Summer is here and that means traveling through airports. According to Forbes, “This summer U.S. airlines are anticipating that a record 257.4 million will take to the skies between June 1 and August 31, up 3.4% compared to a year ago.” Airport construction projects continue to make headlines, but according to the New York Times, one in particular is shining as the “new jewel.” Singapore’s Changi Airport hopes to be a destination in itself and remove some of the stress that traveling can bring. The 10-story engineering marvel contains a forest, indoor waterfall, and more than 280 stores and restaurants. Magnificent Metal Monday takes a closer look at what it took to create this gem.

The centerpiece of the building is the Forest Valley with a terraced garden, and its heart is the Rain Vortex waterfall — the tallest in the world — that drops 130 feet from an oculus the size of a bus. The top floor, called Canopy Park, features bouncing and walking nets, a 165-foot sky bridge, two mazes (one with mirrors, the other hedges), a giant slide, and eight bars and restaurants. The exterior of the 10-story building, which was designed by the architect Moshe Safdie and built by CapitaLand, an Asian developer, is made of glass and crisscrossed with an aluminum-and-steel framework, allowing the entire interior to be bathed in natural light.

Changi’s Airport’s forest and Rain Vortex; photo credit – NY Times
Skytrain passengers travelling between Terminals 2 and 3 can enjoy a close-up view of the magnificent Rain Vortex; Photo credit:

The multi-floored Jewel, an asymmetrical toroid-shaped building between the airport’s existing terminals and the air-traffic control tower, opened on April 17 and is the result of four years of construction and $1.25 billion in investment. reports, “The glass bagel-shaped building is connected to the city’s transport systems and directly to airport terminal one, as well as terminals two and three via pedestrian bridges. It has five stories above ground and five more below. Fourteen tree-like columns and a ring beam support the domed roof, which is formed of a continuous grid shell supporting panes of high-performance glass. This glass is designed to maximise the light that reaches the building while preventing it from getting too hot inside, to ensure that the plants have the ideal conditions to grow in.”

The Airport’s Project Team reported that there were five notable feats that make this airport development a modern engineering marvel: 1) Jewel was built right in the heart of Changi without disrupting airport operations, 2) With a 5-story basement, Jewel required the deepest excavation work in the area, 3) Jewel was built around the existing Skytrain track, 4) Jewel looks like it defies gravity by having the roof façade of Jewel supported by a ring of 14 tree-like columns each measuring 12 metres and being column free on the interior, and 5) Underground vehicle access had to be built around vital airport operation service.

The roof façade of Jewel is supported by a ring of 14 tree-like columns each measuring 12 metres

The architect, Mr. Safdie commented in the the NY Times article, “Airports are places of anxiety, and I’d like people to be uplifted and serene and feel good about themselves.” The Jewel is “the first airport center that serves passengers, airport employees and the people of the city.”