By Clair Hurford
Architect Moshe Safdie’s new garden airport is a ‘microcosm of a city upon itself.’
Ahead of last week’s launch of Jewel, Singapore’s Changi airport had already been voted ‘world’s best airport’ by Skytrax for the seventh consecutive year since 2012.
The series of green spaces within Changi, including an Orchid Garden, Koi Pond and spectacular, recently refreshed five-storey high vertical garden in Terminal 3, mirror the Airport’s desire to reflect Singapore’s reputation as a ‘City in a Garden’, giving the more than 20 million tourists just transiting through a little taste of what they’re missing.
Jewel takes all of that to another level. A mixed-use, ‘lifestyle destination’ with more than 280 shops and food and beverage offerings, it is the gardens that ‘are key features in positioning the development as a strong tourism product and a one-of-its-kind, multi-dimensional destination that will enhance Changi Airport’s reputation’ says Mr Jeremy Yeo, head of user experience at Jewel Changi Airport.
Speaking to media ahead of its launch, Canadian-Israeli architect Moshe Safdie said his vision was for a ‘mystical, paradise garden…that is a place of serenity and repose.’
It was critical that the building be balanced for ‘plants and people, within sustainable standards’ which meant needing to allow enough sunlight to keep the trees growing but at a comfortable 24 degrees Celsius.
‘Only plants that survive in such conditions were chosen’ says Mr Safdie
At the heart of the building is the spectacular HSBC Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Capitalising on Singapore’s frequent thunderstorms, the Rain Vortex funnels the water at a rate of 10,000 gallons per minute, naturally cooling the air. The stormwater is collected for the landscape irrigation system.
Visitors can take a gentle hike in the surrounding Shiseido Forest Valley, which uses shade-tolerant shrubs similar to understory plants in a real forest. Forest Valley also incorporates cascading waterfalls and mist clouds as well as shopping and dining, allowing visitors to enjoy their meal amidst the forest.
Three types of trees – Terminalia, native to Madagascar; Agathis Borneensis, native to Malaysia and Indonesia and Agathis Robusta – native to Australia feature in Forest Valley, according to PWP Landscape Architecture, the American firm working with Safdie Architects.
Jewel houses more than 2,000 trees and palms and over 100,000 shrubs making it one of the largest collections of plants in the country.
The plants were chose on their ability to ‘thrive within the complex’ says Mr Yeo, in consideration of its light levels, temperature and humidity conditions.
‘Before they were transported to Singapore, many of the trees had to be pruned to fit into containers for sea freight’ says Mr Yeo. 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. This process was critical in ensuring that the plants flourish in the climate within Jewel’s indoor environment.’