Changi Airport’s crowning asset has drawn admiring crowds and fawning reviews. But its shininess belies the deeper challenges Singapore faces in remaining relevant as a regional hub for business and tourism.

SINGAPORE (Apr 22): By the time Jewel at Changi Airport officially opened for business on April 17, more than half a million people had streamed through its gleaming glass doors, eager to be among the first to experience it.

Much has been made of how the 1980s-era open air car park in front of Terminal 1 has been transformed, over seven years, into a glowing dome of delights. The superlatives are plenty: the world’s tallest indoor waterfall; the Sky Nets, which is the world’s first indoor attraction on such a scale; a mirror maze that is the first of its kind to be built indoors; and a world-class retail space. The architect, Moshe Safdie, spoke about having rejected “obvious ideas” in favour of a “great paradise and mystical garden” that would fit the concept of an airport as “a place of serenity and repose”.

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