Changi Airport's newest "Jewel" will be designed by the man behind Singapore's other architectural gem, the iconic Marina Bay Sands.
World-renowned Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, 75, will lead a team to design a "stunning glass and steel facade that presents an impressive view of the complex - from both Airport Boulevard and the sky", said Changi Airport.
The multi-storey complex, which features a waterfall as high as five storeys within a lush indoor garden, will also be a hub connecting the airport's three main terminals by foot. Currently, the only way to get from Terminal 1 to T2 and T3 is by skytrain.
To be built by 2018 where T1's open-air carpark is now located, the project - currently codenamed Jewel - marks Changi's first build-and-manage partnership with a private firm.
The airport is in talks with CapitaMalls Asia to set up a joint-venture entity which will construct and run the new complex.
Changi Airport Group (CAG) will own a majority share, its spokesman Ivan Tan said, but did not divulge numbers. The cost for Jewel has not been finalised.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who spoke of the project during Sunday's National Day Rally, called it "something special".
But Jewel is not just about lush gardens, dining and shopping. It signifies yet another step by Changi Airport to cement its position as the region's preferred airport hub amid tough competition from rivals such as Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi.
Jewel, said CAG chief executive officer Lee Seow Hiang, is a product "that will swing travellers to choose Changi Airport, and Singapore". He added: "We must take deliberate steps to enhance Changi's attractiveness."
As part of the Jewel project, T1's arrival hall, baggage claim areas and taxi bays will be expanded, and handling capacity raised from 21 to 24 million passengers a year.
Changi can currently handle up to 66 million passengers a year, but this will increase to 85 million when the new Terminal 4 and T1 expansion are completed by 2018.
A fifth terminal will also be ready by the middle of the next decade, while Singapore is planning a third and fourth runway.
Other airports are also expanding.
Hong Kong wants a third runway and is boosting terminal capacity to handle about 100 million passengers a year by 2030. Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are planning to turn over 100 million passengers annually as well.
South Korea's Incheon Airport, too, is transforming itself into an "airport city", with recreational facilities such as a fashion complex, an amusement park and a concert hall that can seat 50,000.
Project Jewel will help keep Changi exciting, say observers.
UOB Kay Hian aviation expert K. Ajith said of the potential tie-up with CapitaMalls: "Since the complex is likely to have sizeable retail space, it makes sense for Changi to partner a firm that has good experience managing malls."
By splitting the cost, he added, the airport can also reserve funds for future infrastructure projects.