Changi Airport's new Terminal 4 has a high-tech claim to fame—it's the first among the terminals to offer end-to-end Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) for departing passengers, which means travellers can check themselves and their luggage in and go through customs all without needing staff to help them, thanks to the extensive use of technology such as facial recognition software.
But if the idea of a highly automated airport gives you some pause, the new terminal's visual elements seem designed to placate any fears about faceless technology unmediated by human touch.
Here are 10 things we like about T4's thoughtful design.
1. Petal Power
The petal motif (which also reminds us of the shape of a guitar pick) pops up everywhere in the terminal, from light fixtures to marble flooring and carpets. It's inspired by the orchid petal, a nice nod to Singapore's national flower.
2. Art That Moves
… both in motion and your heart (we'll get to that). T4 pegs itself as a theatre of experience, and the central character, a grand-scale kinetic sculpture, Petalclouds, hanging overhead the Central Galleria, demands your attention almost immediately when you step into the airport.
Visible from almost anywhere in the terminal, the installation by German design collective Art+Com moves gracefully in the light to a classical music soundtrack by award-winning Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds. Akin to clouds moving slowly in the sky, you will find yourself seduced by this work of art.
Meanwhile, Singaporean sculptor and Cultural Medallion recipient Chong Fah Cheong evokes pangs of nostalgia with his bronze sculpture, Hey, Ah Chek!, of a mother and son pair on a trishaw ride home from the market with baskets full of fresh produce—a scene out of 1950s Singapore. You are encouraged to get right in the action, step inside the trishaw and capture memories of yesteryear with a photo memento.
3. Instagram-worthy Corners
For the millenials, travelling is all about capturing those perfect images for social media, and they won't be disappointed by T4, which has smartly indicated where you can get the best shot of its hypnotic signature installation, Petalclouds.
We also think this swirly seating structure is going to show up on quite a few Instagram feeds.
4. Heritage Touches
Singapore’s rich Peranakan culture takes centre stage at the Heritage Zone in the departure transit area. Catch a glimpse of unique shophouse architecture from the 1880s to the 1950s, and its evolution from baroque and rococo, to Peranakan and modern deco. A whimsical surprise awaits—at specific intervals, two shopfront bays on the facade reveal a 6min “digital theatre” musical, Peranakan Love Story, by Singapore music icon Dick Lee. Gourmets will appreciate the local tastes offered by heritage brands such as Bengawan Solo and Eu Yan Sang.
Heritage touches can also be found in the most unlikely of places—the washrooms. First, you will be glad to know that in T4, they are located about 100m apart, so there’s always one within walking distance. But the washrooms worth making a detour to are the ones located at the Heritage Zone, which feature a British colonial-style design in its patterned floor tiles, wooden ceiling panels and pendant lampshades.
5. A Nod To Nature
Besides the petal motif, a lot of effort has obviously gone into making T4 feel organic. For example, butterflies flutter over fields of flowers on the home screen of the check-in terminals, which is a nice way to make the automated proccess feel more friendly.
The design of the check-in counters are also meant to evoke tree branches.
6. Actual Nature
Nothing beats the real thing, of course, and T4 has its bases covered there as well. There are 582,000 plants, trees and shubs from over 340 species across the terminal, including 186 large trees within the terminal itself. The tallest tree in T4 is an aralia tree in the Arrival Hall.
7. A Showroom Of Designer Chairs
And that looks like a piece from the divine Mad collection by Marcel Wanders.
8. Cartoon Heroes
Even the cleaning is somewhat automated in T4, and we think the design of this "Housekeeper" machine is just too cute. Fun fact: It wears the same uniform as its human counterparts. Bonus: It can sense if a human is walking its way and will pause in its cleaning duties to let you pass safely.
This blimp-like inflatable plane suspended from the ceiling in the check-in area is pretty cute too.
9. Stress Less
As much as we love travelling, airport stress is real. T4 seeks to soothe this anxiety with the immersive wall located overhead the central departure security screening area. The LED display screens the different faces of Singapore from lesser-known perspectives as well as Asean landmarks. There are 17 different content capsules but the whimsical animation featuring suitcases being screened before a flight definitely brought a smile to our faces.
10. Art, Art and More Art
It’s not a case of inception when you stumble across a set of sculptures, Travelling Family, at the departure transit area, as you are about to embark on your own family vacation. One of three physical sculptures at T4, the work by Swiss artist Kurt Metzler captures the excitement and energy of his own family passing through Changi Airport.
With this being an airport and all, the art depict a common theme of travel and aviation. For us, French artist Cedric Le Borgne’s 3D wire sculpture Les Oiseaux (The Birds), which spreads across the two-storeys of the terminal bid travellers farewell as a pair of birds soar through the skies at the departure hall, while their life-sized companion perched among a forest of greenery at the arrival hall "welcomes" you.
(Related: Changi Airport To Build New 'Canopy Park')