Singapore: A Sneak Peek at the Soon-to-Open Gardens by The Bay

  • The Flower Dome harbors flora from the Mediterranean, California, South Africa, and southern Australia.

    The Flower Dome harbors flora from the Mediterranean, California, South Africa, and southern Australia.

  • One of the Flower Dome’s 30 species of orchids.

    One of the Flower Dome’s 30 species of orchids.

  • Chad Davis, the Gardens’ head of conservatory operations.

    Chad Davis, the Gardens’ head of conservatory operations.

  • Some of the sites “super-trees,” which will eventually be cloaked in thick vegetation.

    Some of the sites “super-trees,” which will eventually be cloaked in thick vegetation.

  • The futuristic design of Gardens’ bio-domes achieves just the right balance of heat and light while being energy efficient.

    The futuristic design of Gardens’ bio-domes achieves just the right balance of heat and light while being energy efficient.

  • Inside Bay South Garden’s Flower Dome, a vast conservatory for plants found in the Mediterranean and semi-arid tropical regions.

    Inside Bay South Garden’s Flower Dome, a vast conservatory for plants found in the Mediterranean and semi-arid tropical regions.

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Visitors seeking respite amid the luxuriance will soon be able to stop at Pollen, a mod-Mediterranean restaurant from Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton, complete with its own herb-and-vegetable garden.

Adjoining the Flower Dome is the Cloud Forest, a cool, moist conservatory of misty forests and a 30-meter waterfall alongside high-altitude tropical plants clinging to the sides of a 35-meter-high faux mountain. Among the 130,000 plants sprouting in Eden-esque abundance are cycads, Lady Slipper vines, Australian conifers, and carnivorous plants like butterworts and Venus flytraps.

Not surprisingly, energy conservation and sustainability have been crucial factors in the construction of Bay South Garden. Lead architect Paul Baker acknowledges that the design process was a battle. “The biggest challenge has been to create an intelligent building that isn’t energy hungry. A lot of the time, Singapore is actually quite overcast, so you’ve got to achieve a certain balance of heat and light while being energy efficient.”

To that end, Baker worked closely with Grant Associates to create a cloak of retract-able shading fins that open and close depending on the weather. “These conservatories are as energy efficient as an office building,” says Er. “The glass shells are coated with a special film that lets in 66 percent of the light but just 33 percent of heat.”

Excess energy is recycled and expelled through a grove of towering “super-trees” that are in fact giant concrete cores sheathed in photovoltaic cells (which power the night lights), water collectors, and steel lattices. Standing anywhere from 25 to 50 meters tall, these functional structures are cleverly disguised by tens of thousands of plants representing nearly 200 species, including bromeliads, creepers, ferns, and orchids. The super-trees, some of which are linked by aerial boardwalks, support not just a living skin of foliage but also mimic the ecological functions of trees by recycling air and heat from the conservatories.

When fully complete, Gardens by the Bay will include 10 satellite gardens—among them, a Malay kampong garden and a “colonial” garden festooned with clove, nutmeg, cocoa, and rubber trees—themed to reflect both the history and culture of Singapore’s main ethnic groups and the planet’s biodiversity. Also in the mix are two water features, Dragonfly Lake and Kingfisher Lake, that do double duty as a backdrop for wedding photos and a natural filtration system for runoff from the gardens.

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