The British gifted Singapore with gardens. The highly dense City-State made a commitment to create a sustainable balance between the demands of growth and the greening of its environment. The design of the Green Tapestry at Terminal . Changi Airport Singapore, was to create living spaces without borders between buildings and garden, architecture and landscape by combining building technology and a living green “veil”. From a garden city concept, Singapore became the City in a Garden.
Singapores Changi Airport, Perennially acclaimed the best in the world, opened Terminal 3 in 2008 with intent on raising the bar for excellence in airport design. Tierra Designs landscape concept uses large-scale planting features to structure the terminals cavernous volume in order to connect its interior spaces with the surrounding landscape, and to capture the essence of an asian rainforest. A living tapestry 14 meter high and 300 meter long was conceived woven into its fabric by lianas and epiphytes set against the large and long granite-clad dividing wall separating landside from airside areas. this space was further augmented with islands of mature Livistonia Chinensis fan palms and masses of ground covers to further divide the area into its operational space for luggage retrieval. The landscape thus provides defining architectural features which create optimal volumes for handling complex functions and groups of hundreds of people at a time.
Opportunities for significant landscapes within buildings are rare. It is even more rare to find one in such an immense scale. The project took 8 years to complete and now stands as a testament to singapores commitment to excellence in design and its city in a garden vision.
The project began as a limited design competition in February 2000 and, as the overall planning and design for Terminal 3 was still at a very preliminary stage, it was possible to take a holistic design approach to integrate and blend the building design, the interior design, and the landscape design seamlessly together.
This vertical garden is the most distinctive feature of the new terminal, spanning 300-meter in length and incorporating four water features. The cantilevered I-beam and stainless steel cable structure are covered with vines, creepers and epiphytes. Passengers moving through this area can enjoy the suspended vertical garden from both the departure and arrival areas. The green tapestry was designed to create synergistic spaces between architecture and landscape, between spaces for habitation and environment – since these elements certainly exist simultaneously and are inextricably interconnected. The goal was to combine landscape elements with building technology to create a new type of environment – an architectural landscape.
The monumental living tapestry exhibits the richness, diversity and character of the southeast Asian Equatorial Rain Forest. Its bold, dominant form creates a powerful identity for the terminals cavernous space. At the arrival level the green tapestry is suspended over the voluminous space, which soars 10 stories to the skylighted roof. Bathed in diffused, natural light from “butterfly-winged” skylights, it is a spectacularly dramatic architectural statement.
The unique characteristic of tropical rainforest plants inspired the selection of the more than 10,000 plants of the vertical garden. In the rainforest, vines and epiphytes successfully complete for growing space by lifting themselves off the ground with the help of tall trees, volunteering themselves onto wet bark of living trees. In this manner they are able to avoid competition on the ground and use the structure of larger plants to reach further into the rainforest canopy to gather light for life-sustaining photosynthesis. The design maximizes planting space in order to introduce more greenery, warmth and softness to the predominately stone, glass and steel structure of this mega-structure. It achieves this without losing valuable floor space.
There are many vertical green walls and other significant landscape projects around the world, but the Green Tapestry designed for Terminal 3 in unique since the airport is operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It had to be designed to be maintained easily. The plants are grown on stainless steel cables secured to the steel infrastructure system and each cable is removable if there is a need to replace plants individually.
The Terminals landscape is bold and dramatic, but also quiet, elegant, and sensitive to the needs of the often stressed traveler. Avoiding fussy or decorative effects, the design enhances the architecture, contributing scale, texture, color, and variety, and demonstrates what architectural landscape can do to humanize and balance the environment of a complex building of enormous size.
Like any garden, it will mature and evolve in response to the care that it is given. In future it will not be the same as it is today. The vertical garden will be an ever changing tapestry of living texture-a demonstration of dynamic Landscape Architecture.