Singapore’s newest airport terminal, ‘The Jewel’, began construction in late 2014, featuring a new carpark, a shopping mall, service facilities and the highlight of the entire structure, a bio-dome. Estimated to cost up to 1.8 million, ‘The Jewel’ will enable Changi airport to process up to 85 million passengers a year, a number worthy of creating more than a terminal, but instead an experience for locals and visitors alike. Project architect Moshe Safdie, summarises this experience in the following; 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. 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.
At the heart of this interaction (and attraction) lies the bio-dome, a forest enclosed within a glass and steel atrium that includes walking trails through the vegetation, terraced gardens stretching down 30 metres to a central amphitheatre that will also act as green walls to offset the overall emissions output, a 40 metre high waterfall that originates from collected rain water and is later dispersed throughout the building and a collection of tree like columns that will be arranged in a ring around the edge of a roof garden to provide additional support for the roof. Visitors to the airport will be able to commute between terminals via air-conditioned walkways and shop, explore, eat and drink in the 5-storeyed climate controlled retail and natural space by 2018. Like Gardens by the Bay, Singapore has envisioned ‘The Jewel’ as a space that showcases the pleasures of the tropical garden, a key element of Singapore’s identity renown globally.
However, in this context, the tropical can be experienced without the discomfort of heat, humidity and sweating. The advancement of technology has enabled the indoor and outdoor to merge - cooling techniques now enable people to experience the outdoors, once humid and hot, now in the comfort of air conditioning. This achievement has altered the way design is configured, especially in a tropical context, as instead of acting in response to the environment, the environment can now be altered to fit the design. Furthermore, it has changed people’s expectations of comfort, the air-conditioned interior now being the expected norm, and as a result this expectation has expanded to include once only outside domains such as gardens and transport centres. In this instance, ‘The Jewel’ most certainly encompasses both points, but has done so in a way that responds to the climate, the location and attempts to be environmentally sustainable – a feature easily overlooked when designing contemporary, air conditioned spaces. Modern design, thermal comfort expectations and commitment to sustainability are all shaping the future of Singapore architecture, ‘The Jewel’ being a prime example of how the customer has now adapted to expect consistent comfort, direct access to facilities and even the natural environment, all within the one space – a feat that no doubt will continue to develop in alignment with future technology.