Jewel Changi Airport – Rain Vortex

Jewel at night

As seen from the title above, I recently had some burning questions in my head when I visited Jewel Changi again with my friends on a random Saturday evening. If you haven’t already heard of or known of Jewel, you can read up a bit here. It’s quite interesting to know how the whole mall operates and how the rain vortex works. Initially, I wasn’t that intrigued by how the rain vortex/waterfall works, but then, as always, having a penchant for mystical and supernatural stuff, I started to wander off into my own make-believe world and thought, what if a ghost was stuck here at Jewel?

Hear me out. I know it’s ridiculous, but I couldn’t help myself. During our ‘excursion’ to Jewel, I started telling my friends about my theory. What if someone committed suicide at Jewel by jumping into the vortex? Morbid, yes. Interesting notion, maybe. That got me thinking about how the vortex actually works. This was what transpired during the conversation with my friends:

Me: Imagine a guy or lady wanted to commit suicide and jumped into the vortex.
Friends: Huh? But why would he?
Me: Just imagine. Ok, so there is no barricade around the fountain area. Only some railings that I myself can easily cross over without much or any effort. Then he or she just jumps? What will happen if no one stops him or her?
Friends: Confirm someone will save one. There so many people. (at this point I just emphasised on imagining.)
Me: Ok, so that person jumps, you see the vortex circumference (me pointing to the top of the waterfall), and the circumference of the funnel (the glass shields at the bottom of the waterfall). The glass funnel is where you see the water falling elegantly down and along the shields at basement 1/2. Why are the circumferences so different? Why is there a buffer space between the actual waterfall vortex circumference and the glass shield circumference?
Friends: Huh? Don’t know?
Me: Ok, then if the person jumps down, maybe he or she would fall and land 2 to 3 storeys below. How serious would the injury be? Would there be blood? If it’s blood, would anyone notice?
Friends: Ok. (getting uncomfortable)
Me: Then what if there was blood? But it’s at night? During the lightshow? But there would also be red light, and changes to the light colour? Would anyone notice blood mixed with the ‘colour changing’ water at the basement level? And would the person even survive if he landed and did not suffer much injury (i.e. no blood involved). Because, think about it, water pressure from the top hitting at him, would he still survive even if he landed safely below?
Friends: Let’s go eat Shake Shack.

These questions were stored in my head for 2 weeks, and I finally decided to do some research online. A simple search on Google “Jewel waterfall jump” (me trying to be specific) resulted in some infographics and articles that proved to be quite useful in understanding how the vortex actually works. For simplicity purposes (and concern over copyright issues), I drew a very childish illustration of the waterfall:

My depiction of how the waterfall works

For a clearer and more professional illustration, you may refer to this website for the infographics. I was so excited when I found this page because I finally knew how the waterfall works. Scroll to the centre of the page (where you can see the cross section of the drawing of the whole structure). So what I understood was that the entire water feature spans 7 storeys, 5 storeys above ground (this is the waterfall that we see), and 2 storeys below (basement 1 and 2 which are shielded with the glass funnel, and basement 3 where the water storage and pump is). So water would flow down 5 storeys and reach the basement catchment area at basement 3 where it is being filtered and pumped along the periphery of Jewel. The water is then pumped again (extra power) and then released along the edges of the oculus (the tip or top of the waterfall) before falling down the 5 storeys again. Interesting right? I felt so amazed while reading this.

But I was more interested about the interior, or rather, what happens when the waterfall is shut off? So a bit more googling got me to this page, which shows readers what actually happens when the vortex is being serviced and maintained. I already knew the waterfall would be shut off at around midnight, because I’ve actually seen it stop, but I didn’t know the servicing process looks like that. Like I mentioned earlier, the circumferences of both the vortex and the glass funnel are different, so the maintenance pictures apply to only the glass funnel section, which has a large circumference. The maintenance photos show servicemen opening up the panels of the ‘platform’ just after the railings. This area is called the Reflective pool where water is also flowing. Then, I stumbled upon another page which shows that the glass funnel water continues to flow when the waterfall is off. So that brought me to some conclusion and even more questions:

  1. If the person falls, he or she would most likely land or enter the water storage space at basement 3. How big is the water storage area? Is there anyway the person can stay afloat and breathe to wait for rescue? I don’t think any blood would be involved (other than some concussion), because Olympic diving heights may be higher than the glass funnel section.
  2. Referring to my childish depiction above, why the difference in circumference at the top and at the bottom (labelled 1 and 2)? And the mysterious continuous flowing of the glass funnel water section when the waterfall is already shut off (labelled 3)? Why does the water flowing through basement 1 and 2 still continue to flow?
    The glass funnel is to buffer the water falling down from the top. So if it is a buffer, if there is no water falling from the top because the waterfall is shut off, where does all this existing water that is still flowing come from? The person may not be able to make it out safe if the water continues to fall to basement 3.

After digging up the relevant information on the waterfall, I felt quite depressed knowing that all these led to my unvalidated conclusion that the person may not survive the fall. Here is my hypothesis:

  1. A person jumps over the railing, run across the Reflective pool where maintenance is usually carried out, and drops down. Bystanders on ground level may be alerted and contact security.
  2. Dropping down 3 levels to the water storage area, the person may still be able to struggle a little (if conscious), but the water pressure and chaos down there, will he still be able to manage? And would there even be breathing space for him? Cos of the pumps and all, the water is continuously pumped in a certain direction. Would he be able to stay afloat for rescue to come?
  3. Time is needed to shut off the waterfall (alert security > understanding situation > running to the controls > switch off). But even if the water is shut off, water at the glass funnel section would continue to flow. Assuming the water from the glass funnel region and waterfall goes to and accumulates in the same water storage area, the person might not be able to survive even if the water is shut off since water would still continue to enter the storage.

All the points above made me more inclined to settle on the conclusion that he might not make it. But this remains to be answered until I can find out more about the mechanics and structure of the funnel. If anyone has any answers, please comment! Thanks and I’ll see you in the next post.

3 thoughts on “Jewel Changi Airport – Rain Vortex

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