As fast-growing cities run out of land for traditional city parks, maybe there will be more places like Singapore’s newest green space. Forest Valley, filled with trees and plants and a giant rain-fed waterfall, is in the middle of Changi Airport, one of the largest airports in the world.
“We crave nature in these places,” says architect Moshe Safdie, who won a competition to design the space. “When you think of passengers, they’re locked up in an airport waiting to transfer, they’ve got hours there, what could be more wonderful than having a feeling of nature?”
Safdie proposed the idea when airport executives wanted to add some type of attraction to a new airport addition, which would also include a capsule hotel, retail stores, and restaurants.
“The attraction was not defined,” Safdie says. “One developer proposed a dinosaur park. I thought that anything thematic would be short-lived–people are going to get bored with them and they’re going to be replaced. But I thought that some sort of wondrous garden that draws on the whole tradition from mythical gardens would be timeless.”
The garden will be planted on a series of levels under a huge glass dome in the center of the airport. Periodically, the plants will be drenched in artificial rain. The lush, light-filled environment is designed to help passengers relax.
“It adds up that what we do for the plants is good for the people, and vice versa,” Safdie says. “To keep the plants thriving, we need to do certain things. Like we’ve got artificial rain created to keep the plants, and this has a climatic effect. We’re harvesting rainwater from the roof into the waterfall, and that’s cooling and airing the space.”
From inside the garden, the surrounding airport shops are hidden. “You can’t have a garden with storefronts and branding,” Safdie says. “I think there is a model here in terms of intense commercial activity … we spoke of the intense marketplace cohabiting with nature itself.”
The architect imagines that other cities could use similar projects to bring green space into the densest new developments. “I think of some of the mixed-use projects I’m involved in in China, where you’ve got massive multi-tower, mixed-use residential commercial, extraordinarily heavy populations, and if you could create as part of that complex kind of a real kind of space for nature,” he says.
“The modern mall is as far as I’m concerned, a pretty horrible place,” he adds. “It’s all about merchandising, indoor, and sealed. But you could add this component of an escape of nature. Normally in cities we did that in traditional parks. But in the densities we’re getting to in some of these cities, there isn’t the space for it.”
The new dome, covering 1.4 million square feet, will begin construction at the end of this year, and should be completed by the end of 2018.