Heritage

9 Iconic Spots At Changi Airport We Still Miss Today That Only The Lao Jiaos Will Remember

Changi Airport iconic spots from our childhood


If there’s something us Singaporeans are truly proud of, it’s Changi Airport. And we’re not the only ones who think it’s the best airport in the world, it’s officially clinched the title multiple times over the years. But even before the birth of high-tech Terminal 3 and Jewel Changi, the airport was already an icon with attractions and art installations dating back to its early days.

For those of us who grew up in the 90s, here are 9 Changi Airport iconic spots from its history that are sure to bring back fond memories and warm the cockles of our hearts:


1. Mylar Cords at Terminal 1



Image credit: Roots

Mylar Cords was the Rain Vortex of the 1980s. The water feature was located at Terminal 1 Departure Hall, and was a popular spot for travellers to snap photos with their loved ones before making their way to the departure gate. Fun fact – despite being commonly referred to as a waterfall, oil was actually used to create the effect on the cords. 

As a child who often visited the airport then, I would always stand near the poles to marvel at the display, which was made even more captivating by the lights at the bottom that would change colours.


Image credit: Changi Airport via Facebook

Fast forward to today, visitors can enjoy the mesmerising sight of another Changi Airport iconic spot – the Kinetic Rain instead, which moves on its own 24/7 and never fails to fascinate children and adults alike.

Present from: 1981-2012


2. The world time chart at Terminal 1



Image credit: Roots

In the pre-smartphone and internet era of the 1980s, access to information such as the time difference between countries was limited. That’s why the world time chart displayed at Terminal 1 was always a source of amazement for visitors. 


Hanging out with my sister at the world time chart.
Image credit: Pat Yuan Teng

People would often stop to examine the chart, trying to figure out the time difference between Singapore and other countries, or to determine the time of day in a particular place. As a child, I didn’t understand the significance of the information but was still fascinated by the flipping numbers and the technology behind it.

Present from: 1981-Unknown


3. Solari board at Terminal 2



Image credit: Changi Airport via Facebook

The Solari board was a beloved icon of Terminal 2. Unlike the rows of digital screens displaying flight information, the vintage flip board added a touch of nostalgia to the airport. It was also a popular backdrop for travellers to take photos and post a check-in on their Facebook, subtly flexing that they were going on a vacation.


Celebratory homecoming for Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist in 2016, Joseph Schooling, greeted by the iconic Solari board.
Image credit: Changi Airport Group

One of the most unique aspects of the Solari board was the clacking sound it made with every update, which added to its charm and made it stand out from modern technology.


Image credit: Changi Airport via Facebook

The Solari board was taken down in 2020 when Terminal 2 underwent a major revamp. While it will not be returning to the airport, the flipboard has found a place at the National Museum of Singapore. 

Those who miss the icon can visit the museum to catch a glimpse of the board, which will be displayed as part of the upcoming “Now Boarding: Experiencing Singapore through Travel” exhibition from 27th May 2023.

Present from: 1999-2020


4. Marine aquarium at Terminal 1



Image credit: Hitachi Aqua Works
 

The popularity of the marine aquarium at Terminal 1 extended beyond just children. Visitors of all ages would spend a few minutes admiring the diverse range of marine life and the tranquil environment it provided amidst the bustling airport. 

The vibrant aquatic plants and coral formations further enhanced the beauty of the aquarium. It was not uncommon to see crowds of people gathered around the tank, taking pictures and in awe of the wonders of the underwater world.


Image credit: Changi Airport via Facebook

While the aquarium is no longer present, Koi ponds can be found in the transit area of Terminal 3. If you happen to be around when the Koi feeder is there, you can actually help to feed the fish.

Present from: 1981-Unknown


5. McDonald’s at Terminal 2



Image credit: Changi Airport via Facebook

McDonald’s at Terminal 2 was more than just a fast food restaurant. For many teens, it was a place to gather, catch up, and study through the night, fueled by the convenience of having food and drinks within reach whenever their stomachs growled. 

It was also a popular pitstop for travellers, offering a place to grab a quick bite before heading into the departure hall.


Look who’s coming back?
Image credit: Changi Airport via Facebook

The closure of this McDonald’s outlet was a bittersweet moment for its regular patrons. However, it has been announced that McDonald’s will be making a comeback in the newly renovated Terminal 2.

Present from: 2004-2020


6. Swensen’s at Terminal 1



Image credit: Now Boarding by Changi Airport

Swensen’s holds a special place in Changi Airport’s history as the first restaurant to open in the airport, located in a cosy corner near the viewing gallery at Terminal 1. At one point, this outlet even held the title of the largest Swensen’s restaurant in the world.

In addition to the Terminal 1 location, Swensen’s also opened a 24-hour restaurant in Terminal 2. Although both of these outlets are no longer around, you can still find Swensen’s at Terminal 3, which opened more recently.


Swensen’s at Terminal 2 was closed due to the terminal’s renovation.
Image credit: Changi Airport via Facebook

Despite the many upgrades and changes at the airport over the years, Swensen’s has remained a constant. Those craving an Earthquake sundae can always count on finding a Swensen’s outlet waiting for them at the airport.

Present from: 1981-Unknown


7. OG viewing gallery at Terminal 1



Image adapted from: Wikimedia Commons

The OG viewing gallery at Terminal 1 was the epitome of minimalism. With no shops or restaurants in the area, it offered nothing but rows of seats for visitors to enjoy the view of planes taking off and landing. 

The spacious area was also a frequent stop for preschoolers on excursions, who could take a break and enjoy a snack while gazing out the window. Some teachers even organised mini drawing contests, encouraging the children to observe and draw the planes they saw outside.


Image credit: Airport Spotting

In recent years, the viewing gallery has been revitalised and given a fresh new look. Despite the changes, the area still retains its tranquil atmosphere, and now has more seats for visitors to chill and spot planes.

Present from: 1981-Present


8. Transit lounge water fountain at Terminal 1



Image credit: National Archives of Singapore

Even if you didn’t travel often in the past, you would’ve still been able to spot the water fountain located within the Terminal 1 transit area from the public viewing gallery. It was an iconic spot for us to watch our loved ones head into the departure hall and wave goodbye to them.

The water fountain was a therapeutic sight, with its cascading water falling from a level above the installation, accompanied by the soothing sound of flowing water. The fact that such a water feature could exist within a closed compound like an airport was pretty cool then.

Present from: 1981-1990s


9. A Million Times at Changi at Terminal 2



Image credit: Now Boarding by Changi Airport

A Million Times was not like any other clock that tells time. Found in Terminal 2, here is where you’d spot curious folks stopping in their tracks to check out the 504 funky clock hands that moved and grooved.


Image credit: Humans since 1982

The clocks didn’t just tick-tock away the minutes. Besides telling time, they also produced images and patterns, and sometimes even words and characters from different languages. There was also an app which users could download to get in on the action and interact with the artwork.

Like other restaurants and installations in Terminal 2, A Million Times was taken down during the renovation of the terminal. With the renovation of the terminal nearing completion, there is much anticipation about the exhibit being back up again. Nonetheless, it remains a mystery whether it will be reinstated.

Present from: 2018-2020


Changi Airport’s iconic spots that are no longer around


Mention “airport” and many might picture a hectic scene of travellers hurrying to make their flights. However, Singapore’s Changi Airport is a lot more than just being a transit hub, it is a place that caters to both locals and tourists, attracting families looking for a good meal or avid shoppers seeking retail therapy.

As it continues to evolve with the latest technology and modern amenities, the memories of these Changi Airport iconic spots remain deeply ingrained in our minds.

To explore more things within Changi Airport:


Cover images adapted from: Roots, Changi Airport via Facebook, Now Boarding by Changi Airport, National Archives of Singapore

Pat Yuan Teng

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