Architecture: ... but still a little rough around the edges

Backstage, technical problems slow things down.

Why?" was the question that caused the computer Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey to shut down. Now the same question is being asked of HACTL, Hong Kong's Air Cargo Terminal and the largest automated cargo racking system in the world - capable of moving one thousand containers at any given time - which failed to deliver the goods when Hong Kong's new Chek Lap Kok airport opened in July. Two big buildings with the capacity to handle 2.5 million tonnes of cargo per annum - more than twice the capacity of its nearest rival at Heathrow - failed to make the changeover smoothly when the old Kai Tek airport closed. As several days' supply of rotting food and flowers, newspapers and containers built up, the embattled main cargo operator, the new Superterminal 1, shut down for nine days. Dust in the computer has been blamed but there is still a question mark hanging over the ability of the HACTL at Superterminal 1. Was man or machine to blame? The answer lies in a Commission of Enquiry now going on in a politically sensitive arena. Airport Authority chairman Wong Po-yan has accepted the blame for the disastrous opening, and will step down this month together with the entire 15-member authority board and several key executives, including the chief executive, Hank Townsend, who was given overall responsibility for the construction and development of Chek Lap Kok.

Film directors seeking a location in which to film Philip Kerr's novel GridIron, about a computer that outsmarts the architect of an "intelligent" building, need look no further than Norman Foster's Superterminal 1. He designed the seven-storey cargo-handling building for HACTL, linked on two levels with the Express Centre, dedicated to express cargo and courier operations, "in layers, like an onion".

Superterminal is the largest single automated air cargo terminal in the world, and because the speed and functional efficiency of an air cargo facility depend on the number of access points to the terminal, it has a jaw-dropping facade over two kilometres confronting the new airport. It took two years and nine months to build. At the peak of construction over 2,500 workers were on site. Cargo arrives at the HACTL terminal directly from the aircraft, where robotic cranes lift them into designated pigeon holes. At its core is a triple-height atrium which brings natural light deep into the building. On the east and west sides, great steel-framed racks pigeonhole cargo for processing. It then passes via bridges to the warehouse where it is unpacked, checked by Customs and Excise and transferred to the storage system for up to two months, or loaded on to trucks. Like a factory production cycle, empty containers fill with new cargo and are loaded on to waiting freight planes. The whole system is controlled by a central computing system (COSAC), developed and marketed by HACTL, which can identify any particular item as soon as the in-bound aircraft leaves its airport of origin, and tracks it until it is collected.

The Express Centre, which can handle livestock from elephants to whales and precious goods, including racing cars and shipments of diamonds, cash and gold bullion, has two large hydraulic lifts capable of lifting fully loaded 20m long trains. With so much automation, Foster was keen to put a human face on Superterminal 1 by building in facilities for the airport staff, many of whom live on Chek Lap Kok island.

A gym, three squash courts, four badminton courts and a 25m heated outdoor pool are just some of the perks. There is a rooftop garden planted with mature trees which anyone who has read GridIron might want to check out as a haven for the next time the computer throws a wobbly.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference