Airport of (our) future?

Emulating Singapore’s Terminal 4 at home

pic by AFP

IN THE film “Terminal”, Viktor Navorski played by Tom Hanks survives for about nine months at New York’s John F Kennedy Airport. Imagine if the character is stranded at the Singapore’s brand new Changi Airport Terminal 4 (T4).

In fact, he might just last longer as the spanking new facility seems to have just about anything that could keep anyone occupied — if he is not caught that is. Alas, the island republic is very much known for having among the tightest security in the world.

Nevertheless, any first-timer at Changi Airport would tell you that the whole place is awe-inspiring, especially if you have to fly out of or into T4.

Sitting on the former Changi Airport Budget Terminal, T4 has certainly outdone the three older terminals at the world’s sixth busiest airport (for international traffic), in terms of design and technology-driven innovations.

If you ask any frequent traveller, they might agree that T4 presents sights that not many airports have.

This S$985 million (RM2.97 billion) terminal has many great stories to tell and we are talking about more than just the aesthetics.

The centre of all these is the green concept, as well as the republic’s heritage and culture.

As you walk into the terminal building, it may be impossible to not notice a giant kinetic sculpture called Petalclouds hanging right smack in the middle of Central Galleria.

Suspended across 200m on a 25m high ceiling, the majestic installation art comprises six structures that might enthral you. Its movements are synchronised with animated lighting and music, presenting a seamless amalgamation of art, music and science.

Since the terminal is a two-storey building, this captivating sculpture can be viewed from the Departure Check-in Hall, Departure Transit Hall and Arrival Hall to the sound of classical music.

In fact, enjoying the sight of Petalclouds can make any traveller forget that they are on transit or had endured a long-haul flight.

Complementing the moving art sculpture is orchid petal. The motif, which drew inspiration from the nation’s signature orchid, can be found throughout the architecture and interior design of the terminal — from the skylights to the carpets, marble flooring and even dustbins.

Looks are not all though. Clearing Immigration is another experience that you would appreciate most.

The self-service automated immigration gates are not just for Singaporeans, permanent residents, long-term pass holders, registered travellers and those aged above six. In fact, all foreigners can use the automated gates.

All you need to do is scan your passport, boarding pass, go through a quick face check, pass the first gate that opens, offer up your thumbprint and pass the second little gate before you can turn around and wave goodbye to the people sending you off.

You don’t really see long lines at the immigration counters as the officers or auxiliary police personnel would gladly direct you to the automated gates.

Since local heritage and culture are among the key elements that the airport management wanted to highlight, T4 showcases a heritage zone in the departure transit area to provide travellers an idea of how Singapore looked like between the 1880s and the 1950s.

The look and feel depicts Peranakan architecture, which was predominant in areas like Katong and Chinatown.

The architecture starts off with the Baroque design found from 1880 to 1900, moves on to the Rococo Style from 1910 to 1920, and to the Peranakan style in the 20s and 30s, before finally winding up with the 1950s Modern decor style.

Here, visitors will be able to view a mini-theatre show displayed on the facade, where an LED screen transforms two shophouse bays into a digital theatre stage.

The six-minute multimedia show, dubbed “Peranakan Love Story”, depicting the love story between two young adults set in 1930s Singapore, is a non-conversational musical that is screened on a daily basis.

Another interesting feature at this terminal is the intelligent cleaning robot. Although some may find it tacky, many travellers are hooked to this machine, which is dressed like Changi Airport’s cleaning staff.

The robot is capable of making a 180-degree turn and scanning obstacles that block its way.

As Changi Airport is known for its green concept, one may find that being in the terminal building is like setting foot in a lush garden. There are more than 160 real fig trees planted along the Avenue of Trees in the departure area.

In fact, according to an airport staff, there are more plants at T4 than the other 3 terminals combined.

Why are we discussing this, you might wonder? Well, treat this like a traveller’s wish for something similar that could actually be emulated here at home.


Rahman Daros is the supplement editor of The Malaysian Reserve.