A sneak peek at Singapore’s soon-to-open Gardens by the Bay
By Daven Wu
Photographs by Darren Soh
For an island that takes barely a half hour to drive across, Singapore has never shied away from ambitious building projects. And now, just a few hundred meters away from the triple towers of the Marina Bay Sands casino resort, another new landmark is shaping up to become the city-state’s next buzzed-about attraction.
Sprawling over an area the size of more than 170 football fields, the 101-hectare Gardens by the Bay is the latest salvo in the city’s utopian vision (and rebranding) of itself as a tropical garden city where lush greenery enfolds 21st-century skyscrapers. The S$1 billion (about US$800 million) project is the result of a landscape-led global competition that was eventually won by the British firm Grant Associates who, in turn, recruited London-based architects Wilkinson Eyre to design the built environment. Already six years in the making, the Gardens, when completed in 2015, will be a focal point for both Singapore’s green credentials and the new central business district currently taking shape on the eastern edge of Marina Bay.
“We wanted a new centerpiece,” says the Gardens’ chief operating officer, Kenneth Er, “something that goes beyond Cornwall’s Eden Project. This was an opportunity to showcase color beyond the usual impression of the green tropics.”
The crown jewel of the three massive waterfront gardens—a 54-hectare twin conservatory complex dubbed Bay South Garden—will be the first to open, with an official debut slated for June 29. Sheathed in steel and glass, the asymmetrical ribbed bio-domes are defiantly futuristic in their silhouette, their raison d’être clearly telegraphed by glimpses of the massed greenery within—around 226,000 plants from every continent except Antarctica.
The Flower Dome, the larger of the two conservatories, had a soft opening last No-vember, just in time for the World Orchid Festival. Kept at a constant 23 to 25 degrees Celsius, it features a cool, dry environment that takes its climatic and botanical cues from the Mediterranean, California, South Africa, and southern Australia. Nestled amid the 1.2-hectare landscape are baobabs and Australian grass trees, olive and fig trees, lavender and tulip fields, Chilean wine palms, and assorted plants that rotate according to the seasons.