JEWEL CHANGI AIRPORT || Layover at a Paradise Garden

Now you can enjoy the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, tree-top walking trails, restaurants and retail as you wait for your next flight.

After four years in the making, the “Jewel” finally opened its doors this past April as a lifestyle extension to Singapore’s Changi Airport. The shiny new extension is designed by Safdie Architects, a firm renowned for their work on the city’s most iconic landmark, the Marina Bay Sands. The Jewel stands alone as a doughnut-shaped glass-and-steel dome built on what was once a parking lot between the airport’s control tower and Terminal 1. The massive structure now covers 1.46 million square feet and has five stories below ground and five above.

Designed to be “the heart and soul” of the Changi airport and a community-centric destination for both travellers and locals to enjoy, Jewel conveniently connects to the city’s public transit system, and provides ease of access to and from other airport terminals via the interconnected network of pedestrian bridges. “Jewel weaves together an experience of nature and the marketplace, dramatically asserting the idea of the airport as an uplifting and vibrant urban centre, engaging travellers, visitors and residents, and echoing Singapore’s reputation as ‘The City in the Garden’”, described Moshe Safdie, Principal of Safdie Architects.

Cascading waterfall and over 200 species of plants create an indoor rainforest for visitors.

Cascading waterfall and over 200 species of plants create an indoor rainforest for visitors.

An aerial view of Jewel.

An aerial view of Jewel.

The impressive structure is composed of mainly glass and steel beams, forming a green-house-like dome that lets light in while shielding from the outdoor elements. Within the Jewel dome, you can find everything from high-end retail shops, restaurants, a multiscreen IMAX theatre, a full-sized supermarket, and a hotel. Travellers with a tight schedule can save time by hopping on the skytrain that weaves through the large airport complex, making a seamless transition between the travel and entertainment experience.

The intricate, jewel-like facade composed of glass and steel beams.

The intricate, jewel-like facade composed of glass and steel beams.

The Forest Valley

To create an airport experience unlike any other, Safdie Architects integrated spatial and interactive experiences throughout a lush indoor garden and a five-storey retail marketplace. The core of Jewel is the Forest Valley, a terraced indoor landscape featuring walking trails and quiet seating areas nestled amongst more than 200 species of plants.

The Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, showers down seven stories from a central open oculus in the domed roof, mesmerizing visitors with its dramatic cascades during the day and light performances and projection experiences by night. During Singapore’s frequent and powerful thunderstorms, recirculated, natural rainwater will flow at more than 10,000 gallons per minute, which helps provide cooling and airflow in the landscape environment, collecting significant rainwater to be re-used in the building.

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Canopy Park

On the fifth level is the Canopy Park, which includes 14,000 sq.m. of attractions integrated within the garden spaces including net structures suspended within the trees, a suspended catenary glass-bottom bridge walk, a planted hedge maze and mirror maze, along with feature installations completed in collaboration with internationally acclaimed artists. The highly immersive designs are both aesthetically pleasing and functional, providing pathways for traversing the space while delighting visitors with gorgeous sight-lines. Additional highlights include a topiary walk, horticultural displays, and an event plaza for 1,000 people.

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To bring the project to life, Safdie Architects brought together and led a global collaboration of celebrated minds in the fields of engineering, landscape architecture, water feature design, interior design, and art. Working together towards a common vision, the team developed and implemented the concept of Jewel.

Engineer: BuroHappold Engineering

BuroHappold engineered Jewel’s steel structure and developed the building’s façade systems. The team took on the never-seen-before glass and steel roof structure, which spans more than 200 meters (650 feet) at its widest point, with only intermittent supports in the garden which results in a near column-free interior. The geometry of the roof is based on a semi-inverted toroid, or donut, with an indoor rain-fed waterfall at its center. BuroHappold worked with the team and specialist sub-contractor MERO to develop the ‘Jewel node,’ the precision steel connectors which make up the diagrid roof system. The components were prefabricated in Germany and bolted together on site in Singapore.

Environmental Design Consultants: Atelier Ten

To balance the thermal comfort for inhabitants of the building with the complex needs of the great diversity of planting, Atelier Ten Environmental Design Consultants developed the climate control, daylighting, and environmental systems as an integrated whole.

Executive Architect: RSP Architects Planners & Engineers Pte Ltd

RSP’s role in Jewel encompassed the statutory, contractual, and design development efforts, working in close collaboration with Safdie Architects’ Boston and Singapore offices. RSP were entrusted to administer the building contract between the client and main contractor.

Landscape Architect: Peter Walker and Partners (PWP Landscape Architecture)

PWP Landscape Architecture worked closely with the team to shape and develop the lushly landscaped Forest Valley, and led the design of the gardens at Jewel, including Canopy Park. To create the first climate-controlled, indoor forest, PWP carefully selected plant life that would thrive within the targeted interior conditions to create a viable and vital garden without draining resources. PWP collaborated with Singapore-based ICN to develop and deliver the landscape design.

The Rain Vortex: WET

WET engineered the Rain Vortex at the center of the Forest Valley garden. Utilizing their unique choreography and experience design expertise, they developed a system that integrates sounds with projections from 360 degrees around the vortex to enable nightly light shows upon the waterfall.

Retail Interiors: Benoy

Benoy collaborated with the team to design the unique and dynamic retail identity for the project. The interiors navigate the many interfaces between aviation facilities and the retail center. Benoy also designed the Meeter-Greeter Hall, which is the key interface with Terminal 1.

Signage: Pentagram

Pentagram, working in collaboration with Entro, designed a comprehensive program of signage and wayfinding for Jewel Changi Airport, as well as the signage connecting to the other terminals at Changi. The signage is integrated with the architecture to create a system of way-finding that references the project’s urban character and works together to guide travellers.

Next time when you ever find yourself in Singapore, don’t forget to plan for an extra long layover (or make this your travel destination altogether) to enjoy this state of the art shopping mall within the rain forest that just happens to be connected to the airport.

Project Details

Design Architect: Safdie Architects
Lead Designer: Moshe Safdie

Atelier Ten: Environmental & Sustainable Design
Benoy: Retail Interiors
Buro Happold Engineering: Building Structure and Facades
ICN International Singapore: Executive Landscape Architect Lighting Planners Associates: Lighting Design
Mott MacDonald: MEP
Pentagram and Entro Communications: Signage/Wayfinding PWP Landscape Architecture: Landscape Design
RSP Architects Planners & Engineers Pte Ltd: Executive Architect RSP Architects Planners & Engineers Pte Ltd: Structure
WET Design: Water Feature

Photos courtesy of Safdie Architects