Singapore’s Changi Airport Group has refuted allegations by Qatar Airways that it copied the design of Hamad International Airport’s expansion, which bears a striking resemblance to Changi’s Jewel.
Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport CEO Akbar Al Baker, at a press conference in Doha last month unveiling the second expansion phase of the international airport, told the media: “When I show you the images later [of the planned expansion], you will realize that somebody copied our design, which was already on the table nearly six years ago … We had individuals from that country, I will not name it, that took our design and did it.”
Though he did not name Singapore as that country, it was clear he was referencing Changi’s Jewel, which opened in April this year, and Moshe Safdie, who led a consortium of architects to create Jewel.
A report by AirlineGeeks even quoted Al Baker as saying, “Without having to go to anybody’s jewel, you can sustain yourself in the jewel of my country. So you don’t have to carry your suitcases, put trolleys, go to immigration and customs, to enjoy anybody’s jewel. You can enjoy the jewel of Hamad International by being in the envelope — secure envelope — of an international airport.”
Responding to the plagiarism charges in Singapore’s main English newspaper The Straits Times, Changi Airport Group’s CEO Lee Seow Hiang did some math. He said the group did a competitive process in July 2012 — i.e. seven years ago — and the contract was eventually awarded in May 2013 to CapitaLand for the design conceptualized by Safdie Architects.
Safdie Architects also has never done any work in Qatar; “neither has Mr. Safdie ever visited the country,” said Lee.
Safdie couldn’t resist jibing back, saying in a statement that “we are delighted that Jewel’s uniqueness and originality has been well-recognized by the international community and resulted in many wanting to emulate it.”
“We have been pursuing the concept of gardens as a focal point for the public realm for many decades,” added the architect who has also explored the concept of harvesting the rain into internal rainfalls at Ben Gurion Airport (Israel) and designed the Marina Bay Sands Singapore.
“The success of these explorations have further inspired and led us to create a new icon in the Jewel that we see today — a new kind of urban place that celebrates the elements of nature and urban life.”
The consortium of architects that worked on Jewel included local firm RSP Architects Planners & Engineers, the executive architect and structural engineers; Peter Walker and Partners, the landscape architect who also worked with Safdie on the landscaping for Marina Bay Sands; and WET Design, which did the Rain Vortex.
Since opening, Jewel has attracted about 50 million visitors, according to Changi Airport Group. Located in front of Terminal 1 and easily accessible to both local public and passengers arriving or departing from the airport, it has become the airport’s anchor. It is not a new terminal but a 137,000 square-meter retail, dining, and leisure attraction.
Hamad International’s expansion, meanwhile, will have 11,720 square-meter of landscaped retail and food & beverage space, which will also house a world-class art collection and “refreshing environment of lush greenery with leisure attractions and facilities under one expansive terminal,” according to a statement.
There will be a 9,000 square-meter Al Mourjan lounge which will include additional spas, gymnasiums, restaurants and business centers as well as other passenger facilities, it added.
Construction is will start in early 2020 and will increase the airport’s capacity to more than 53 million passengers annually by 2022. A second phase, which will be completed after 2022, will further enhance the airport’s capacity to more than 60 million passengers annually.
“The expansion of Hamad International Airport is a vital part of the future success of the Qatar Airways Group, and of course of the country’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup and beyond,” Al Baker said in the statement.
Until then, passengers to Singapore can enjoy the only Jewel in the world.