Exploring Singapore’s Newest Treasure: Jewel Changi Airport

The Eye’s Mi Le Jang and Chloe Venn have teamed up again. This time around, the pair took the thirty-minute cab ride to Changi Airport to check out it’s newest, sparkling addition: Jewel. To see our experience exploring the technological wonderland, check out the video below.


A glimmering fusion of nature, retail, dining, and travel, the Jewel Changi Airport is Singapore’s brand new hot-spot. The magnificent steel and glass structure was designed by the same architects as the iconic Marina Bay Sands; construction began in 2014 and cost $1.7 billion to complete.

The building is a transit hub that connects the airport Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, but that’s not all: it connects the travel bustle with leisure, connects locals with visitors, and connects Singapore with the world.

After opening on April 17th, Jewel has been popular for Singaporeans, SAS students, and tourists just passing through. The mega-mall includes 300 stores and dining facilities, with everything from home furniture at MUJI to shoulder massages at Ning Spa. “I went with my family on opening weekend. It was very crowded, but still, we were amazed by everything: the waterfall, indoor forest, and shops, ” remarked senior Katya Attamimi.

But, what makes the Jewel truly a gem? How is it different from the other sleek glass buildings that are so common in Singapore? Let’s find out.

Jewel at Changi is around 134,000 m2, spanning 10 floors (five above-ground and five below). The structure is best classified as a torus, a donut shape that the lead architect Moshe Safdie based it upon. Safdie reportedly drew inspiration from the science-fiction landscape of the Avatar movie, which explains its other-worldly essence.

The most noticeable feature is the HSBC rain vortex: at 40 meters, it is the tallest indoor waterfall in the world. It is an oculus at the peak of the glass roof that showers water down consistently; during one of Singapore’s frequent rainstorms, natural rainwater will flow at more than 10,000 gallons per minute into the structure.

Another architectural marvel is the Forest valley, an indoor garden that blooms from the first floor to the top, and can be accessed through openings, called ‘vertical canyons’ on every floor of the mall. The lush, deep green flora is nothing short of beautiful, which boasts 120 plant species. Yet, only 5% of the garden is made up of native species, which is an unfortunate oversight of the landscapers. At the top is the Canopy park, where visitors can dine, relax, and find a spectacular viewpoint of the central waterfall.

According to Safdie, the design’s aims are to combine “the experience of nature, culture, education and recreation,” to “provide an uplifting experience” and “create a place where the people of Singapore interact with the people of the world.” Having visited myself, I believe it accomplishes this elegantly.

Nowhere else can you find a complex that has so effortlessly blended the public sphere with international air travel. It is linked to the airport’s taxi-stands, arrival hall, the link bridge, and of course, the monorail, which periodically zooms past the rushing waterfall.

First and foremost, the South East Asia outlet of Shake Shack, an American casual dining chain, has been a favorite of the SAS community. Senior Joon Choi visited the mall for the sole purpose of getting a mouthwatering burger: “we waited ninety minutes in line… the food was definitely worth it though.” If you’re craving the same, several students say the wait is shorter if you visit during off-times, like 3 pm.

Besides this, there are other intriguing things to do: visit the high-tech, two-story Nike store, test out the fun gadgets at Tokyu Hands, or wait in another ridiculously long line to eat at A&W diner.

When Mi Le and I visited for the first time, we spent almost two hours wandering around, because Jewel is truly that large. We were surprised to see the neon-purple sign of Yotel, the hip hotel chain, which is likely there to serve guests with layovers.

After we asked SAS students about Jewel’s best features, we found several common answers. Firstly, students appreciated the aesthetic of Jewel, which includes the lighting, music over the speakers, and even the bathrooms. Secondly, many were delighted by the abundance and variety of stores available, making it a perfect window-shopping location. Lastly, and most surprisingly, they found the mall to be quite comfortable.

Senior Valerie Darmawan visited with her extended family, and remarked that her cousins “played on the indoor playground,” while the adults “chatted at the restaurant,” but everyone had an equally enjoyable time viewing the rain vortex: “we went to Jewel for dinner, and at around 7:30 the waterfall began to glow different colors. Watching that was the highlight of the night, for sure.”

I’ve always thought that Singapore was one of the worst places to find a bench, settle down, and people-watch. However, something I immediately noticed about Jewel’s design was the effort in creating comfortable spaces to sit down. Personally, I know I will be visiting Jewel at Changi very frequently in the next few months.

Chloe admiring the HSBC rain vortex after first arriving.

While Mi Le and I were certainly amazed upon our first visit, not everyone felt the same way. Junior Kavin Kapoor said: “Although it’s cool, it is very similar to the Cloud Forest, or Marina Bay Sands. To be honest, I didn’t think it was very original. Besides the waterfall, it could’ve been any other mall.”

Furthermore, despite there being plenty of positive things to say about Jewel, some students have raised their concerns. “Personally, I worry about just how much electricity and water is being used to keep Jewel running. The air-conditioning was freezing, there were many different lights used for decorations, there were TV screens in the stores… for a space that huge, I know it means that a lot of electricity is being used up,” expressed Junior Tina Gupta.

We encourage all of our readers to visit and see it for themselves. Regardless of your impression of Jewel At Changi, you’ll know that you’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Author: Chloe Venn

Chloe Venn is a senior and Chief Media Editor of The Eye. She’s from California and South Africa, but was born and raised in Singapore. She enjoys all kinds of movies, loves rainstorms, and has a terrible taste in music. Filmmaking, writing and Mandarin are her favourite subjects. You can contact her at: venn19557@sas.edu.sg

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