Kai Tak — Hong Kong’s Airport (1925-1998).
This July will mark the 23th anniversary of the closing of Hong Kong’s old international airport, Kai Tak, a facility famous for the eye brow-raising views it provided passengers as their planes landed or took off amongst the apartment buildings of Kowloon City.
Over 94 years, since the airport opened (1925), Kai Tak established itself as one of a kind: one of the world’s busiest hubs, as well as one of the largest cargo airports, deep in the heart of a major modern metropolis.
Kai Tak is named after two businessmen, Ho Kai and Au Tak, who started the Kai Tak Bund Project in the early 1920s. Witnessing the influx of immigrants into Hong Kong during the 1911 revolution that led to a shortage of housing, Ho and Au saw reclamation of land from Kowloon Bay as a feasible solution.
They wished to build a comfortable and up-scale residential area to attract wealthy immigrants to settle in Hong Kong. These people could help develop the city, to contribute to their new home. Unfortunately, the ambitious project was not realised due to economic difficulties.
The site was later bought by the government and was rented to an aviation school. It was turned into a military base for the Royal Air Force and, eventually, in 1936, the first passenger plane landed at the Kai Tak International Airport.
During the Second World War, Hong Kong was occupied by Japan. The Japanese army planned to expand the airport. They demolished Sung Wong Toi, Lung Tsun Stone Bridge (built by the Qing government in 1875) and the wall of Kowloon Walled City and used the debris to extend the runway.
The terminal building of Kai Tak Airport was completed in 1962 and the air cargo terminal was opened in 1976. Kai Tak is a symbol of familial ties and emotional connections among people from the city as people often sent off family members and re-united with them here. The Kai Tak Cruise Terminal of opened at the tip of the former runway in mid-2013, bringing in the first flock of visitors from around the world.
Kai Tak is an analogy of Hong Kong, developing from a small residential yet ambitious project into an international and efficient entrepôt. Since Kai Tak Airport was located within the urban city, the daily operation of the airport, economic development, urban planning, tourism and livelihood of the neighbouring districts are very much interrelated, making Kai Tak very close to the people of Hong Kong.
It is made up of sedimentation of history, a living legacy inherited from our predecessors.
Kai Tak International Airport is close to the hearts of many people in Hong Kong.
It was the world's only airport accessible on foot by a footbridge from the busy city centre. When the airport was in use, it absorbed energy from its hinterland. Students revising schoolwork, elderly to enjoy the free air-conditioning and even those who need a taxi but could not hail one, would stroll into Kai Tak for what they need. Kai Tak was that close to the people, down to earth and approachable.
After the airport was moved to Chek Lap Kok, the surrounding areas continue to thrive.
A vibrant food scene takes over Kowloon City with its ethnic minority groups. Kwun Tong is fast morphing into a diverse area with business, arts and culture. Wong Tai Sin is a top tourist thanks to the famous Wong Tai Sin Temple. The instinctive passion for life fuels the energy that makes Kai Tak what it is today; and the people here has become a sig-nificant part for Kai Tak.