Lying at the hub of a global region that reaches across Asia and Australasia, Chek Lap Kok is one of the world's largest and most advanced airports. Completed in 1998 as Hong Kong's sole air terminal, by 2040 it is expected to handle eighty million passengers per annum - the equivalent of London's Heathrow and New York's JFK airports combined. Among the most ambitious construction projects of modern times, the land on which the airport stands was once a mountainous island. In a major reclamation programme, its 100-metre peak was reduced to 7 metres above sea level and the island was expanded to four times its original area - equal to the size of the Kowloon Peninsula.

The terminal building extends a concept pioneered at Stansted Airport - a model since adopted by airport planners worldwide. It is characterised by a lightweight roof canopy, kept free of service installations; the use of natural lighting; and the integration beneath the main passenger concourse of all the technical equipment for baggage handling, environmental services and transportation. With its soaring spaces, bathed in daylight, the terminal building forms a spectacular gateway to the city. Whether arriving or departing, routes are legible and orientation is simple: you are aware of the land on one side and the water on the other and you can see the aircraft. Similarly, the vaulted roof provides a constant reference point as you move to or from your aircraft. Departing passengers pass through the East Hall, the largest airport retail space in the world; if an airport on this scale can be thought of as a city in microcosm then this is its market square.

Travellers reach the airport from Hong Kong via either mainland road or rail links, which cross two purpose-built suspension bridges and a causeway to Lantau Island to the south. Those arriving by train alight at the airport's Ground Transportation Centre, which is fully integrated at the eastern end of the terminal building. Remarkably, the entire train journey between city and airport can be completed in just twenty minutes.

Sketches + Drawings




Kenneth Powell

“Passengers enter and leave [the terminal] through the vast atrium, with departing passengers passing on glass bridges over the heads of those arriving. There can be few more exhilarating points of entry to any country.”

City Transformed: Urban architecture at the Beginning of the Twenty-first Century, 2000

Chris Abel

“Whether arriving or departing, passengers enjoy a carefully controlled sequence of varied and often breathtaking spaces.”

Chris Abel

“Foster has been able to combine his essentially humanistic visions with workable solutions to both the expansion of air traffic and the ever growing demands of commerce.”

Facts + Figures

  • Appointment: 1992
  • Completion: 1998
  • Area: 516 000m²
  • Height: 34m
  • Capacity: 35000000
  • Client: Hong Kong Airport Authority
  • Collaborating Architect: Anthony Ng Architects Ltd. (Ground Transportation Centre only)
  • Structural Engineer: Ove Arup and Partners/Mott Connell
  • Quantity Surveyor: WT Partnership
  • Landscape Architect: Urbis Travers Morgan Ltd.
  • Lighting Engineer: Fisher Marantz Renfro Stone
  • Additional Consultants: Urbis Travers Morgan Ltd., Fisher Marantz Renfro Stone, O'Brien-Kreizberg and Associates Ltd, Wilbur Smith Associates, BAA, Mott Connell Ltd


  • Skytrax World Airport Awards, Best Airport
  • Skytrax Airport of the Year – Gold Award,
  • Skytrax Airport of the Year – Silver Award,
  • Skytrax Airport of the Year – Gold Award,
  • AETRA Customer Satisfaction Survey - Best Airport Worldwide – Special Recognition Award,
  • Skytrax Airport of the Year – Gold Award,
  • Skytrax Airport of the Year – Gold Award,
  • Skytrax Airport of the Year – Gold Award,
  • ARCASIA Award for Architecture 2001-02 – Gold Medal in category B-4
  • Skytrax Airport of the Year – Gold Award,
  • Architectural Ironmongery Specification Awards – Winner of the Overseas Public Buildings Category
  • Structural Steel Design Award
  • International Lighting Design Award of Excellence
  • Design Council Millennium Product Award
  • International Project of the Year - Construction Quality Awards
  • Institute of Structural Engineers Structural Award - Commendation
  • HKIA Silver Medal
  • British Construction Industry International Award


The man-made island of Chek Lap Kok is 6 km (3.5 miles) long and 3.5 km (2 miles) wide and is visible from space.
The new airport island covers an area of 1,248 hectares or 3,085 acres made from:
25% existing island
75% reclaimed from sea
197 million cubic metres of reclaimed materials were used to build the island.
Ten tonnes of material were moved every second during the land reclamation.

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