Just as air travel has become indispensable to work and leisure in the 21st-century Asian megacity, so too has the airport become a prominent emblem of the noise and air pollution that ravage Asia’s urban landscapes. Seeking to deflect attention away from airport emissions, authorities have commissioned extravagant design campaigns aimed at rebranding the airport as local, sustainable and organic: adding green walls, terminal gardens, and hiking trails in and around the terminal in order to naturalize the fundamentally technical and global processes taking place at the airport. HKIA’s most recent master plan envisions the airport as a tree: Chek Lap Kok’s airstrip is the trunk; the various bridges, skywalks and escalators are branches; and the passengers are leaves. In effect, airports like HKIA aestheticize ecological concerns through relatively innocuous design changes in order to invert the public perception of the airport as a locus of environmentally unsustainable practices.
[Illustration from Our Airport, Our Future: Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030