The Making of a Jewel

Jewel Changi Airport Singapore

Jewel Changi Airport is a nature-themed lifestyle destination inspired by Singapore’s vision to be a ‘city in a garden’. Enclosed in an ovoid gridshell constructed from steel and glass, it is home to a lush indoor forest planted with over 2,500 trees and around 100,000 shrubs, luxury shopping, dining and hotel facilities, a garden and, of course, the spectacular Rain Vortex.  This awe-inspiring 40-metre-high indoor waterfall is the largest in the world and can channel 10,000 gallons of harvested rainwater every minute.

‘Project Jewel’ was designed by a consortium of internationally renowned architects, including world-class global engineering and consultancy practice BuroHappold. We asked Karl Lyndon, Global Aviation Sector Leader based at the company’s Bath office, to tell us more. 

Jewel Changi Airport Singapore

Jewel Changi Airport, image courtesy BruoHappold

ECT: What was BuroHappold’s role in the creation of Jewel Changi Airport?

KL: We were the structural and façade engineers on the steel roof grisdshell which encloses the building, as well as the cladding. The innovative glass and steel roof structure spans more than 200 meters at its widest point, with only intermittent supports in the garden – the result is an interior that is almost column free. The 6,000-ton cover is made up of 9,304 dimensionally unique, triangular glass roof panels.

ECT: What were the biggest challenges of engineering a structure of this complexity?

KL: The multitude of design parameters that had to be considered in order to design it. Not just structural engineering, but also the geometrical definition of the form, the procurement of the pieces that make up the gridshell and the environmental performance of the roof. And then we had to make sure that it was all constructed properly!

ECT: The Rain Vortex is the centre piece – what was the inspiration behind it?

KL: It is part of Safdie Architects’ [the Practice which led the project] vision to create a garden in the city. The Rain Vortex represents a focal point of the roof that draws the eye, as well as people, to the centre. We had to ensure that the construction tolerance placed the lip of waterfall at precisely the right elevation to guarantee the proper flow of water to create the artistry of the fall.

Rain Vortex Jewel Changi Airport

Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi Airport, image courtesy BuroHappold

ECT: How does Jewel Changi Airport contribute to Singapore’s ambition to be a green city?

KL: Jewel demonstrates the value of providing people with access to nature and recreation as part of the quality of life in a modern city. It provides an area open to all visitors to freely enjoy.

ECT: What does such ground-breaking and beautiful contemporary architecture bring to the city?

KL: The building represents a new typology into what an airport can be and a look forward at a new type of urbanism.

Rain Vortex Jewel Changi Airport
Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi Airport, image courtesy BuroHappold

Why not join one of our fabulous Singapore programmes in 2024 and 2025 and experience Jewel Changi Airport for yourself?