A sneak peek at NDP 2014

11 07 2014

I got an opportunity to have a sneak peek at what this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) had to offer at a rehearsal held on Saturday, taking a few photographs that accompany this post. The rehearsal was held a week before the series of rehearsals that Primary 5 students will attend as part of the National Education (NE) Show programme  starting on 12 July 2014, in the lead-up to the actual parade, all of which offers a glimpse of what the highly anticipated parade has to offer.

Always something to look forward to - the fireworks sign-off.

Always something to look forward to – the fireworks sign-off.

The audience seen as the lights come on ...

The audience seen as the lights come on …

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Beyond the always spectacular signature show of fireworks that now sign all NDPs off, the parade and ceremony, the flypast and the medley of National songs, this year’s NDP will see the introduction of a Military Tattoo, which for the first time, will open the Parade and Ceremony. The 7-minute band display, will involve some 164 personnel, including drummers from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) who will perform together with members of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Band, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) Band, the Silent Precision Drill Squad (SPDS), the National Cadet Corp (NCC) Band, and the National Police Cadet Corp (NPCC) Band.

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The Parade and Ceremony itself, entitled “A Parade with a Heart”, has been aligned with this year’s NDP theme, “Our People, Our Home” and consists of five Heartbeats. The five moments will honour the organisations that have contributed in the defence, social and economic areas, pay tribute to our pioneers, get the audience singing in a sing-along of Singapore songs, celebrate the family and showcase the SAF and Home team’s capabilities in the Dynamic Defence Display.

The Leopard 2 MBT will feature in the Dynamic Display segment.

The Leopard 2-SG Main Battle Tank will feature in the Dynamic Display segment.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Surface-to-Air PYTHON-5 and DERBY-Short Range (SPYDER-SR) ground-based air defence system - another asset the audience will see during the Dynamic Display.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Surface-to-Air
PYTHON-5 and DERBY-Short Range (SPYDER-SR) ground-based air defence
system – another asset the audience will see during the Dynamic Display.

A navy RHIB during practice for the Dynamic DIsplay Segment.

A navy RHIB during practice for the Dynamic Display Segment.

Always something to look forward to at the NDP, are the so-called funpacks, which contain both giveaways as well as items for use during the parade itself. This year’s very brightly coloured funpacks were designed by a group of 15 students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central’s School of Design and Media. Included in the funpacks are button badges – the result of the NDP 2014 Funpack Print Design Contest from which nine designs were chosen to be printed into button badges. Among the winning entries is one from 13 year-old Ong Zheng Jie Joshua, which centres on a tree that symbolizes the strong and prosperous Singapore built by our ancestors.

Funpack distribution.

Funpack distribution.

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The parade this year features some 35 marching contingents, with four Guard-Of-Honour (GOH) contingents, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Colours Party, the Combined Band and 29 other contingents from the SAF, Home Team, uniformed groups as well as social and economic organisations. Numbering some 2,000 participants, the parade will be the largest Parade & Ceremony segment ever held at the Floating Platform.

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Strange Horizons: seeing the future

29 05 2014

The future world does seem to have arrived in Singapore. Rising out of what used to be the old harbour is a new world, the seeds of which were really sown at the end of the 1960s. It was in 1967 that Singapore embarked on the State and City Planning Project (SCP) in 1967 with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme’s special assistance scheme for urban renewal and development for emerging nations. 

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The SCP completed in 1971, identified the need for a coastal highway to divert traffic out of the city, requiring land to be reclaimed for what was to be the East Coast Parkway (ECP) and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge. It was with this that the planners recognised that there was benefit in further reclamation of land to provide land for the city’s expansion south, land on which a new downtown is now, some four decades after the initial reclamation commenced, in the process of being built.

Among the first structures rising in the new world are several that have since become one of the most photographed and recognisable structures in Singapore including the Sky Park topped hotel towers and lotus flower inspired ArtScience Museum of Moshe Safdie’s Marina Bay Sands integrated resort complex (2010) and the Supertrees and cooled conservatories of the Gardens by the Bay  (2012) that is seen in the above photograph, which was taken across what today is a fresh water channel of water at the Bay East garden of the Gardens by the Bay.





Strange Horizons: reflections on the alien invasion at the bay

28 05 2014

Maybe now not such a strange horizon – the view of the alien structures that have invaded the new world at Marina Bay’s Garden’s by the Bay, reflected off the Dragonfly Lake. The structures are probably among the most photographed in Singapore and are now very recognisable across the world. In the foreground, three of the garden’s 18 Supertrees are seen with the two cooled conservatories in the background. The taller of the cooled conservatories is the 58 metre high Cloud Forest, which replicates the moist cooled environments of the tropical montane regions and features a 35 metre man made mountain along with a 30 metre high waterfall. The longer of the two conservatories is the Flower Dome in which the cool-dry springtime climates of the Mediterranean and semi-arid sub-tropical regions is replicated. The Gardens by the Bay, which is now in its second year (having opened in June 2012), has become one of Singapore’s most visited tourist attractions.

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Windows into Singapore: finding light in the darkness

20 05 2014

7.06 am under the Esplanade Bridge.

A sight that greets the eyes every morning under the Esplanade Bridge: a group of Falun Gong practitioners who seek spiritual enlightenment in the darkness of the shadows cast by the bridge …

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Windows into Singapore: juxtapositions of time

27 03 2014

A view out of the window from the POD atop the National Library building, out towards what would once have been an almost clear view of the sea off the promenade that ran along Nicoll Highway.

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Part of what has been a landmark along Beach Road since its completion in 1976, Shaw Towers, can be seen on the right of the photograph. Built over a site that had previously been occupied by the Alhambra and Marborough cinemas, the 35 floor Shaw Towers was at the point of its completion, the tallest kid on the block at Beach Road. It was also the first building in Singapore to house two cinemas, Prince and Jade, built in a decade when cinema going took-off in Singapore. Prince was at its opening, the largest cinema in Singapore with its 1952 seats. Prince occupied the second to the seventh floors of one corner of the building’s podium. Its screen, at 28 metres wide, was the widest in the Far East. Jade was to provide a more intimate setting, holding less than half the crowd Prince would have held. The cinemas were converted in the late 1980s to cineplexes – the first multi-screen cinemas to make an appearance in Singapore.

A close up of the boats in the Kallang Basin close to Nicoll Highway (posted in Facebook group, On a Little Street in Singapore).

Nicoll Highway, Singapore’s first highway, did once run along the coast right behind Shaw Towers. Completed in 1956 – after the closure of Kallang Airport permitted a much needed link to be built along the coast, it provided an artery to take vehicular traffic from and to the populated eastern coast into and out of the city. Offering a view of the sea and the scatter of boats up to the early 1970s,  a drive today provides a view of a scattering of trees and isolated structures that herald the arrival of a brand new world – where the wooded patch is in the foreground of the first photograph.

Nicoll Highway, the Merdeka Bridge, Beach Road and the Kallang Basin, 1967 – before the 1970s land reclamation (posted in Facebook group, On a Little Street in Singapore).

A view down Nicoll Highway. A new development South Beach is seen rising beyond Shaw Tower.

A view down Nicoll Highway. A new development South Beach is seen rising beyond Shaw Towers.

Another view down Nicoll Highway during peak hour.

Another view down Nicoll Highway during peak hour.

The body of water beyond which we can see the Benjamin Sheares Bridge rising, is itself one that has seen a significant change. Where it once was the sea, it now is a body of fresh water, forming a part of the huge Marina Reservoir, having been cut-off from the sea by land reclamation and the construction of the Marina Barrage. The barrage, closes up the channel between Marina East and Marina South, Marina East being land reclaimed off Tanjong Rhu, a cape once referred to as a “curious ridge of sand” on which shipyards, the charcoal trade and a flour mill had once featured.

An advertisement for Khong Guan Flour Mills. The grain storage silos once dominated a landscape at Tanjong Rhu now dominated by condominiums.

An advertisement for Khong Guan Flour Mills. The grain storage silos once dominated a landscape at Tanjong Rhu now dominated by condominiums.

A more recent landmark on Beach Road, the 41-storey The Concourse and a view toward Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

A more recent landmark on Beach Road, the 41-storey The Concourse and a view toward Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

Reclaimed land by Nicoll Highway, the Kallang Basin area of Marina Reservoir and Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

Reclaimed land by Nicoll Highway, the Kallang Basin area of Marina Reservoir and the Marina South area beyond it.

It is at Tanjong Rhu, where Singapore first million-dollar condominium units were sold, that the eastern end of the iconic 1.8 km long Benjamin Sheares Bridge comes down to earth. Opened to traffic on 26 September 1981, it provided the final link for a coastal highway that had been built to take traffic around and not through the city centre, the planning for which went back to the end of the 1960s (see The Making of Marina Bay).

Land reclamation in the Kallang Basin / Tanjong Rhu area in 1973 (posted in Facebook group On a Little Street in Singapore).

This stretch of that coastal highway, East Coast Parkway (ECP), did take up much of the traffic that was being carried on what was becoming an increasingly congested Nicoll Highway that had been built some 25 years before it. Now, some 32 years later, as with the highway it took traffic away from, it sees its role taken up in a similar fashion by a new highway, the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE). Built at the cost of S$4.3-billion, the 5 kilometre MCE runs mostly underground and partly under the sea and see the series of coastal highways move with the shifting of the coastline. The MCE features a 3.6 km tunnel and has a 420 metre stretch that runs under the sea.

Tanjong Rhu and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

Tanjong Rhu and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

The expressway, which opened to traffic on 29 December 2013, was built so as to remove the constraints that the ECP, in running right smack through the centre of Marina South, had placed on the development of Singapore’s new downtown (the expansion of the city to Marina South that was really an afterthought, having come after urban planners had realised the potential that land, which had initially been reclaimed for the construction of the ECP, had in providing much needed space for the expansion of the city). The availability of new and undeveloped land through reclamation did allow parts of old Singapore slated for redevelopment, to be spared the wreckers’ ball.

A view over the Marina Reservoir and Marina East, with the Benjamin Sheares Bridge seen to the left of the capsule.

A view over the Marina Reservoir and Marina East, with the Benjamin Sheares Bridge seen to the left of the capsule.

The deceptively blue waters in the first photograph’s background, is that of the Eastern Anchorage. It is at the anchorage that ships lie patiently in wait, far removed from the frenzy at the wharves of what is one of the world’s busiest ports. It is one place in Singapore where time does seem to stand very still, at least for now. Time doesn’t of course seem to stand very still in a Singapore constantly on the move, and time will certainly bring change to shape of the distribution of the shipping infrastructure along the coast- with the journey to west for the city shipping terminals, at Keppel, Pulau Brani and Tanjong Pagar, due to completed by 2030.

The Eastern Anchorage.

The Eastern Anchorage – where time does seem to stand still.

There is of course the potential that developments away from Singapore has for influencing change. One possible game-changing development we in Singapore are keeping our eyes on is the possibility that of a dream long held by Thailand, the cutting of a shipping canal through the Isthmus of Kra, coming true. If a recent report, purportedly from the Chinese media, is to be believed, work is already starting. The cutting of the so-called Kra Canal is an idea that was first mooted back in the late 17th Century (see: How a Thai Canal Could Transform Southeast Asia on http://thediplomat.com) and talk of building it does crop up from time to time – the effort required and the associated costs in recent times serving as a huge deterrent. If built, the canal would save shipping a 1,500 nautical mile journey through the Straits of Malacca and around Singapore.

The proposed canal does have the potential to undermine Singapore’s so far unchallenged strategic position with regards to shipping, although it would probably take a lot more than a canal to do that. In the meantime, it is the change that is driven within that we will see add to another area in Singapore in which change does seem to always be a constant.





Reflections on the new world

15 03 2014

The new world at Marina Bay, seen at twilight on 6 March 2014 from the edge of the pond at the ArtScience Museum. Built on land reclaimed from the sea that, the ArtScience Museum is part of the new Marina Bay Sands Complex that lies on top of the area where the detached mole that separated the inner roads from the outer roads once was. The complex looks across to what had been the old waterfront built along a bund, which did have some grand works of architecture to welcome the many who came ashore at old Clifford Pier. Much of all that has unfortunately been lost, replaced by the new world of glass and steel that does serve to impress all who set eyes on it.

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Marina Bay, 7.42 pm, 6 March 2014.





A sneak peek at i Light Marina Bay 2014

7 03 2014

From the eye-catching, to the fun and quirky, there is something that will certainly catch your attention as Marina Bay brightens up from this evening until the end of March 2014, all in a sustainable way I should add – the festival’s 28 light art installations have been picked so as to convey the message of sustainability through art – a key area of focus for the three week long festival. It would probably take more than one visit to take in all 28 – especially with the installations spread around the bay area and that is just what the curatorial team hopes visitors would do, taking in the lights, as well as the fun that does come from some of the interactive installations.

From the pick of installations participants of a preview were introduced to, my favourites are in fact the interactive ones as well as the somewhat quirky ones. These are CLOUD by Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett (which I only got to see from afar) – judging from what has been said about it, Jen Lewin’s The Pool, and Happy Croco by Bibi – who some may remember for his igloo installation during the last festival. The festival will be opened this evening and will be on every evening  until 30 March 2014. More information on the festival and the host of fringe events and activities can be found at the festival’s website.


A pick of installations


The Pool 

Jen Lewin Studio (USA)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade near The Promontory @ Marina Bay (A14 on the map)

Promises to be lots of fun, especially for the kids and those like me who want to be kids again. Watch as circular pads arranged in concentric circles change hues through movement – an effect that will best be seen when a group of people play together. The installation was created in a way that it can quite easily be recreated anywhere it needs moving to.

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Jan Lewin at The Pool


CLOUD 

Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett (Canada)

The Float @ Marina Bay (B9 on the map)

The CLOUD apparently has people pulling at strings – literally, by getting people to congregate under a rain cloud, the aesthetic of which is influenced by those under it pulling at light switches. The CLOUD features a contrast of old and new technologies, and is intended to demonstrate how an individual has the power to impact progress and achieve change. The real magic happens when multiple visitors work as one towards a unified response.

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Happy Croco 

Bibi (France)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade near Mist Walk (A4 on the map)

Happy Croco is a happy and somewhat quirky luminous 20 metre long installation – made with a backbone of traffic cones. There is an underlying message in the so-called urban crocodile though – in being made of items we discard everyday, Bibi, attempts to bring to attention the issue of plastic waste. 

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Mimosa

Jason Bruges Studio (UK)

Marina Bay City Gallery (A7 on the map)

Another that will be a favourite with the kids would be Mimosa – a work that uses organic light-emitting diodes to mimic the leaves of the responsive plant by sensing hand movements. 

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JouJou-Ours

Uno Lai (Taiwan)

Marina Bay City Gallery (A9 on the map)

The work, which features giant teddy-bear heads and intended to revisit childhood memories in which the soft toy would be a feature of , encourages the visitor not only to give the installation a hug, but also, judging to the response take lots of photographs with it.

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Light Collective (UK)

Marina Bay City Gallery (A8 on the map)

An installation made up of individual and personalised light boxes – the work of students from different schools in Singapore that emphasises the role of education in guiding the future generation towards a sustainable future.

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Beat

Arup (Singapore)

In front of Marina Bay Sands (A1 on the map)

An installation that appeals to the instinct to  touch, simulating a response from lighted globes that then adopt a human heart beat light pulse – another favourite with the kids.

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iSwarm

SUTD (Singapore)

In Marina Bay, near Bayfront Taxi Stop (A3 on the map)

A luminous swarm of “sea creatures” that interact with passer-by through light sensors.

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Floating Hearts

Travesias de Luz (Spain)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade, near Marina Bay Link Mall pop-up structure (A10 on the map)

A wall of illuminated hearts that invites passers-by to play with them.

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The Guardian Angels

Maro Avrabou and Dimitri Xenakis (Greece and France)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade near Breeze Shelter (A12 on the map)

Echoes the preservation of the garden and plants, and by extension, nature – a tribute to gardeners and artificially created gardens.

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Ryf Zaini (Singapore)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade (A11 on the map)

Giant speech bubbles that displays thoughts and messages akin to comic strips – a humourous reference to the shift in the way we interact socially in the digital age towards screen-based forms of communication.

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Fool’s Gold

Vertical Submarine (Singapore)

The Promontory (A13 on the map)

A work that alludes to a Chinese idiom about a fool who hides his gold but gives it away by erecting a sign to disclaim its existence. 

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1.26 Singapore

Janet Echelman (USA)

The Float @ Marina Bay (B10 on the map)

A huge illuminated net that depicts the force of nature that uses space-age Honeywell Spectra fibre. Suspended over the floating platform, the work is a 3D representation of the force of a tsunami created by the 2010 Chile earthquake and draws on laboratory research done by NASA and NOAA on the earthquake. The earthquake resulted in a shift in the axis of the earth’s rotation, which shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds – hence the installation’s name.

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1.26 Singapore

Justin Lee and Dornier Asia Pte Ltd (Singapore and Switzerland)

ArtScience Museum (B14 on the map)

Celebration of Life is a large-scale projection by local artist Justin Lee on the ArtScience Museum – the first time he has taken on such a challenge. The projection takes viewers through a commentary on the role and value of traditional culture on contemporary society, blending traditional Eastern icons with modern day symbols.

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Digital Wattle 

Out of the Dark (New Zealand)

Near The Float @ Marina Bay (B11 on the map)

Based on the Golden Wattle, the installation explores the interplay between individual ethnic groups that co-exist within a city – the change of colours of the flowers swaying in the breeze representing the new mix of cultures.

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i Light Marina Bay 2014 related:


 





Colouring the new world

6 03 2014

The Marina Bay area will be brought to life this month of March as i Light Marina Bay returns from the 7th to 30th. The latest edition of the biennial light art festival, Asia’s only sustainable light art festival, sees 28 installations spread across what is already a visually stunning new world, a large part of which, rose from the sea.

1.26 by Janet Echelman, seen in Amsterdam (Photo-Courtesy-of-Janusvanden-Eijnden)

Highlights of the festival will include seven installations, each of which is being put up by an invited artist, one of whom is the internationally renowned Janet Echelman. Known for her sculpture environments that respond to the forces of nature, Ms Echelman will illuminate The Float @ Marina Bay with ‘1.26 Singapore’, a large floating fluid installation that uses space-age Honeywell Spectra fibre. Suspended over the floating platform, the work is a 3D representation of the force of a tsunami created by the 2010 Chile earthquake and draws on laboratory research done by NASA and NOAA on the earthquake. The earthquake resulted in a shift in the axis of the earth’s rotation, which shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds – hence the  installation’s name.

Mimosa by Jason Burges

Celebration of Life by Justin Lee

Another of the festival’s highlights to look forward to will be ‘Celebration of Life’, a large-scale projection by local artist Justin Lee on the ArtScience Museum that sees a commentary on the role and value of traditional culture on contemporary society. There are also several interactive installations, one of which is ‘Mimosa’ by UK based Jason Bruges Studio at the Marina Bay City Gallery. The work mimics the behaviour of responsive plant systems such as the mimosa and uses organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) arranged to open and close in response to hand movements.

CLOUD by Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett (Photo Courtesy of Doug Wong)

Another interactive work that will surely be a hit is ‘CLOUD’ by Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett, who are from Canada. Located at The Float @ Marina Bay, ‘CLOUD’ features 5,000 new and recycled lightbulbs (of which some 200 are functioning) on an installation that resembles a rain cloud, extending an invitation to strangers to come together under it and play. Visitors will be able to pull on switches, triggering a shift in the aesthetics – intended to demonstrate how an individual has the power to impact progress and achieve change. The real magic, we are told, does however happen when multiple visitors work as one towards a unified response.

The Pool by Jen Lewin

iSwarm by SUTD, Suranga Nanayakkara and Thomas Schroepfer

Other highlights are ‘JouJou-Ours’ by Uno Lai of Taiwan, which revisits childhood memories beside the Marina Bay City Gallery; the very colourful ‘The Pool’ by Jen Lewin Studio of the US, which is at the Promontory @ Marina Bay; and iSwarm by a team from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) – swarming the water near the Bayfront water taxi stop  with light that is reminiscent of naturally occurring phenomena such as bio-luminescent algae.

JouJou Ours by Uno Lai

Besides the invited artists, the remaining installations in i Light Marina Bay 2014 were selected through an open call, 13 of which are the creations of locally based artists. The three-week festival will also see several fringe activities and offerings that will include opportunities for fun with the family, to complement the installations – with food never far away. More information on the host of activities and culinary offerings is available at the festival’s website.

Giant Dandelion by Olivia D’Aboville

Along with the festival and fringe events, there will also be the i Light Symposium 2014, which will see three sessions held, the last of which will feature Janet Echelman. More information on the symposium and how to register can be found on the events listing page on the festival’s website.


i Light Marina Bay 2014 related:





Recoloured waters

2 03 2014

A view of the Singapore River from my favourite bridge, the Cavenagh Bridge. The view is now very different one from the one I did when I first set my eyes on it as a child, with the river emptied of its seemingly overladen twakows – lighters that seemed to have non-existent freeboards. The twakows provided the means to bring goods from the ocean going ships anchored in the harbour to godowns upriver and were the backbone of trading business on which Singapore owes much of its early success to. 

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The once filthy waters of the river, spilling not anymore into the harbour, but into a body of sweet water – the Marina Reservoir, carved amazingly out from the sea and is now surrounded by the modern skyline that has come up at what is today Marina Bay, has since been cleaned up – the result of a huge ten year effort that began in 1977 that also saw it emptied of its twakowsIt is the new trades – that serving new temporary imports in the form of tourists, have replaced the old, and it is this that now recolours the river’s once dark and murky waters, bringing new life to the area. 

More on the Singapore River and the old harbour:





Splashing by the bay

30 11 2013

A sneak peek at the Gardens by the Bay – Far East Organization one hectare Children’s Garden which is scheduled to be open in January 2014. The garden, being set up on a site adjacent to the Cloud Forest will feature river scapes, lush greenery, a special toddler’s play zone, Rainforest tree houses and a water play area and on the evidence of the sneak preview that the young guests of the Gardens by the Bay and Far East Organization got over the weekend, will provide kids a splashing good time.

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The lost waterfront

19 09 2013

The former waterfront at Collyer Quay is certainly one place which exemplifies how Singapore has transformed over the years, discarding much of what made Singapore a Singapore which was full of character and flavour, to the sea of glass, steel and concrete Singapore has become today.

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The waterfront we inherited from our colonial masters was one of wonderfully designed buildings which might have rivaled Shanghai’s Bund. Even in 1971 after the Overseas Union Shopping Centre (see image above) did spoil some of that flavour, it still retained much of its original character. Then, the three “skyscrapers” that came up in the 1950s: the modern looking 15 storey Shell House (1959); the Bank of China Building (1954); and the Asia Insurance Building (1954) (out of picture), still dominated. It was however the grand looking edifices – several of them attributed to architecture firm Swan and MacLaren which designed many notable buildings from our past, which would have been noticed. This included the Maritime Building (former Union Building) with its tower and the HongKong Bank Chambers (1924) next to it. The Fullerton Building (1928) which housed the General Post Office also wouldn’t have been missed.

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The beginning of the end for the old waterfront came at the end of the decade with the demolition of the HongKong Bank building notable not just for its English Renaissance style design, but also for its stained glass skylight over its main banking hall and huge bronze entrance doors, in 1979. The Maritime Building, built originally for the Union Insurance Society of Canton and which once housed the Far East headquarters of the Royal Air Force, soon followed in the early 1980s. What we do see today is a towering skyline of glass and steel against which the surviving “skyscrapers” of the 1950s are now dwarfed. The buildings along old waterfront which did survive are the Fullerton Building (Fullerton Hotel), Clifford Pier (part of Fullerton Bay Hotel), Bank of China Building, Customs House, and the Asia Insurance Building (Ascott Raffles Place).

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A nation celebrates!

9 08 2013

Photographs from last week’s National Day Parade preview show how the nation will celebrate its 48th anniversary of its independence from Malaysia.

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The new world rising from the sea

30 07 2013

A view along Singapore’s former waterfront at 7.37 pm on 28 July 2013. To the left of the photograph, a brand new world has grown on land reclaimed more recently from the sea, dwarfing the Asia Insurance Building, once the tallest building in South East Asia. What has been left behind from when the waters were those of the old harbour can be seen on the right side of the photograph. These include the Fullerton Building (former General Post Office) and Clifford Pier, both built along a bund that was in itself build on land reclaimed in the mid 1800s – one of the first land reclamation to take place in Singapore. The bund was completed in 1864 along with a road which has since been named Collyer Quay.

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Dawn in the new world

26 07 2013

6.38 am on 23 July 2013. The colours of the breaking day illuminate the icons of the new Singapore, which the Merlion probably best represents. The body of water, Marina Bay, now a reservoir of fresh water, had once been the sea where the inner harbour, the Inner Roads, once fed Singapore with its immigrants and with goods from east and west , the foundation on which Singapore’s early success was built upon.

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Reflections on Marina Bay

3 06 2013

For me, the story of Singapore is very a reflection of the way in which what we call Marina Bay today, has been transformed. Once the harbour at the heart of Singapore’s early success, the bay, like it or hate it, is today a magnificent sight to behold – particularly at certain times of the day, and a celebration of the tremendous strides Singapore has taken as a nation since the tumultuous events which surrounded a somewhat reluctantly achieved independence.

Marina Bay seen through the light rain at 6.30 am on 2 June 2013.

Marina Bay seen through the drama of the rain coloured scene at first light (photograph taken at 6.30 am on 2 June 2013).

The so-called bay itself (now a fresh water reservoir) and the developments that have taken root around it, was an afterthought made possible by massive land reclamation works which were started in the early 1970s – initially to provide land for a road which would bypass the already congested city (more information on which can be found in a previous post “The Making of Marina Bay“). While it did result in the disappearance of the old harbour – one of the things which did make Singapore, Singapore, it did provide new land for development. It is perhaps because of this, it became possible to widen the scope for conservation of Singapore’s built heritage, particularly in areas of the old city such as in the Tanjong Pagar / Chinatown area and other areas which had previously been earmarked for redevelopment .





The faces of Chingay 2013

24 02 2013

If anyone reading this appears in any of the photographs below (or in this album), I would be pleased to extend a higher resolution copy of the photograph to you if you can drop me an email.


Photographs from what was certainly a feast for the senses, Chingay 2013, which was held at the F1 Pit Building over two evenings on 22 and 23 February 2013. The annual event, touted as “Asia’s Grandest Street Parade”  is organised the People’s Association. In its current incarnation, Singapore’s Chingay was conceived as a street parade to celebrate the Chinese New Year in 1973 in the wake of the ban on the tradition of letting off fireworks, the parade has evolved over the years into the spectacular celebration of Singapore’s rich multi-ethnic mix and includes participants from many other countries. The event wouldn’t have been a success if it wasn’t also for the efforts of many participants and volunteers, to whom this post is dedicated to:

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Celebrating the Lunar New Year at Marina Bay

12 02 2013

In celebration of the Lunar New Year, The Float @ Marina Bay once again plays host to River Hongbao. The annual event, now in its 27th year, is organised by Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCCI), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and People’s Association (PA) with the aim to allow both locals and visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere. This year’s fair sees a display of lanterns including some of the largest which have been designed and specially handcrafted for River Hongbao on display at The Float. This combined with the host of fringe activities including amusement rides and carnival games; nightly shows on the main stage and; brought specially this year – food and handicraft from Guangdong Province, will certainly make this year’s River Hongbao one that will certainly be worth a visit.

The Guangdong Arts Troupe during the Countdown Ceremony on Saturday.

The Guangdong Arts Troupe during the Countdown Ceremony on Saturday.

The Float coming to life for River Hongbao 2013.

The Float coming to life for River Hongbao 2013.

The lanterns will definitely be a draw this year – the most eye-catching one being the towering 18 metre tall God of Wealth, as well as two large Screen Lanterns, which measuring 30 metres by 10 metres, will certainly not be missed. The lanterns have all been locally designed and handcrafted by craftsmen in China and also include zodiac lanterns – 12 of them each with a zodiac animal – the one with the snake will of course be taking centre stage. One rather interesting lantern is that resembles a Chinese Opera or Wayang stage – with lantern puppets as well as puppet show performances at selected times throughout the day. Visitors can also look forward to receiving fortune numbers from the God of Wealth at two hourly intervals from 1 to 11 pm.

The lanterns will add light and colour to The Float over the nine days.

The lanterns will add light and colour to The Float over the nine days.

The 18 metre tall God of Wealth.

The 18 metre tall God of Wealth.

The zodiac lantern featuring the snake.

The zodiac lantern featuring the snake.

A floating lantern.

A floating lantern.

A lantern featuring giant pandas.

A lantern featuring giant pandas.

Besides the lanterns, the happenings on the main stage which comes alive every evening, should also not be missed. The shows on the main stage will over the nine evenings, feature performances by both local and foreign performers, including acts which hail from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.  The highlight includes the performances which feature dancers from the National Taiwan University of Arts and the Nanfang Song and Dance Company, as well as acrobats from Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe. In addition to these acts, the evening of 13 February will see a “Local Talent Night”,  14 February a “Youth Night” which showcases upcoming young talents and 15 February, a “SFCCA Night” during which the clan associations will put up both Mandarin as well as perfromances in dialects. The last evening (16 February) will see a “Harmony Night” when the different ethnic groups come together in a grand finale. For more information on the programme, please visit the River Hongbao’s Programme page. River Hongbao 2013 runs from 8 to 16 February 2013. More information on River Hongbao can also be found at the event’s website and Facebook Page.

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Further information on River Hongbao 2013:

Working with Guangdong

As part of efforts to further cultural cooperation with Guangdong Province, River Hongbao will be partnering the Department of Culture and Department of Tourism of Guangdong Province to bring the region’s highlights to Singapore. Visitors to The Float will be entertained by the Guangdong Arts Troupe, which comprises of performers from the highly acclaimed Nanfang Song and Dance Company and acrobats from Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe. Guangdong is also well known for its popular Cantonese cuisine so expect your tastebuds to be tantalized by the region’s delicacies available at the River Hongbao Food Street. Handicrafts from from different provinces of Guangdong like silk scarves from Shunde, Guangzhou bone and jade sculptures, Foshan paper cuttings and souvenirs from The Musuem of Dr Sun Yat Sen will also be available for visitors to bring a small piece of Guangdong back with them.

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River Hongbao Food Street

Continuing with 2012’s success, River Hongbao’s Food Street will bring back last year’s winning local fare like Char Kway Teow, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Fried Hokkien Noodles, Satay Bee Hoon, Oyster Omelette, as well as Asian street favourites from Taiwan and Thailand. Guangdong chefs will also be flown in to entice palates with popular Guangdong delicacies like Grilled Quail’s Eggs, Soup Dumplings, Oysters steamed with garlic mince, Traditional double boiled soups and many more.

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Memory Collection Drive

This year, River Hongbao will work together with the Singapore Memory Project (SMP) to collect memories of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. Visitors can share their memories of the festive traditions or past River Hongbao events at the Memory Collection Drive. For memories contributed, they will receive specially designed hongbao packets, while stocks last. These memories will enable future generations of Singaporeans to understand the collective journey of our nation and the different facets of Singapore. Members of the public can also submit photos and stories via singaporememory.sg or the SG Memory iOS App.

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Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Mr Lim Swee Say joining the countdown celebrations.

Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Mr Lim Swee Say joining the countdown celebrations.

The fireworks display at the countdown.

The fireworks display at the countdown.





Singapore’s gods of fortune, old and new …

9 02 2013

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A sunrise over the new Singapore

8 02 2013

Singapore has, in close to half a century of its existence as an independent nation, seen a dramatic transformation not just as a nation but in the development of the city. There is nowhere, perhaps, where the change is as striking as it is in the new city that has risen from the sea – the Marina City Centre, built on land reclaimed on what had once been the old harbour. The new world is also perhaps where some of the more dramatic sunrises over the city can be observed, particularly against the silhouettes of what has certainly become one of the most photographed places in Singapore, the very iconic Marina Bay Sands complex.

Sunrise over the new world 7.29 am 8 February 2013.

Sunrise over the new world 7.29 am 8 February 2013.





The search for love and happiness in Marina Bay’s secret spaces

8 01 2013

It was around midday on the first Sunday of 2013 that I found myself on an exploration of what can be said to be secret spaces around Marina Bay, an exploration which was to lead me and the group I found myself in the company of, to the search for happiness during which I did also find love. It was an exploration of places and spaces in which we might have expected love and happiness to be in short supply including a lawyer’s office and as well as the offices, meeting spaces and even a boardroom and trading floor of one of the world’s largest financial institutions.

The search for happiness ...

The search for happiness.

Secret travelator.

involved a passage on a secret travelator.

A page from Kafka's The Trial ... discovered on the secret travelator.

A page from Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ … found at the secret travelator.

A participant takes a closer look at 'Fragile Structures' - the work of Frayn Yong which involves wireframe like models of structures found around Marina Bay made of mechanical pencil lead.

A participant takes a closer look at ‘Fragile Structures’ – the work of Frayn Yong which involves wireframe like models of structures found around Marina Bay made of mechanical pencil lead.

The search for happiness did lead us to a seemingly happy space – the offices of Google Asia Pacific. There I did momentarily find that elusive emotional state – I was very happy to have a peek into Google’s much talked about working spaces. The goal however was a happy looking abstract art installation, Eeshaun’s ‘The Search for Happiness’, one of several installations awaiting discovery along a rather unique trail, touted as Singapore’s only art walkabout, OH! (or Open House). OH! Marina Bay, The Happiness Index, is the latest edition – three previous sell-out events had some 5,000 strangers taking a look at art installations in real life homes in Niven Rd (2009), Marine Parade (2011) and Tiong Bahru (2012).

Detail of 'The Search for Happiness' - an abstract piece by Eeshaun in the offices of Google Singapore.

Detail of ‘The Search for Happiness’ – an abstract piece by Eeshaun in the offices of Google Singapore.

For OH! Marina Bay, there is a shift from the more personal and intimate spaces that the previous OH!s explored. For the latest edition, participants take a look instead into corporate Singapore. This shift is explained by Alan Oei, the co-founder and curator: “I thought Marina Bay was all office, glass, steel and mirrors. But there is a secret and fascinating life beneath all that. In many ways, one can look at it as manifesting a kind of zeitgeist. It’s a really interesting moment in Singapore now, and the arts should be part of that conversation.”

The corporate offices around the new downtown in Marina Bay is the focus of the latest in a series of OH! events.

The corporate offices around the new downtown in Marina Bay is the focus of the latest in a series of OH! events.

That the arts is part of the conversation, OH! leaves little doubt. OH! Marina Bay features the installations of twelve artists, in very different and exclusive locations. There is a little bonus in that as well as the installations (some of which I could identify with), the walkabout does offer that peek into the ultra modern offices of major financial institutions housed in the glass and steel structures which have risen where the sea once stood – as well as taking participants back some three decades to an office that once housed the practice of renowned architect Tay Kheng Soon, who played a role in shaping the architectural landscape of Singapore back then. The office, now hosts the law practice of Ann Tan and Associates, and does still bear some evidence of Tay’s interventions within its space.

Love broken by a bomb in Deutsche Bank's offices.

Love broken by a bomb in Deutsche Bank’s offices.

It was at the lawyer’s office that one of what I did think was one of the more interesting installations – sound artist Tan Peiling’s ‘And they gathered them together in heaps’ was to be discovered. Set amongst stacks of documents stored in files are the records that perhaps have not been stored – a visual record as well as one of the sounds of the old harbour – once only an earshot away.

Tan Peiling's 'And they gathered them together in heaps' is made up of visual ...

Tan Peiling’s ‘And they gathered them together in heaps’ is made up of visual …

as well as sound records ... in this case sounds of the old harbour which used to be an earshot away.

as well as sound records … in this case sounds of the old harbour which was once only an earshot away.

The installations that to me delighted the most however was Joy Abigail Ho’s lighthearted and interactive piece at the first stop, as well as the tea ladies dancing to the strains of Bengawan Solo entertain also at the first stop. And it is for this as well as the little discoveries along the way that makes OH! Marina Bay worth the two hours spent.

Joy Abigail Ho's work at DBS Asia Central.

Joy Abigail Ho’s interactive piece at DBS Asia Central.

Joy Abigail Ho.

Joy Abigail Ho.

Dancing tea ladies at DBS Asia Centre.

Dancing tea ladies at DBS Asia Centre.

There was a little to discover as well of the area’s development history. Land reclamation which started in the 1970s has shaped much of what we do see today, including the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC). It is from there as well as from the offices visited where we are able have a better appreciation of this, as well as have a peek into the future of the area. Just beyond the MBFC we see a multitude of cranes, cranes which help in the spread of the new downtown southwards on what is now bare reclaimed land. It is also a less known fact that even the area we see as the older part of the financial district centred on Shenton Way, was in fact built on land some of which was reclaimed as far back as the 1880s – the shoreline prior to that had been located at Telok Ayer Street!

OH! Marina Bay besides taking one into the modern glass and steel buildings of key financial players, also offers a glimpse into the past buried in the present.

A view of the past from the modern boardroom of Deutsche Bank. OH! Marina Bay besides taking one into the modern glass and steel buildings of key financial players, also offers a glimpse into the past buried in the present.

It is close to where the walkabout began – at Deutsche Bank’s offices which does offer a great view of the past, the present and perhaps the future from its boardroom, where it ends. It is here where the largest collection of works can be found – including many which is in the bank’s own collection. It is also here where we find love, which takes the form of a love bomb – a bomb like installation with the Chinese word for love on it. There are also some accompanying paintings which spread the message of love on the walls. It is also here where another highlight of the walkabout lies in waiting – a look at the trading floor on the 18th. The trading floor’s location was one selected for its auspicious number we are told.

Participants heading to the 18th Floor - the trading floor of Deutsche Bank where photography is not permitted. The Deutsche Bank mural painted entirely by the bank's staff is seen in the foreground.

Participants heading to the 18th Floor – the trading floor of Deutsche Bank where photography is not permitted. The Deutsche Bank mural painted entirely by the bank’s staff is seen in the foreground.

There are four more days during which you can seek love and happiness in and around some of Marina Bay’s secret spaces. Further runs of OH! Marina Bay will be held on 12, 13, 19 and 20 January 2013. Tickets are $20, and can be bought only at the door from 11am, at DBS Asia Central Branch, Marina Bay Financial Centre, Tower 3, Level 3. Last tours leave at 3pm daily. See http://www.ohopenhouse.com/ for more information.

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