Moshe Safdie's huge greenhouse for
Singapore's Changi airport gets underway


News: work has begun on architect Moshe Safdie's Jewel Changi Airport, which aims to "reinvent what airports are all about" by creating a shared public space under a glass dome with a massive waterfall and garden at its centre.

Safdie Architects' 134,000-square-metre addition to Singapore's main airport will combine retail, leisure and entertainment facilities with gardens to create both a public space for local residents and a facility for passengers passing through the airport.

Changi Airport in Singapore by Safdie Architects

A 40-metre-tall waterfall – dubbed the Rain Vortex – will pour down from a round opening in the roof of the glass dome. It will be joined by an "indoor landscape" of trees and shrubs called Forest Valley, which includes walking trails for visitors.

Rainwater will be collected via the waterfall and reused in the building, and at night it will be the backdrop for a light and sound show that diners can watch from overlooking restaurant terraces.

Changi Airport in Singapore by Safdie Architects

"This project redefines and reinvents what airports are all about," said the Boston-based architect.

"The new paradigm represented by Jewel Changi Airport is to create a diverse and meaningful meeting place that serves as a gateway to the city and country, complementing commerce and services with attractions and gardens for passengers, airport employees, and the city at large."

Changi Airport in Singapore by Safdie Architects

"Our goal was to bring together the duality of a vibrant marketplace and a great urban park side-by-side in a singular and immersive experience," he added.

"The component of the traditional mall is combined with the experience of nature, culture, education, and recreation, aiming to provide an uplifting experience. By drawing both visitors and local residents alike, we aim to create a place where the people of Singapore interact with the people of the world."

Changi Airport in Singapore by Safdie Architects

The shape of the building is expected to serve a dual purpose – creating a natural focus point for the waterfall as well as providing structural strength to allow a more "delicate" latticework effect of glass panels framed in steel. Safdie conceived this aesthetic in "the tradition of glass conservatories".

Tree-like columns will be arranged in a ring around the edge of a roof garden, called the Canopy Park, to provide additional support for the roof. This space has been designed in collaboration with PWP Landscape Architecture.

"The suspended roof arches over the covered atrium, which is connected at multiple levels to the surrounding retail floors," explained the architect.

Changi Airport in Singapore by Safdie Architects

The route to the new building will be nestled behind the three terminals of the existing airport, which processes over 53 million passengers a year. It will connect to Terminal 1 with an expansion of the existing arrivals hall, and to Terminals 2 and 3 via new footbridges.

Work is due to complete on the project – Safdie's third airport building following Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel and Terminal 1 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto – at the end of 2018.

Singapore has become an increasingly important market for Safdie, who has been working in the city-state for more than two decades. The architect's Marina Bay Sands hotel development, which opened in 2011, has become an icon on Singapore's waterfront.

Changi Airport in Singapore by Safdie Architects
Site plan

Speaking to Dezeen at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore in October, Safdie said that Marina Bay Sands had opened up an eastern market for his firm, whose current projects include a 38-storey high-density housing project in Singapore called Sky Habitat and a 900,000 square metre development in Chongqing, China. "It's really put us on the map in Asia that's for sure," he said.

During his closing speech at WAF, Safdie called for a "reorientation" of the way cities are designed. He said that architects were obsessed with designing one-off towers in cities, creating disconnected urban environments and increasingly privatised public space, resulting in cities that are "not worthy of our civilisation".

"Most of the avant-garde in our profession today is preoccupied with fundamentally the object building," said Safdie. "The object building cannot make a city. Unless we resolve this paradox, we will continue to be producing urban places which are disjointed and disconnected and not worthy of our civilisation."

Changi Airport in Singapore by Safdie Architects
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  • Wadoyano

    This looks a WHOLE LOT like Foster and Partners new competition-winning Mexico Airport, which they won a few months ago.

    • Kan

      Except that this isn’t exactly an airport terminal, but an entertainment, leisure and recreation complex to compliment the existing terminals.

      In any case, don’t most structures made out of glass and steel look more or less the same at the end of the day? I feel it’s how the building is efficiently used and connected that makes it unique.

      Cheers! :)

  • Jonathan Tuffin

    Just another Singapore mall. The indoor waterfall looks exactly the same as the one at Marina Bay Sands, which was also Safde’s. And is also just another Singapore mall. Singapore was malled-out a long time ago, but they just keep on building more.

  • gctyx0

    King’s Cross with an anus.

  • Rafel

    It makes me smile to see these indoor gardens. Of course, you need a building to put them inside. So, if the building was not there, we would have a better, more natural garden, OUTSIDE.

  • Marcus Des

    “This project redefines and reinvents what airports are all about.” I don’t see that here. What I do see is the experience economy projected on an airport.

    People making money from travelers who have to wait before or in between flights and travelers being able to pass the time in an interesting environment.

    Nothing wrong with that, but not world-changing or very interesting either.

    • Tim_

      It is close though. Wouldn’t it be great to start incorporating actual outdoor space into airports? When you are stuck there for hours it would be nice to sometimes go outside. It’s a step in the right direction at least.

  • Daniel Moore

    I know Safdie can do better than donut / Chinese-bun inpired architecture. I wonder why.

  • Riccardo Pusceddu

    Finally someone with new ideas and something to remember of a city. I really don’t understand what’s wrong in making a nice innovative building, especially when the rest of the city is dull and uninteresting (not the case of Singapore to be sure!).

    As soon as someone makes a breakthrough as in this case, they are blamed to be too nice and prevent people to see the rest of the city! Nice is nice, full stop.

    Instead of opposing such buildings, why not to try to make more so people would be tempted to see more of the city?

  • This is the Tropics

    It’s a great idea to allow people to shop within nature. It really does breaks down the scale of a mall from within.

    However, I question as to why do we need a conservatory or greenhouse to house tropical plants when in a tropical climate?

    Unless of course, if we are housing tropical plants from the mountainous regions where they would require the exact cool and extremely humid micro climate, which does not create the most comfortable shopping experience.

    Take a look at Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay. Do I see raintrees at the top floor, they naturally grow up to 5-6 storeys.