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An Airport for Birds

Felix Baumann

A new airport will soon be built in Tianjin, China. Nothing special about it. Unless the future users are exclusively birds.

The site is located on one of the most important migration paths for birds (Pictures: McGregor Coxall).

While Chinese construction projects are usually associated with architectural superlatives and gigantism, a project of a different kind is coming soon near Tianjin: an airport for migratory birds. With their “Bird Airport”, the landscape architects McGregor Coxall could convince themselves in an international design contest. Unlike the concrete landscapes of conventional airports, the runways for migratory birds will consist of a nature reserve with extensive wet biotopes. Located directly on the East Asia Australasia Flyway, the place is an ideal resting place for the animals.

Green Lung for Tianjin

As one of the largest cities in China, Tianjin has also faced considerable environmental problems. To eliminate the smog and create a green cityscape, a design competition was initiated by the Asian Development Bank and local business players. The aim of the competition was to develop a green lung for the city from a former landfill. Special attention should be given to the migratory birds of the East Asia Australasia Flyway. The birds have increasingly problems to find adequate resting places in the urbanized coastal region of the Yellow Sea. Around 50 million animals are using the route every year, including many endangered species. The “Bird Airport” of McGregor Coxall emerged as the winner of the competition. The landscape architects from Australia, China and England developed open lakes, reedbeds and mud flats to meet the needs of all bird species. Part of the concept is a visitor and research center for up to 500,000 visitors a year.