior is raised, sufficient enough to hold two levels, together with the open floor plan and natural lighting system, it not only reduces the demand for electricity, but allows for a vast space that welcomes visitors to the city. It is meant to be a continuous, flowing experience that is connected with their journeys.

Combined, the airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, handling thousands of passengers every single day. The scale of the operation in this structure is astounding, with 288 check-in counters, 200 immigration desks, 80 customs positions, 2.5km of moving walkways and around 120 shops. It integrates leisure, business, entertainment, and culture, standing as a symbol of Hong Kong’s rich development as an international centre.

With that being said, the Hong Kong Government is currently planning to expand the HKIA even further, improving the overall capacity and aircraft handling ability of the airport. 2 options regarding this had been proposed. Option 1, keeping that currently number of runways but improve terminal and apron facilities; option 2, to build an additional runway to handle flights as a long-term strategy. The government accepted the latter to be the future plan regarding the HKIA.

With its glorious and world-class design, complex operation, and ever-expanding construction, the HKIA is one of the leading air transport facilities in the world, representing the city of Hong Kong as a global commercial and cultural hub, continuing to strive for breakthroughs and innovations in architecture and its function.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_International_Airport

  2. https://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/hong-kong-international-airport/


  1. https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/travel-leisure/article/3004794/final-days-kai-tak-captured-photographer-special-bond?module=perpetual_scroll&pgtype=article&campaign=3004794

  2. https://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/hong-kong-international-airport/