Reimagining the Travel Experience With Biophilia in Singapore’s Changi Airport

Reimagining the Travel Experience With Biophilia in Singapore’s Changi Airport

BOIFFILS Architectures has unveiled its transformative redesign of Terminal 2 at Singapore’s Changi Airport, encapsulating the ‘Garden City’ ethos within a biophilic framework that aims to revolutionize airport design. Spanning 120,000 square meters over three levels, the five-year project redefines the terminal into a serene, nature-infused space. The renovation prioritizes passenger comfort and aesthetic pleasure, something typically missing from most airports today.

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An indoor space with ceiling decorations resembling an underwater scene, vertical gardens, and people walking and sitting around the area.

Founded in 1984 by Jacqueline and Henri Boiffils, BOIFFILS Architectures has long been synonymous with innovative design in the retail and hospitality sectors. Now led by their son Basile Boiffils, the firm has leveraged its extensive experience and artistic vision to create a new gateway to Singapore that marries the modern traveler’s needs with elements inspired by nature.

A modern indoor space with abundant plant life, water features, and a unique ceiling design resembling an underwater scene. People are walking and interacting in the area.

The family-run agency, now celebrating 40 years, has expanded its footprint across Asia under Basile’s leadership. Their foray into airport design at Changi Terminal 2 marks a significant evolution in their portfolio, which is filled with high-profile projects in Thailand, Malaysia, China, and India. This background provided a unique foundation for the complex task of transforming an existing terminal into an immersive, biophilic environment. BOIFFILS Architectures’ approach caught the eye of Changi Airport administrators by placing the traveler experience above mere logistical efficiency. The original terminal, built in the 1990s and renovated in 2003, prioritized function over form. In contrast, the new design integrates a series of sensory experiences aimed at reducing travel-related stress. Visual, auditory, and interactive elements punctuate the space, providing passengers with moments of calm and delight.

Indoor garden with tall cylindrical plant structures and a ceiling displaying a digital sky and foliage, reflecting off a central water feature.

A lush indoor garden with tall green plant structures and a blue lit ceiling in a modern building.

LED ceiling display depicting a whale swimming underwater among plants and foliage indoors.

A highlight of the redesign is the “Wonderfall” – a 14-meter-high digital waterfall that serves as a visual centerpiece in the Departure Hall. This installation, created in collaboration with multimedia studio Moment Factory, combines digital art with natural elements, providing a mesmerizing focal point for travelers. A second part of the collaboration with Moment Factory, the terminal includes a south garden with an LED ceiling that replicates real-time weather conditions, enhancing the sense of connection with the outdoors. Also, every 30 minutes the skylight mimics a rainstorm with the acrylic floor below giving the illusion that visitors are walking on the fallen water. Paired with the indoor garden are tropical sounds local to Singapore from a catalog of 100 recordings to create a truly immersive experience.

People gather in a spacious, modern lobby featuring a large, illuminated waterfall display. Some are taking photos, while others observe or walk by. The ceiling has a grid-like skylight structure.

Large indoor waterfall feature with surrounding greenery in a modern, well-lit space. People stand observing the installation. Light-colored walls and plants are part of the decor.

A person stands with a stroller on a winding path surrounded by tall greenery and plants indoors. Another person walks in the background on a colorful floor.

Large cylindrical structures covered in dense green foliage hang from the ceiling, mist being sprayed onto the plants. The background reveals a modern architectural setting with lights and a blue sky.

An indoor space with vertical gardens, red seating, and modern, curved architectural design elements.

Indoor garden with tall, vertical plant installations and various tropical plants under a glass ceiling, located in a modern, multi-level atrium. A glass railing separates the garden from the walkway.

The terminal’s three levels include Arrival and Departure halls and a mezzanine featuring food and beverage options. BOIFFILS Architectures’ design diverges from conventional airport aesthetics by incorporating lush vegetation, water features, and natural materials, creating an indoor landscape that blurs the lines between architecture and nature. The atmosphere aims to evoke emotions and stimulate the senses, transforming the airport into a place of comfort and relaxation, instead of stress and anxiety that travel usually brings.

A modern indoor space with a large circular opening in the ceiling, an escalator, and several people sitting at tables surrounded by greenery and plants.

Modern architectural interior with wooden ceiling slats, wide open space, indoor plants, seating areas, and wide windows. Person walking through the center of the image.

Spacious modern cafe with floor-to-ceiling windows, hanging plants, and various seating options, including colorful chairs and tables. People are dining and enjoying the bright, airy atmosphere.

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Indoor wall with vertical garden, modern hanging light fixtures, and greenery. Visible signage for Hard Rock Cafe. Bright, spacious interior with natural light.

A modern airport terminal with a high ceiling and curved designs, featuring self-service kiosks in the foreground and large digital screens displaying flight information in the background.

The terminal now features vegetated columns, vibrant carpeting, and a check-in experience akin to a luxury hotel, complete with personalized service and an open, panoramic layout. In lieu of the traditionally linear check-in counters, an open floor plan allows for automated kiosks and baggage drop belts to be grouped into more convenient islands. “Travel in the 21st century is filled with stressful moments – from check-in, to security lines, and immigration – and we wanted to provide extensive transparency to enable views of the steps ahead as a way of reducing anxiety derived from the unknown and unfamiliarity with the airport,” explains Basile Boiffils.

A modern airport check-in area with self-service kiosks, numbered 1 through 6, featuring white counters and a backdrop of a wall with plants and an artistic display.

A modern airport terminal with check-in counters, large windows, digital screens, and blue and orange patterned floor. People are visible in the distance.

The project has achieved the prestigious Platinum rating under Singapore’s Green Mark Certification Scheme, reflecting its commitment to environmental sustainability. The use of artisanal materials and engagement with craftsmen from small firms further underscores the human-centric approach of BOIFFILS Architectures. The terminal features custom-designed elements from across the globe, including Spanish flooring, Italian lighting, French stucco, and Czech chandeliers, all contributing to a unique and cohesive design language. “The client was very pleased to have these elements custom-designed exclusively for their project,” says Jacqueline Boiffils. “They particularly appreciated the tours of the artisan workshops we arranged for them, and this process became a very important aspect of strengthening our relationships.”

Spacious, modern airport terminal with high glass ceilings, natural light, indoor plants, and a few people walking. The departure area is visible with a kiosk and seating nearby.

A spacious airport lounge with modern seating and a unique ceiling design, where travelers are seated and waiting.

Spacious modern airport terminal with curved glass walls, seating areas, and ceiling lighting. People are seated on cushioned chairs while others walk through the terminal.

Modern airport baggage claim area with circular ceiling design and carousel number 37 in the center.

Despite the challenges posed by a two-year closure during the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was completed ahead of schedule, officially opening in phases throughout 2022 and culminating in a grand unveiling on November 1, 2023. The collaborative effort between BOIFFILS Architectures and the Changi Airport Group has resulted in a terminal that not only sets a new benchmark for airport design but also creates a tranquil and engaging environment for travelers.

A modern public restroom features a curved vanity with multiple mirrors and sinks, illuminated by ambient lighting. The walls display a serene nature-themed design with frosted glass panels.

Modern bathroom with a curved sink counter, illuminated mirrors, and frosted glass panels featuring leaf patterns.

A spacious and modern airport terminal with an "Immigration" sign, numerous people walking, natural light from a skylight, and verdant wall decorations.

Photography by Fabian Ong for Changi Airport Group, courtesy of v2com.

Source: design-milk

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