Flying into Hong Kong was once an aerial adventure as gigantic passenger planes made alarmingly steep descents over the harbor and then low over crowded high rises to runway 13. Those adrenalin-filled landings ended when the new Hong Kong International Airport to the west opened in 1998, however, the site of those dramatic flights has now been repurposed as the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. It was formally opened on June 12 as the Commissioner for Tourism, Mr Philip Yung, welcomed the inaugural berthing of the cruise ship Mariner of the Seas.

Hong Kong is a popular cruise ship destination, but has long been notorious for inadequate berthing facilities. Until Kai Tak opened, many had to moor in the harbor, which made nautical visits to the city a bit inconvenient. Designed by London-based firm Fosters + Partners to accommodate the next generation of cruise ships, the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is located on a reclaimed peninsula of land in Kowloon extending into Kowloon Bay. It was built at an estimated cost of 2.4 billion HKD (US$309 million) and has the capacity to berth two large 360 m (1,181 ft) cruise ships carrying more than 4,000 passengers and over 2,000 crew.

Since Kai Tak not only enjoys spectacular views of the harbor, but also sits conspicuously on the water at the end of old runway 31, the opposite end of the infamous 13, Foster + Partners paid as much attention to aesthetics as to the practical amenities. According to the firm, it’s designed to be light and airy with wide bays to let in sunlight and an open roof park for formal and informal dining. It’s all built around a linear arrangement with levels linked by pedestrian walkways and a waterfront promenade.

It’s also meant to be green with such innovations as using recycled rain water for cooling the building and irrigating the gardens, windows made of heat-proof double glazing to reduce the load on the air conditioning system, extensive use of natural lighting and ventilation, energy-saving lights, and photovoltaic systems to provide supplementary power.

Kai Tak’s facilities are flexible and designed to be used all year and during downtime. Waiting areas can be easily repurposed into exhibition spaces, art galleries, banquet facilities, party facilities, and performance areas supported by a variety of restaurants and shops. Outside, there is a heliport and a rooftop garden.

The old Hong Kong International Airport operated from 1925 until 1998, before being closed and renamed Kai Tak Airport when the new Hong Kong International Airport opened. The name came from the Kai Tak Investment Company, which began reclamation of the land in the 1920s. Work began on the cruise terminal in 2011.

The video below highlight some of the features of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.

Sources: Government of Hong Kong, Foster + Partners via Gadling