Those over the top fountains, waterfalls and other grand features found at hotels, malls and parks are quite snazzy – and expensive. But are they making natural attractions seem boring? Here’s our story that appeared first on CNBC.
If you visit Las Vegas and make your way to the Fountains
of Bellagio, the Mirage volcano or any of the five curious and creative water features at
City Center, you’ll see great examples of natural elements being used to create
Each experience is part of a
portfolio of more than 200 unique installations around the world created by LA-based
WET, a design firm that has
been perfecting its techniques and pushing the boundaries of art, technology
and attraction for more than 35 years.
“We do one-off features with new
and unusual stuff that no one’s ever seen or done before,” said Jim Doyle,
WET’s director of Design Technology. And like the cauldron it created for the
2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and the showpiece it created for
the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in 2014, many of WET’s project are big
and boutique projects that people talk about, take pictures of and share on
Instagram and Facebook, said Doyle.
The 130-foot-tall Rain Vortex is the newest example of WET’s work. Now the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the Rain Vortex serves as the centerpiece of the Jewel shopping, dining and entertainment complex designed by Moshe Safde’s architecture firm for Singapore’s Changi Airport.
For Jewel, WET figured out how to create
and build a circular waterfall that drops seven stories from the roof of the
the first time something like this has appeared in the middle of a building,”
said Doyle, “There’s nothing in there that is standard.”
enough during the day, at night the rain vortex, plus some man-made fog,
creates a canvas for a first-of-its kind, 360-degree projected
WET’s water features aren’t just meant to be pretty, said Doyle, “They become works of art, but they are also serious investments put where they’ll capture attention. You’re not going to spend money on a water feature no one will see or that doesn’t have a reason for being there.”
In Dubai, where bigger is always
better, WET created the
Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest choreographed fountain.
Located next to
the Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest malls, and Burj Khalifa, the world’s
tallest building, the $240 million fountain project has jets that launch water
a record-setting 50 stories high, with more than 1,000 individually
“They needed something to give people a reason to come
back to the building and to the shops and the restaurants in the mall time and
time again,” said Doyle, “That required a very large performance feature we
could continually update so that people could walk out of the building, watch a
show or two, sit down for dinner, watch another show and then go back into the
mall and spend more money.”
Do high-tech attractions with natural elements make
“real” attractions seem boring?
While millions of travelers may flock to high-tech
attractions such as the dancing light and water fountains in Dubai and Las
Vegas, travel experts don’t seem to be worried that much-loved low-tech and
natural attractions will seem boring by comparison and become overlooked.
“There is manmade and
then there is manmade magnificent,” said Jean Newman Glock, managing director
“The pyramids of Giza are and will always be a destination that Las Vegas could
replicate but not replace. It’s the in-situ aspect – the desert that fills all
your senses with the heat and arid sands of the nearby Sahara – that the Luxor [hotel]
just can’t get quite right.”
Minnaert, a clinical associate
professor with the Tisch Center of Hospitality at New York University
who visited both Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon last year, agrees.
“A lot of things we
treasure as tourists, like Rome’s Trevi Fountain, are low-tech and man-made, said Minnaert, “And while sometimes people
travel purely for entertainment, those technologically-enhanced features that
may be spectacular and nice to look can sometimes turn people off because
they’re easily duplicated.”
High-tech attractions can
add flair and a sense of place to casinos, malls, hotels and spaces that
weren’t built to be authentic, said Minnaert. But natural attractions, such as
the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park, don’t need anything added. Those
places will never be boring, said Minnaert “And are beautiful as is.”
Jewel, the new over-the-top attraction at Changi Airport, hasn’t officially opened to the public. But thanks to ticketed previews for local residents and, of course, all the media reports, word has been getting around.
The venue is part mall, with 280 swank and unusual shops and restaurants, and part forest theme-park, with the world’s largest indoor waterfall right in the center.
The flow of the waterfall and the size of the droplets can be controlled. And somewhow each evening the water becomes a screen upon which two different 360-degree light & sound shows are projected each evening.
Take a look.
This video is courtesy of Changi Airport. I took a video too during one of the preview nights, but there were so many thousands of people and cameras in front of me that my version features the back of someone’s bald head.
Located right in front of Terminal 1, on space formerly occupied by a parking lot, the Jewel is a large dome-shaped structure with a lush “Forest Valley,” a Rain Vortex that’s now the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, a 130-cabin YotelAIR hotel and 280 shops and restaurants.
I was on-site today for the opening-day preview events. Here are some snaps from the day.
For starters, it is attached to Changi Airport. That makes the hotel a convenient and very welcoming place to land after, or before, a very long flight.
Amenities such as superb service, deep soaking tubs, an outdoor pool and some rooms with bonus views overlooking the runways are truly delightful.
I’ve just checked in for my second stay at the property. The welcoming vibe after a 17-hour journey is another reason why it is easy to understand how the hotel snags the Skytrax Best Airport Hotel in the World year after year.
Even better, the hotel’s USB press kit comes in the shape of an airplane! That garners the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport another award: Stuck at the Airport’s occasional award for “USB Press Kit of the Week.”