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Did the World’s Best Airport Steal Its Design?

Did the World’s Best Airport Steal Its Design?
Jennifer Billock

Jewel–with its huge waterfall vortex and indoor gardens– is the gem of Changi Airport in Singapore, and one of the reason’s it’s been voted The Most Beautiful Airport in the World for seven years running. But the Jewel is also the subject of some controversy on behalf of the Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who says the idea for Jewel was ripped off from Hamad International Airport’s design ideas in Doha, Qatar.

In October, Qatar’s Hamad International Airport in Doha unveiled its plans for the next part of its expansion, expected to be completed in 2022. Almost immediately, there was some speculation about one part of the airport—and a subtle accusation that Changi Airport in Singapore stole some ideas.

The Jewel of Hamad International

Two Airports, Two Gardens, Two Waterfalls

Jewel, the gem of Changi Airport, is a massive indoor garden feature with a huge waterfall vortex. The grand opening was in October. Yet when Hamad International Airport unveiled its expansion plans four days later, it also featured a massive indoor garden with a huge water feature. And the two look mighty similar.

During the unveiling of the plans, accusations began to fly. Namely, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker subtly said Changi stole the design.

“Somebody copied our design, which was already on the table six years ago,” Al Baker, also CEO of Hamad International Airport, told Executive Traveller. “We had individuals from that country, I will not name it, who took that and did it (themselves).”

Even though he didn’t say it directly, the remarks were obviously directed at Changi Airport and Jewel, because the two designs look so much alike.


Jewel Changi Airport Copycat 2

The Jewel of Changi Airport

Changi Airport’s Response

Executives at Changi Airport, of course, deny that any idea stealing happened.

“We value the originality and creativity of ideas as we innovate to elevate the Changi experience for all our visitors,” Changi Airport Group’s CEO Lee Seow Hiang told The Straits Times. “We respect intellectual property rights and expect the same of all our partners.”

Lee also said that the competition to get plans for Jewel first started in July 2012, and that the architects that won, Safdie Architects, had never done any work in Qatar. He did say, though, that the architectural firm has been considering gardens and indoor water features in its designs for quite some time, and has already used them in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands.

According to the Independent, Lee put a stop to the rumors with one snarky quote: “We are delighted that Jewel’s uniqueness and originality has been well-recognised by the international community and resulted in many wanting to emulate it.”

View Comments (2)


  1. strickerj

    February 14, 2020 at 8:11 am

    Wait… Qatar showed their concept after Singapore’s was already open, and they say Singapore copied them? They claim their idea dates back 6 years, but can they prove it, and also prove that someone with a connection to Singapore’s airport had seen it? If not, then this is just the usual hot air from Al Baker.

  2. anaidross

    February 21, 2020 at 2:58 am

    Bacl to the Future…2020

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