After six years, the first phase of Safdie Architects’ monumental Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore will open to the public on April 17. That not only includes an indoor “rain forest” with walking trails, but also the world’s largest indoor waterfall.

The 1.4-million-square-foot doughnut-shaped building is a greenhouse ensconced within a steel diagrid frame engineered by BuroHappold. The five-story toroid stretches another five levels underground as well and is designed to connect the Changi Airport’s terminals 1, 2, and 3, and to public transit. Jewel was conceived of as an amenity hub for the airport and contains over 280 retail stores, galleries, and restaurants, a 130-room hotel, and operations space for the airport, including a lounge and check-in area.

To mitigate the noise from the aircraft taking off around it, the triangular window sections were installed with a .6-inch-thick air gap between the two glass panes.

An exterior photo of a greenhouse lit from within

The swirling exterior of the Jewel (Charu Kokate)

Jewel’s crowning feature is its seven-story indoor waterfall, the “Rain Vortex,” which dramatically pours down from a central oculus and into a circular catch below. The waterfall is, appropriately enough, fed by water collected during Singapore’s constant thunderstorms, and the recirculated rainwater diffuses throughout the Jewel to passively cool the interior.

All of that humidity also helps maintain the thousands of plants, including 2,000 trees, found within. Other than the Forest Valley, which includes terraced vegetation and “forest walks” around the waterfall, the 150,000-square-foot Canopy Park on the fifth floor further enhances then garden feel. Glass bottomed bridges, topiary mazes, sky nets (suspended net paths), mirrored “discovery slides” that will open on June 10, and a gathering space for up to 1,000 guests can all be found on the Jewel’s top floor.

Such an enormous undertaking was a collaborative effort, and Safdie led a multidisciplinary group of designers and engineers. Atelier Ten was responsible for the building’s climate control systems; Singapore’s RSP Architects Planners & Engineers was the project’s executive architect; the Berkeley, California-based Peter Walker and Partners was responsible for the landscape design and plant selection; and Los Angeles’s WET engineered the Rain Vortex and developed a 360-degree light and sound show to play against the waterfall at night.

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