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Where is Airport Interior Design Headed? Find Out at Changi T4

In an environment of increasing automation, Benoy (working with SAA Architects) develops an assuring hospitality-driven experience at Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4.

Where is Airport Interior Design Headed? Find Out at Changi T4

Photography by Owen Raggett (courtesy of Benoy)


August 2nd, 2017

Preview tours of Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4 (T4) building have gotten underway prior to the start of operations later this year, and the visually connected, light-filled interior is revealing some of the key factors influencing airport design at the moment.

“Efficiency and productivity were key points for Changi Airport Group,” says Neil Kee, Divisional Director at Benoy, “and in some ways, T4 is acting as a test bed for T5.” In an environment of increasing automation, the interior design was conceived as a means of providing an assuring experience.

Benoy served as the Concept Designer, Interior Designer, and Wayfinding and Signage Designer for the 225,000sqm T4. The firm worked as part of a design consortium appointed by Changi Airport Group and lead by Executive Architect SAA Architects. Other consultants included AECOM (structural engineering), Beca (MEP and IT), IGnesis (fire engineering), Lichtvision (lighting) and ICN Design International (landscape).

The latest operational technologies were incorporated at the new T4. The seamless travel approach of Changi has been extended further than before with features such as fully automated check-ins and bag drops, and biometric face recognition. Says Kee, “This is the first time a terminal has allowed for fully automated check-in. At first, a hybrid check-in service will be offered, but it can be converted to a fully automated procedure in future.”

Central to Benoy’s approach was to create an environment that is at once efficient, welcoming and friendly – a destination that people enjoy using, not simply a piece of infrastructure. “The non-aviation-related revenue of airports is increasing year after year,” says Kee, “through the F&B and retail offerings of airports. We needed to move away from the idea of an airport as a process-driven operation, and toward the idea of the airport as a destination. Our mixed-use background sits well with where aviation is heading, and T4 is a step toward allowing your holiday to start before you reach your destination.”

Unique at T4 is the transparency of the space. Open, naturally lit spaces with soft landscaping (reinforcing Singapore’s ‘City in a Garden’ character) and easy wayfinding offer a continuous experience throughout the terminal – both airside and landside. The design enables departing passengers to stay in visual contact with their friends and family through a Central Galleria – a glazed open space that separates the airside and landside areas. But furthermore, passengers can see where they’re headed at all times. “This has a positive impact on passenger flow and reduces stress,” explains Kee.

The Benoy team devoted much thought to how passengers might be made to feel a greater sense of empowerment, which would bolster their confidence when using automated processing technology. Transparency and natural light (through skylights) are part of that. So too is a hospitality approach to interior design.

Certain touchpoints became critical and a great deal of attention was paid to materiality – soft furnishings, carpet and warm natural stone. Bespoke user-interface counters were developed, and media walls (displaying destination information as well as behind-the-scenes narratives) add to the sense that the passenger is being looked after.

Aromatics was another area of focus, feeding into the creation of an immersive experience. Benoy also identified the need for information nodes and passenger ambassadors, building on the concept of the concierge from the hospitality industry.

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