Hong Kong Journal: Design savvy building opens in 2022 on former airport site.

by Ron Bernthal

Airside’s Nan Fung Kai Tak Tower will open in 2022 as part of the mixed-use project on the site of Hong Kong’s former international airport ( renderings © Snøhetta/Brick Visual)

Commissioned by the Nan Fung Group, the architectural firm Snøhetta has designed a mixed-use building in Hong Kong that has been named Airside. Situated in the center of Hong Kong’s former Kai Tak airport, with views over Victoria Harbor and the Kai Tak River, this 1.8 miilion square-foot building includes a 656-foot tower.

© Snøhetta/Brick Visual

For Snøhetta, founded in Norway, now with five international offices, this will be their first built project in Hong Kong. Uniquely located on top of the new Kai Tak metro station, and in close proximity to other public transport, the building will serve as the main gateway to the Kai Tak development district in Hong Kong, which offers business and leisure visitors access to public spaces through a series of exterior plazas and roof top gardens.

The building is situated at a rapidly developing location in central Hong Kong. The former Kai Tak Airport, whose runways were so close to city apartment buildings that arriving passengers could see residents sitting in their living rooms as their flight was landing. Kai Tak was the main international airport of Hong Kong from 1925 until 1998, after which it was closed and replaced by a new and larger one at Chek Lap Kok, about 18 miles west of the city. With the recent revitalization of the area, the site is being transformed into a new Central Business District, known as CBD 2.0, or Kowloon East, a focal point for urban development and commerce.

© Snøhetta/Brick Visual

A gently curving facade composed of fluted glass is evocative of the textiles that anchored Nan Fung Group’s historic industry, and is present throughout the project from the façade to the interior and landscape design. The textile pattern can also be read as a nod to the development of both the Nan Fung Group and the city of Hong Kong as a whole, as they both have experienced a transformation from textile manufacturingto real estate development, finance and technology.

As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Hong Kong’s commercial spaces are typically designed to have the urban landscape extend into its buildings. To support the thousands of people that are now flowing through the modernized Kai Tak metro station on a daily basis, the new building’s retail space at its base is designed to accommodate the always busy pedestrian traffic. Thus, the building is composed of five stages that step up from the Kai Tak River and culminates in the tower. The building’s shape creates a series of human-scale urban spaces at ground level, and rooftop gardens that have stunning views of Victoria Harbor and Kai Tak park.

© Snøhetta/Brick Visual

The building offers visitors access to large public spaces and green areas through a series of exterior plazas and roof top gardens suited for urban farming, restaurants, events and recreation. A central atrium will be filled with natural light and contain grade A office space and retail spaces, as well as space for a hotel. Both the tower and the its base gently step down towards the southernmost corner, revealing and connecting the rooftops to the surrounding plaza and riverside promenade.

© Snøhetta/Brick Visual

Airside is also promoting a sustainable green lifestyle by creating unique on-site facilities such as Hong Kong’s first automatic bicycle parking garage, the use of local materials, sky farming, automated smart waste sorting and storage, natural ventilation, solar radiation protection, and a focus on thermal comfort, water-saving and rainwater management. Designed to target the highest sustainability ratings, including LEED platinum, the building will be one of the most environmentally friendly landmarks in Hong Kong.

© Snøhetta/Brick Visual

“We are proud to be working on an urban project of this scale with such a strong determination to offer an inviting space for the people of Hong Kong,” said Robert Greenwood, a Snøhetta Managing Partner. “As Snøhetta’s first built project in Hong Kong, we hope that this building will serve as a place for both commercial activities and recreation for many years to come. Together with nearby cultural and leisure facilities that are currently under construction, the building will become a future-oriented and publicly accessible landmark in an area that will attract both start-ups and creative enterprises.”

© Snøhetta/Brick Visual

Airside is currently under construction, with expected completion in 2022. The project has already received the Grand Award in the 2019 Hong Kong Green Building Award competition for commercial buildings under construction, and was shortlisted for the 2020 MIPIM Asia Awards for “Best Futura Project.”

New Kai Tak metro station will be incorporated into the Airside project, allowing leisure and business visitors easy access to many areas of Hong Kong (photo MTRC)

The new Kai Tak MTR (Mass Transit Railway Corporation) station opened in early 2020, and will be incorporated into the Airside project. The station is part of MTR’s Tuen Ma Line, connecting the existing West Rail line to the Tuen Mun and Ma On Shan lines, providing business and leisure visitors to Airside easy access to many areas of Hong Kong.