All images are copyrighted and used with permission of Grant Associates.
Gigantic trees rise up from carefully manicured lawns, their symmetrical branches reaching for the sky. At the bay’s edge, two giant, shell-like structures watch over the scenery, stranded on an unusual beach. With the huge proportions of its structures and amusement park quality, a visit to Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay feels almost like stumbling into a scene from Alice in Wonderland – a wonderland turned entirely green.
City parks are, of course, a common phenomenon. Those such as London’s Hyde Park or New York’s Central Park were designed and implemented by forward-thinking city planners to be the green lungs of cities – not only providing clean, fresh oxygen but also a welcome respite from the bricks and mortar of a bustling metropolitan center.
But Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay aim to be more than merely a 'lung': ultimately the project wants to envelop the city and turn it into a ‘City in a Garden’, vastly increasing the amount of urban green spaces. Certainly a project to our liking!
Gardens by the Bay is divided into three main parks – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central – covering a stunning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in downtown Singapore’s Marina Bay. At 54 hectares, Bay South is the largest park and is slated to open for the public in just a few days, on June 29, 2012.
Bay East is the second largest park at 32 hectares, and comes complete with a 2-km (1.2 mile) long promenade adorning Singapore’s Marina Reservoir. A stroll along this part of the development offers visitors a panoramic view of the cityscape from one of several distinct, leaf-shaped gardens.
Since Bay East opened to the public in November 2011, it has been appreciated by visitors for its stunning vistas of the city skyline, which, as we can see from this image, looks especially beautiful at night.
At 15 hectares, Bay Central will be the smallest of the parks, linking Bay South and Bay East with a 3-km (1.86 mile) long waterfront promenade that will allow visitors to amble all the way from the city center to Singapore’s eastern parts.
At Bay South, visitors can expect highlights such as the hard-to-miss ‘Supertrees’, which are huge, artificial vertical gardens; the eco-friendly ‘Cooled Conservatories’; and beautiful, themed areas boasting tropical plants and horticultural artistry.
Though they may look like giant greenhouses, the Cooled Conservatories will not provide the slightly muggy atmosphere usually associated with glass structures of this kind. On the contrary, as the name suggests, they will offer a refreshing contrast to Singapore’s tropical climate and provide visitors with a whiff of Mediterranean air instead.
With Singapore’s average humidity hovering around 84% and its daily high temperature averaging 31 °C (88 °F), we can see the Cooled Conservatories becoming a major attraction due to this refreshing factor alone! But of course, there’s more to them than that...
Designed as a “showcase of sustainable energy technology” (as described by design firm Grant Associates), only the latest cooling technologies have been applied to the Cooled Conservatories, ensuring that their energy consumption is on par with that of a commercial building of the same height and carbon footprint.
A combination of new cooling technologies will make sure that the energy footprint of the biomes stays small, while keeping visitors and plants cool. Four measures in particular will achieve this goal. Spectrally selective glass and light-sensitive shadings, for example, minimize solar heat while providing plants with enough light. In addition, layered cooling allows warmer air to rise and be vented out while cool air stays at the bottom where it is most needed.
Other energy-efficient cooling measures in the Cooled Conservatories include dehumidifying the moist air with lithium chloride and then cooling only the dry air. Onsite is also a steam turbine to produce electricity and waste heat from biomass. With so many plants around, that certainly seems like a good idea – and one that should keep dependency on the electric grid low, too.
Planned to provide “all-weather edutainment”, each conservatory has a different theme: the Flower Dome showcases plants and flowers that grow in a dry, Mediterranean-type climate, and the Cloud Forest those that grow in evergreen montane moist forests.
The impressive 1.2 and 0.8 hectare biomes were designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, and the gardens and landscapes inside were a collaboration between Grant Associates and Wilkinson Eyre Architects.
Also distributed over the expanse of South Bay park are 18 ‘Supertrees’ – gigantic, tree-like structures that tower over the park at heights of between 25 and 50 m (82 ft and 164 ft). Each Supertree has a concrete core, a steel frame or ‘trunk’ around it, planting panels, and a canopy that is shaped like an upside-down umbrella.
The Supertrees are, in essence, giant vertical gardens that encourage the growth of tropical flowering climbers like epiphytes and ferns. According to Grant Associates, each structure is apparently “embedded with sustainable energy and water technologies integral to the cooling of the Conservatory”. Quite an impressive feat!
We imagine that frequent visitors to the park will find the progress of the Supertrees’ ‘growth’ fascinating to watch, especially once the first plants have reached the ‘branches’ on top. Let’s hope they’ll be covered with a floral tapestry soon – and not just for aesthetic reasons, but also for the welcome shade they'll doubtless provide.
At the top of the tallest Supertree there will even be a bar where thirsty visitors can take a break and admire the view. We’re just hoping it’s an alcohol-free bar, otherwise crossing the aerial walkway 20 m (66 ft) above ground could become more than a bit dicey if you've over-indulged!
At night, the Supertrees put on a dazzling light display that was especially designed and produced for them by Japan-based firm Lighting Planners Associates.
Part of the South Bay design also incorporates themed gardens. The Malay Garden (seen here) with its bright colors, for example, was designed to tell the story of life in a traditional Malay “kampong” or village.
This bright red arch in the Chinese Garden seems to be inviting visitors to rest for a while in the garden’s secluded and quiet spaces.
It's no surprise the Chinese Garden is so relaxing – it was designed with the role of gardens in Chinese culture in mind, namely as places where visitors of a creative persuasion can find inspiration and tranquility. Great idea! We all need a bit of peace and inspiration!
The ‘Web of Life’ park seen here is part of another set of themed gardens (six to be precise) that were designed to symbolize the biodiversity of plant life on Earth. The aim of this particular garden is to bring visitors closer to the rainforest flora and fauna and their fascinating, intertwined relationship.
The other five gardens under the “Plants and Planet” theme include ‘Secret Life of Trees’, ‘World of Palms’, ‘Understorey’ (focusing on the forest floor and roots), ‘Fruits and Flowers’, and ‘Discovery Gardens’, where visitors can learn about plant evolution, diversity and extinction. The thoughtful gardens will certainly leave visitors spoilt for choice!
In this image, we can see Supertree Grove – which, with 12 Supertrees, is the largest garden. With their different planting schemes, we’re sure the Supertrees will be a source of marvel and delight for decades to come, especially once they unfold their flowering beauty in red, brown, orange, yellow... and even pink and silver!
At a cost of more than $1 billion and years in planning, design and construction, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay certainly haven't come cheap. But we’re glad the money has been spent on a green project – and one that includes more than a quarter of a million examples of rare plants to boot. It sure beats having another parking lot or mall! And if you’re in the area, don’t miss the opening on June 29th!