Jewel Changi: Singapore's latest 'wow' attraction

Jewel Changi Airport was officially opened to the public on April 17 this year. The latest addition to the Singaporean retail and architectural scene is a photographer’s paradise.

The toroid-shaped building is located in between the two airport terminals of Changi Airport. With some S$1.7 billion (RM5.18 billion) invested, construction began in December 2014 with the structural works being completed in 2017.

Since its opening, travellers through the airport have made it a priority to stop by here to visit the mall to admire what the state-of-the-art building has to offer.

Based on the geometry of a torus, Jewel is designed as a central connector between the airport terminals at Changi Airport. Jewel is directly accessible from the Terminal 1 Arrival Hall and connected to Terminal 2 and 3 via link-bridges.

The design and architectural vision

“Jewel Changi Airport juxtaposes the centre of being in nature and enjoying a vibrant marketplace, dramatically extending the concept of an airport to serve as an urban centre, engaging travellers, visitors, and residents; echoing Singapore’s reputation as ‘The City in the Garden’,” Moshe Safdie at Safdie Architects described in a recent press release.

“Jewel demonstrates the potential for urban centres that offer the vitality of the traditional city square or galleria within a park setting. As an integrated whole, it creates a new typology — transforming the airport’s principal function as a transit hub into that of an interactive civic and urban centre,” said Safdie.

Meanwhile, head of projects at Jewel Changi Airport Development Ashith Alva said the goal in designing Jewel was to house a myriad of experiences all under one roof and to provide a seamless travel experience for the millions of people that pass through Changi Airport each year.

“To achieve this ambitious project, we brought together a team of visionaries and experts — a consortium led by Safdie Architects and partners; RSP Architects Planners & Engineers, BuroHappold Engineering, Lighting Planner Architects and Benoy.

Key design features of the Jewel


The dome-shaped roof facade utilises a glass material that has the dual ability of transmitting light and reducing heat gain, thus enabling plant growth in the indoor gardens while providing sustainable cooling. Each glass panel also has a 16mm air gap to insulate against noise emitted from airplanes and ensure that noise levels within the building are kept to a minimum. Notably, a series of tests were conducted to ensure that the glare emitted off the glass surface will not interfere with the daily operations of air traffic controllers as well as planes that are approaching the runways.

HSBC Rain Vortex

The show-stopper at Jewel is probably its iconic indoor waterfall in the Shiseido Forest Valley. The HSBC Rain Vortex is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. At the apex of the glass roof is an oculus that channels water down 40 metres. Rainwater is funnelled into the waterfall and harvested for landscape irrigation systems. The waterfall lies within the “forest”.

Shiseido Forest Valley

Housing more than 2,000 trees and 10,000 shrubs sourced from several countries, the Shiseido Forest Valley is a lush terraced garden that offers walking trails, cascading waterfalls, and seating areas.

“Before they [the trees] were transported to Singapore, many of them had to be pruned to fit into containers for sea freight. Once they arrived in Singapore, they were nursed back to health at an off-site nursery and acclimatised to Singapore’s tropical weather. The procurement of the trees took approximately nine months and another two years were given for the trees to be nursed locally,” explained Jeremy Yeo, head of User Experience at Jewel Changi Airport Development Pte Ltd in the same press release.

Surrounding the garden is a retail marketplace across five levels, accessible through a series of vertical canyons while two nature trails meander through the garden with the rain vortex located in the heart of the valley.

This story first appeared in the pullout on June 21, 2019. You can access back issues here.

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