Airport Design

In pictures: Jewel Changi Airport

Singapore’s seven-time winner of the ‘best airport of the year’ award, Changi Airport, has just added another jewel to its crown – and it’s something completely original. Adele Berti pores over some of the highlights at the newly opened Jewel Changi development.

Already one of the most important hubs in the world, welcoming over 65.3 million travellers per year, the Changi Airport hub has taken its game to the next level as it inaugurated Changi Jewel, a brand new location within its complex.

An impressive architectural masterpiece conceived by Moshe Safdie – the creative mind behind another popular building in Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands – the Jewel partially opened in April 2019, with some parts due to be inaugurated in June.

Built across a 1.46ft² area, the new lifestyle hub has five stories above ground and five underneath, with attractions including a multi-screen IMAX cinema, a hotel, a full-size supermarket and 280 retail spaces.

All image courtesy of Changi Airport

An oasis of relaxation between flights

With Changi connecting over 400 cities in the world, the round complex – which was previously home to a parking lot – has been conceived as the traveller’s ideal gateway during long layovers.

It provides visitors with free WiFi, free power bank loans for 12 hours and the Changi Lounge, which is equipped with napping and showering facilities and also serves intermodal transfer passengers on their way to the Port of Singapore for cruise and ferry services.

Linking Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and located only a short bus drive from Terminal 4, Jewel cost Changi a whopping $1.3bn as part of the airport’s wider expansion plans. These will also include building a fifth Terminal, which will exceed the size of the other four put together and should be ready by 2030.

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A waterfall of beauty: the HSBC Rain Vortex

While the lounge and Jewel’s exterior are undoubtedly impressive, nothing can quite compete with the 130ft-high Rain Vortex, the highest indoor waterfall in the world.

Dropping from the roof through seven floors, the fountain is a breathtaking display placed at the centre of Jewel. Water is harvested from rain and then recirculated to the fountain on a daily basis. The installation is active day and night, and is used as a canvas for mesmerising light and sound shows that can be enjoyed at 360°.

The waterfall pours down from an enormous dome made of glass and steel, which is thick enough to dampen noise coming from aircraft.

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A deep immersion in nature

Singapore is famously nicknamed the ‘City in a Garden’, a title that Safdie Architects have kept in consideration when designing the building, which offers a huge variety of green spaces.

Five floors of gardens surround the Rain Vortex as a tribute to Singapore and its sustainable commitments.

Among them is the Shiseido Forest Valley, a four-storey area that features over 900 trees and 60,000 shrubs from all around the world, as well as walking trails.

On the top floor there is also space for the Canopy Park – a 46,000ft2 space filled with restaurants; themed gardens; play areas, including the Canopy Mazes, Sky Nets and Discovery Slides; and a 50-meter Canopy Bridge. This part is expected to be concluded this month (June 2019).

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A bridge to the airport and an attraction for the locals

Changi Airport has been conceived for both traditional passengers and locals looking to dine out or spend their weekend immersed in nature.

Strategically located only 30 minutes away from the city, Changi is in fact making an effort to become a popular centre of leisure for Singaporeans who can visit for shopping, movies or a meal.

"Singapore's a small place and therefore we do get a lot of local residents coming to the airport to spend their weekends here,” Jayson Goh, managing director for airport operations management of Changi Airport Group, told CNN Travel. “We have people coming here to study, we have people coming here on dates. In fact, we always get requests from local residents who want to take wedding photos.”

Nevertheless, Jewel remains part of an airport and Safdie Architects kept that in mind when planning. As a result, the hub is equipped with early check-in kiosks and counters and provides shuttle services – onboard the so-called Skytrains – to terminals 1, 2 and 3 passing by the Vortex.

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