Singapore Changi Airport Terminal One (Departure Hall) is a design nightmare

Kinetic rain, picture courtesy Singapore Changi Airport

I was keen to indulge in the S$50m (US$40m) Changi Airport Terminal One makeover but was sadly disappointed when I visited the departure terminal. Perhaps I had expected too much after all the hype about its new look and its highlight feature, Kinetic rain. Sure, it’s a matter of personal taste and opinion, but being familiar with the old Terminal One and while I felt it was time for an update, I missed the grandeur that was once the pride of Changi when it first opened in 1981.

The terminal has become smaller with the extension of the upper floor to accommodate more commercial space, with stairways leading outward into the main floor space instead of their erstwhile neat construction against the wall. Everything suddenly seemed so much bigger in the reduced space, especially the customer service counter in the middle of the hall. The impression is aggravated by the additional permanent dividers for lines at the counters. Even the kinetic rain feature seems too heavy and large for the space.

The terminal is one loud, uncomfortable bang in its scheme of multi-colours that clash rather than complement. The glossy vermilion back wall screams for attention. The whole place looks like one over-painted dame with purple counters and brown carpets with designs among other colours. Clearly, whoever decides on its décor wants everything but nothing in focus. It is one big splash of rojak – a favourite local salad dish of Singaporeans.

If the kinetic rain is a feature to behold, such a scheme does it little justice. There is too much distraction. The display of large signboards bearing names of restaurants on the upper floor and advertisements such as one that screams “breakfast for only $8” cheapens the airport’s image, reducing it to a second rate shopping complex. Even first class shopping malls know how to induce that touch of class and finesse, that same subtlety of how the names of restaurants were displayed in the old terminal, more for direction than advertisement.

Of course, there is nothing you can do nothing about the logos of airlines but there should be consistency of size with a neutral backdrop that would suit any one of them. It seems there is now a renewed freedom among the airlines to outshout each other

The designers have certainly outdone themselves in trying to do too much! When it comes time to give Terminal Two a facelift, hopefully the more spacious feel does not give way to a similar crammed design and layout. For now, maybe something can be done about rearranging the flower décor at the foot of the stairs that lead up to the restaurants on the second level. It looks too much like some kind of memorial!

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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