Jewel Changi Airport

Frivolous fountains as entertainment, attraction and investment

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 over-the-top entertainment.

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.

Courtesy WET Design

“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.

Photo by Harriet Baskas

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 building.  

“It’s the first time something like this has appeared in the middle of a building,” said Doyle, “There’s nothing in there that is standard.”

Impressive 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 light-and-sound-show.

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.”

Courtesy WET Design

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 programmable elements.

“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 of Signature Travel Network, “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.”

Lynn 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.”

Closer look at Jewel Changi Airport

World’s tallest indoor waterfall at Jewel Changi Airport-photo Harriet Baskas

I’ve been in Singapore this week checking out – and experiencing – the new pre-security attraction at Changi Airport called ‘Jewel‘.

Housed inside a toroidal (doughnut-shaped) glass and steel structure designed by noted architect Moshe Safdie, the Jewel attraction sits next to Terminal 1 on a piece of land that once housed a parking lot.

Inside there’s a lush four-story tiered garden, more than 280 retail and dining outlets, a Yotel short-stay hotel, and a multi-screen IMAX theater. But the attraction’s centerpiece is without a doubt the 140-foot-tall Rain Vortex that is now the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

A few ticketed activities in Jewel’s ‘Forest Canopy’ will open in June, including a 164-foot-long glass-bottomed bridge, nets for bouncing and walking above the forest, mazes, topiary sculptures and more.

Shopping galore

In addition to global brands such as Adidas, Coach and Levi’s, Jewel’s many shopping venues include a good number of new-to-market shops.

There’s the first Pokémon Center outside of Japan, shops selling gift foods and plenty of Singapore brands, such as In Good Company (clothing) and Supermama (design and crafts items).

Gift by Changi Airport carries many specially-made Changi Airport-themed items, including the airport’s signature orchid, spice and plant-sourced scent and work by sought-out local artists.

From Shake Shack to fine dining

Dining options in Jewel Changi Airport range from fast-food to fine dining and include cuisines from Asian to Western. Singapore’s first Shake Shack (with unique to Singapore menu items) is here as are numerous cafes that offer ‘outdoor’ dining with a view of Jewel’s forest and waterfall.

Bonus amenities for travelers

Many passengers have long layovers at Changi Airport or have many hours to wait between hotel check-out time and late-night flights.

For those passengers Jewel has early check-in counters, bag storage facilities and a pay-per-use lounge.

But the best bonus amenity by far is the YotelAIR hotel.

The newest in the Yotel chain of “cozy” in-city and airport hotels, the YOTELAIR in the Jewel Changi Airport has 130 cabin-sized short-stay rooms.

Each room has its own shower and toilet, TV, WiFi and a space-saving ‘Smartbed’ that can change positions at the push of a button.

There’s a gym for guests, but during my four-hour stay I discovered that the best part of this YOTELAir is the patio that sits out front. It was a perfect, private spot to have a coffee, gather my thoughts, view the waterfall, the forest and all the shoppers going by.

Photo – Harreit Baskas

Opening rates at the YOTELAIR are S$140 (about $103 US) for overnight  stays in a Premium Queen Cabin and S$80 (about $59 US) for day stays of four hours. (Shower-only packages will be S$20 – about $15 US).

First look at Jewel Changi Airport attraction in Singapore

With a butterfly garden, pool, free movie theaters and much, much more, Singapore’s Changi Airport is all about the wow.

With the opening of the Jewel Changi Airport attraction, this award-winning airport is even more wow.

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.

More details about the attraction to come.