Airports for people: The Jewel in the crown of Benoy’s aviation offer


Contact Terence Seah, 董事, 新加坡

Airports have always been busy places. But more so now than ever before. In recent years, annual growth in air traffic passenger demand has increased significantly, from 2.4% in 2008 to 7.5% in 2017, with total global passenger numbers expected to rise from 7.7 billion in 2016 to 10.7 billion in 2022.

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'It is a wholly unique airport environment, whose modernity and vibrancy enhance the travel experience to create an iconic, world-class lifestyle destination.'

Terence Seah, Director, Head of Singapore Studio

To accommodate this shift, Benoy is helping to redesign and expand major international airports to put passengers at the heart of a new pre- and post-flight experience. Most recently, in April 2019 Benoy celebrated the opening of Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore to the general public and passengers. Setting new standards in experience-led design, the development showcases Benoy’s unrivalled expertise in delivering innovative airport interiors that promote community, commerce and entertainment. 

A 137,000m2 retail, hospitality and leisure space, Jewel acts as a central hub connecting three of Changi Airport’s four terminals. Benoy’s design offers multiple interfaces between aviation and retail facilities, while enabling visitors to experience the vast open space and natural light offered by the Forest Valley at Jewel’s core. It is a wholly unique airport environment, whose modernity and vibrancy enhance the travel experience to create an iconic, world-class lifestyle destination.

Reflecting on Benoy’s work, which was delivered in collaboration with Safdie Architects, Director and Head of Singapore Studio, Terence Seah, explains:​“We’ve created a dynamic environment that becomes a unique place for travellers and residents alike. This addresses the important question of placemaking in the aviation context.”

The passenger is king

The modernisation of Changi Airport reflects a growing trend in Asia and the East, where airports are evolving fast to meet increased passenger demand. At the forefront of these developments, Benoy’s approach is grounded in a design ethos and capability it calls​‘airports for people’. It is an experience-led approach which incorporates Benoy’s history and expertise in retail, public spaces and consumer-centric design. Its central aim is to help optimise airport capacity, improve the passenger experience and increase commercial revenue.

Airports for people’ encompasses a range of major disciplines, such as commercial masterplanning, terminal design and airport repositioning, alongside more nuanced specialisms such as biophilia, wellness and digital relationships. In all areas, this work is underpinned by rigorous data analysis which provides a deep understanding of passenger demographics. Terence Seah explains:

‘Airports for people’ is aligned to the reality of the modern airport experience. The passenger has become increasingly important in terms of time spent in airport terminals. In fact, today the passenger is king. In our approach, we conduct detailed reviews of the passenger journey to ensure our designs are calibrated to passenger profiles, needs and expectations. As passengers move through an airport towards departure, we aim to minimise stress, maximise comfort and convenience, while increasing dwell time and, therefore, spend.”

No longer the utilitarian places they once were, whereby people arrived, boarded a plane and departed, the best new airports are built around an expanded passenger experience which offers a greater variety of retail, pop-up, F&B and leisure options. As Seah observes:

In the last five or six years, airports have become destinations in their own right. People are wanting and expecting more. By offering diversity and quality in retail and food, for example, we’re responding directly to passenger demand. We’re also creating a holistic passenger experience which considers key transition areas, circulation routes and wayfinding, looking for opportunities to strengthen brand representation and deliver commercial value to our stakeholders.”

Future-proofed and profitable

With the launch of Changi Jewel, Benoy has reconfirmed its market-leading credentials in airport design. Jewel also complements an expanding aviation portfolio in Singapore, where Benoy designed Changi Airport’s Terminal 4.

Conceived and managed by Benoy from start to finish, Changi T4 redefined the travel experience for passengers through visual transparency and the introduction of innovative Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) initiatives. The work encompassed over 80 retail stores and restaurants, a 300-metre central galleria, and Changi Airport’s first ever walkthrough retail experience.

Critically, Changi T4 successfully reimagined the boundaries between the airport and its city context, reflecting the essence of Singapore in its design. As such, it set a benchmark for modern airport development. These achievements were recognised by a number of awards, including a Prix Versailles and Singapore Good Design Mark. Following the opening of Changi T4, Changi Airport also went on to win SKYTRAX World’s Best Airport 2018, one of the highest recognitions in the industry.

Through​‘airports for people’, Benoy will continue to push the boundaries of airport design, creating airport solutions that are passenger-focused, future-proofed and profitable. Aiming to extend its current work at Heathrow, Manchester, HKIA and Copenhagen Benoy is also collaborating with partners to accelerate innovation in the US market. From its LA studio, for example, the company’s US team have worked on the commercial interior of a new terminal at JFK. And looking ahead, it will be drawing on Benoy’s experience from over 70 years of heritage in designing places for people, to expand its US portfolio.

As Terence Seah concludes:​“Our success with Jewel and Changi Airport more broadly demonstrates the strength and depth of our offer. Benoy is uniquely placed in the aviation sector to make airport spaces more personal, pleasurable and commercially viable.”