Colours of April: Going Dutch at the Gardens

14 04 2014

The Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome will take a distinctly Dutch flavour from today as the flower field takes on the colours of springtime Keukenhof as Tulipmania returns. From 14 April to 4 May 2014, will be treated to tulip fields, decorated with replica windmills and canal houses in a setting inspired by Madurodam that is intended to resemble the canals of Amsterdam.

The Flower Dome goes Dutch with KLM and Miffy from today.

The Flower Dome goes Dutch with KLM and Miffy from today.

Tulipmania returns.

Tulipmania returns.

Some 50,000 tulip (and hyacinth) bulbs of many varieties and colours have been brought in by the Gardens by the Bay from the Netherlands for Tulipmania this year, and visitors will get an opportunity to also see the popular Dutch children’s book character Miffy, who has been brought in by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – one event that will see Miffy appear will be an Easter Egg Hunt that will be held on Easter, 20 April 2014.

A hyacinth bulb.

A hyacinth bulb.

A tulip bulb.

A tulip bulb.

Miffy oversees kids who had lots of fun planting tulip bulbs.

Miffy oversees kids who had lots of fun planting tulip bulbs at the Flower Field.

Miffy did also make an earlier appearance when she was on hand to see to the planting of tulips by volunteers in the lead up to Tulipmania. The volunteers included a group of children who were more than thrilled by the appearance of the not so little “little rabbit”. There was also an opportunity to learn more about tulips - such as that they originated from Central Asia, and that the bulbs, their source of energy, takes four to five years to mature to the level that will provide the energy for the tulips to flower as we are used to seeing them.

Happy tulip planters.

Happy tulip planters.

Tulips at last year's Tulipmania.

Tulips at last year’s Tulipmania.

More information on Tulipmania can be found at the Gardens by the Bay’s Tulipmania event page. Do also note that the Gardens by the Bay is also running a photography competition in partnership with Canon Singapore for Tulipmania - more information on it an be found at: eosworld.canon.com.sg/tulipmania.


Posts on last year’s Tulipmania


 





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.





The catwalk in the sky

12 03 2014

Photographs from an unusual event that was held at the Gardens by the Bay’s OCBC Skyway last week at which I was a guest …

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With an eye for the unusual in the selection of catwalks, it probably came as no surprise when model and entrepreneur Jessica Minh Anh picked the OCBC Skyway as the setting for the latest in her series of fashion shows held against the backdrop against iconic venues around the world that have included the Grand Canyon Skywalk, London’s Tower Bridge and PETRONAS Twin Towers’ Skybridge.

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The J Spring Fashion Show, which was held on 5 March 2014, saw models strutting down the 128 metre long aerial walkway – said to be “the most unconventional catwalk yet”, dressed in a combination of Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Porter collections from UK, Russia, Singapore, China, Kenya, India, and Lebanon. The event, which proved to be a little too hot to handle for many of the VIP guests under the unforgiving Singapore sun, was followed by a J Spring After Party held at the Pan PacificOrchard Hotel in the evening.

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Jessica Minh Anh





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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Uno Lai


#WeHeartLight

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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**Insert Caption Please

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:





The Singapore 2015 launch party

17 02 2014

Photographs from the grand party held at the Gardens by the Bay’s Meadow on Saturday to launch Singapore 2015 (the 28th SEA Games and 8th ASEAN Para Games). The event was graced by Guest-of-Honour, President Tony Tan Keng Yam and attended by athletes past and present and saw the unveiling of the games mascot Nila as well official songs for the games performed by various local artistes. The line-up of the artistes included Daphne Khoo, a survivor of a rare form of Ovarian Cancer, who performed ‘Greatest’ and Tabitha Nauser performing ‘Unbreakable’.

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A walk 600 million years back in time

24 01 2014

What promises to be huge not just from a perspective of the size of its exhibits, the Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction exhibition will open this Saturday 25 January 2014 at the ArtScience Museum. The museum at Marina Bay Sands has once again outdone itself in bringing to Singapore an impressively well curated exhibition that provides not just a visual feast, but also one that provides an immersive and stimulating experience.

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Along the walkway.

Along the walkway.

From a media preview of the exhibition yesterday I was privileged to have been invited to, I was transported back not just to the age of the dinosaurs that the exhibition aims to take the visitor to, but also to my days of fascination as a child with the huge creatures that once dominated the earth. With some than 400 fossils and models, the scale of the exhibition is particularly impressive as is the content it provides the visitor.

Exhibits include coprolites - fossilised 'droppings' that provide insights into diets.

Exhibits include coprolites – fossilised ‘droppings’ that provide insights into diets.

Coprolites exhibited strategically outside the washrooms.

Coprolites exhibited strategically outside the washrooms.

Curated by world renowned paleontologist, Dr. Patricia Vickers-Rich, who did admit to not having that childhood fascination with dinosaurs at yesterday’s preview that most would have assumed she would have had, the ArtScience Museum’s exhibition does actually bring together exhibits from the collections of four different exhibitions. The four collections are from the American Museum of Natural History, San Juan National Science Museum, SCI! Expo at Monash University and artist Peter Trusler.

Dr. Patricia Vickers-Rich at the media preview.

Dr. Patricia Vickers-Rich at the media preview.

The exhibition is spread out over eight galleries in the museum’s basement, occupying a floor area of over 3,700 square metres is the largest exhibition there to date. It takes the visitor back not just to the age of the dinosaurs, but also to the dawn of life some 600 million years ago in the Precambrian age. This however is not before the visitor is first given an impression of the scale of the dinosaurs along the walkway to the exhibition’s entrance and being welcomed, by sound and then sight to dinner – as food for a herd of or rather four of their fossils,  upon entry.

Visitors can appreciate the scale of the larger dinosaurs along the walkway to the entrance.

Visitors can appreciate the scale of the larger dinosaurs along the walkway to the entrance.

One from herd of Herrerasaurus that greets visitors at the exhibition's entrance.

One from herd of Herrerasaurus that greets visitors at the exhibition’s entrance.

The Precambrian gallery.

The Precambrian gallery.

Beside the many imposing recreations of dinosaurs and their skeletons spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, the highlight for me was being able to go up close to real fossils – one of which is a newly discovered fossil of an, uncovered in Argentina as recently as in September 2013. Dr Vickers-Rich was keen to also stress that it is rare that a newly discovered fossil such as this, is allowed to be moved out of its country, and visitors to the exhibition will have the privilege of seeing this (as well several other never exhibited fossils) on display for the first time.

The recently dsicovered fossil of the Adeopapposaurs.

The recently dsicovered fossil of the Adeopapposaurs.

Beside the many imposing recreations of dinosaurs and their skeletons spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, the highlight for me was being able to go up close to real fossils – one of which is a newly discovered fossil of an Adeopapposaurs, uncovered in Argentina as recently as in September 2013. Dr Vickers-Rich was keen to also stress that it is rare that a newly discovered fossil such as this, is allowed to be moved out of its country, and visitors to the exhibition will have the privilege of seeing this (as well several other never exhibited fossils) on display for the first time. Visually, I also enjoyed a diorama in the Chapter 5 gallery, Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, of the American Museum of Natural History section – a recreation of the Liaoning forest, which also provides an insight to the various extinction theories.

The Liaoning forest diorama.

The Liaoning forest diorama.

Visitors can also look forward to a host of programmes and activities being held in conjunction with the exhibition including the opportunity to meet and hear from Dr. Patricia Vickers-Rich and other experts over the opening weekend (25-26 January 2014) – see below.

Very small dinosaurs such as this model of the skeleton of a foot long Chaliminia can also be seen.

Very small dinosaurs such as this model of the skeleton of a foot long Chaliminia can also be seen.

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Those intending to visit the exhibition can also download a free mobile application designed by the museum to  deepen the engagement and enhance visitor experience. The ‘Dawn2Extinction’ app is available in English and Simplified Chinese and features augmented reality experiences, animation and interactive games. The app is available for download now on iPhone 4 and 5, iPod touch, and Android phones.

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The exhibition runs from  25 January to 27 July 2014. More information and ticketing details can be found at the ArtScience Museum’s website.

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Opening weekend activities:

Special Guided Tours

(25 and 26 January 2014; 12:30pm, 1.30pm and 4:30pm; beginning at the first gallery of Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction)

Embark on a guided tour to explore the living habits of dinosaurs and be introduced to the extraordinary creatures that roamed the earth. Gain insight into how the paintings of dinosaurs and their surroundings displayed at the exhibition were reconstructed through leveraging scientific evidence.

Exhibition Talk – The Paleontological Camera

(25 January 2014; 2.30pm to 4pm; held at Expression Gallery, Level 4 of ArtScience Museum)

Curator Dr. Patricia Vickers-Rich and artist Peter Trusler talk about their collaboration to bring to life visuals from as far back as 600 million years ago through their “paleontological camera”.

Exhibition Talk – The Origins of Dinosaurs

(25 January 2014; 5.30pm to 6.30pm; held at Expression Gallery, Level 4 of ArtScience Museum)

Learn about the fascinating origins of dinosaurs through an illustrated talk presented by Dr. Oscar Alcober, Director of San

Programmes/Workshops:

Shadow Puppets Alive!

Visitors can try their hands at creating their own Bullockornis or Megalania shadow puppet to bring home.

A day in the life of a Paleontologist

Visitors who aspire to be or wish to understand the work of a paleontologist can take part in a hands-on demonstration. During the demonstration, members of the audience will have numerous opportunities to participate, including handling tools and specimens, cleaning fossils, identifying bones and making a plaster cast from a dinosaur’s footprint

Stop Motion Dinosaur Wipe-out!

Film and dinosaur enthusiasts can create their own stop motion animation based on one of the main theories of mass dinosaur extinction: asteroid impact, climate change or volcanic eruptions.

Dinosaur Tale

Presented by local puppet theatre company, Paper Monkey Theatre, visitors will be taken on a journey of how animal life adapted over 600 million years, presented through magical puppetry.

Sketch-a-fossil

A drawing workshop conducted by Isabelle Desjeux, a scientist turned artist, who brings fossils to life by having visitors draw them in detail and placing the art piece in a pre-historic landscape.

Sculpture Fun

Visitors can try their hands at carving their own sculpted fossil, be it a shell or bone, out of soap to bring home.






On fire in Sembawang

19 01 2014

Beside the rich cultural and religious traditions brought in by our immigrant forefathers such as Thaipusam, which was celebrated on Friday, we do increasingly also see the influences from non-traditional sources adding much colour to Singapore. One example that I did come across today was a ritual that does seem to have come from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition – a fire puja seen at the open space beside Sembawang MRT Station and Sun Plaza. The fire puja, in which offerings consumed by a huge fire, was one organised by the Kadhampa Buddhist Association, one of several Tibetan Buddhist movements that have taken root in Singapore in more recent times.

Offerings being consumed by the huge fire.

Offerings being consumed by the huge fire.

Prayer flags fluttering in the wind.

Prayer flags fluttering in the wind.





Names in tofu and pigs that fly

16 01 2014

Art Stage Singapore is back! Dubbed the “flagship Asian art event of the region” and now in its fourth year, the annual art fair has a strong focus on the Asian (or as Founder and Fair Director, Mr Lorenzo Rudolf, correctly put it at a media preview – Asia-Pacific) art scene. This years sees the introduction of eight country and regional Platform, each curated by a leading international curator.

Art Stage Singapore provides an amazing array of art work to ponder over.

Art Stage Singapore provides an amazing array of art work to immerse oneself in.

The largest platform is the Southeast Asia Platform, which I must say is particularly intriguing, with some 31 works of artists from Cambodia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand and Singapore being presented. Besides Myanmar’s pioneering abstract  expressionist Soe Niang’s creation of reverse sketches on the walls of a large box to attract one’s attention (see previous post: We Are Asia – Art Stage Singapore 2014), there are several eye-catching works.

The writing on the wall. The start of Myanmar artist Soe Niang's attempt to create a series of reverse sketches on the black coated interior walls of a huge box.

The writing on the wall. Detail of Myanmar artist Soe Niang’s attempt to create a series of reverse sketches on the black coated interior walls of a huge box.

One that I was taken by is Laotian artist Bounpaul Phothyzan’s Controlled Desire - a sphere of suspended human shaped figurines  - human shaped fruit, Na Li Phon or ‘Miracle Fruit’, which according to Hmong folklore brings good fortune. The work is an attempt on the artist’s part to bring attention to social and environmental concerns and to put the spotlight on the human desire to manipulate nature for self-satisfaction.

Controlled Desire by Bounpaul Phothyzan.

‘Controlled Desire’ by Bounpaul Phothyzan.

Another set of work that will catch the eye is that of Filipino artist Mark Justiniani, which uses reflective media to good effect in the artist’s attempt to explore the principle of Superposition. Also represented in the country/regional platforms are India, China, Taiwan, Australia, Korea, Japan, and Central Asia. One that did get a fair bit of attention at the media preview was China’s Chen Qiulin’s The Hundred Surnames in Tofu - a work that looks at Chinese culture (in its surnames and their link to lineage) and its gradual decay and decomposition through the use of tofu.

Mark Justiniani's 'Tunnel'.

Mark Justiniani’s ‘Tunnel’.

Another of Mark Justiniani's study of Superposition.

Another of Mark Justiniani’s study of Superposition.

Thai artist Maint Kantasak's 'Milky Way' - an installation of wood engravings in 194 jars.

Thai artist Manit Kantasak’s ‘Milky Way’ – an installation of wood engravings in 194 jars.

A close-up of Bounpaul Phothyzan's Miracle Fruit in 'Controlled Desire'.

A close-up of Bounpaul Phothyzan’s Miracle Fruit in ‘Controlled Desire’.

Thai artist Ruangsak Anuwatwimon's Hocus-Pocus - a table with shattered glass from Central World Plaza during the politically motivated violent protests of 2010.

Thai artist Ruangsak Anuwatwimon’s Hocus-Pocus – a table with glass from Central World Plaza shattered during the politically motivated violent protests of 2010.

Indian artist Raghava KK's 'Redrawing the Map' in the India Platform.

Indian artist Raghava KK’s ‘Redrawing the Map’ in the India Platform. The work is a playful take on the ‘beautifully impossible India’.

India Platform curator Bose Krishnamachari (R) at the India Platform.

India Platform curator Bose Krishnamachari (R) at the India Platform.

Sakshi Gupta's take on transformation at the India Platform.

Sakshi Gupta’s take on transformation at the India Platform.

The Central Asia Platform features video installations of several Central Asian artists.

The Central Asia Platform features video installations of several Central Asian artists.

The Hundred Surnames in Tofu by China artist Chen Qiulin.

‘The Hundred Surnames in Tofu’ by China artist Chen Qiulin.

Taiwan's Tu Pei-Shih's 'Making Fantasies' which has a NC16 rating.

Taiwan’s Tu Pei-Shih’s ‘Making Fantasies’ which has a NC16 rating.

Besides the country and regional platforms, there are some 158 galleries represented at the fair, 75% of which are based in the Asia-Pacific. The galleries have, as in previous years, brought in an amazing array of work, from the works of well-known and established artists to the quirky and bizarre works of contemporary and emerging artists.

Facing-off. Emerging artist Sam Jinks' 'Divide'.

Facing-off. Emerging artist Sam Jinks’ ‘Divide’.

The most photographed work is probably that of Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa's inflatable 'Love Me'.

The most photographed work is probably that of Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa’s inflatable ‘Love Me’.

Scream Gallery has some rather quirky pieces including Sally Fuerst's oil on canvas work 'Robot'.

Scream has some rather quirky pieces including Sally Fuerst’s oil on canvas work ‘Robot’.

More from Scream.

More from Scream.

Also at Scream.

Also at Scream.

Art Stage Singapore 2014 runs from 16 to 19 January 2014 and is being held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Besides the fair proper, there are also lots of fringe and community events and tours to look forward to including public talks, Platform Art Tours and workshops. More information is available at the fair’s website, Art Stage Singapore, including a list of exhibitors, a guide to the fair and information on ticketing.

Opera Gallery has its usual collection of Dali's sculptural works.

Opera Gallery has its usual collection of Dali’s sculptural works.

Taiwan Platform curator Rudy Tseng speaking at the media preview yesterday.

Taiwan Platform curator Rudy Tseng speaking at the media preview yesterday, as Korea Platform’s Kim Sung Won and Japan Platform’s Mami Kataoka look on.

More photographs taken at a preview of Art Stage 2014:

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We Are Asia – Art Stage Singapore 2014

13 01 2014

An annual art fair that is always something that shouldn’t be missed in Art Stage Singapore. A platform for This year’s edition, the fourth, as with the previous editions, is very much that platform the fair has come to be in bringing together artists, galleries, curators and art curators – with that strong Asian focus.

Misdirection.

Art Stage Singapore (a photograph take at the 2012 edition), is always something to be on the look out for.

This years fair sees a format that moves away from that used in previous editions, with eight country/regional platforms: Southeast Asia, India, China, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Central Asia; showcased in a museum like exhibition layout that is curated by respective experts of each regions art scene.

Each year, the annual fair features a very strong Asia-Pacific presence - photographs is of Philippine artist  Geraldine Javier’s “Red fights back” at Art Stage Singapore 2013.

Each year, the annual fair features a very strong Asia-Pacific presence – photographs is of Philippine artist Geraldine Javier’s “Red fights back” at Art Stage Singapore 2013.

The largest Platform will be Southeast Asia, curated by Art Stage Singapore in collaboration with six country advisers. To look out for will be newly commissioned works from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, The Philippines and Thailand. The fair will also see a strong local presence with 29 Singapore based galleries participating, compared to 22 in 2013. There fair this year also sees a strong representation of galleries from the Asia Pacific with 80% of the participating galleries from the region.

Art Stage 2013 (photo: Art Stage Singapore).

Art Stage 2013 (photo: Art Stage Singapore).

Among the artists who will have feature in the Southeast Asia Platform is Soe Niang (Yone Arts), who will present an installation peice, Intermission on Stage. Soe Niang, who hails from Myanmar, is one of the country’s pioneering abstract  expressionists who had produced some 10,000 “diary sketches” in his vigil throughout Myanmar’s dark days of isolationism during the reign of the military regime. The installation will see him create a series of reverse sketches on the black coated interior walls of a huge box – the size of a shipping container, through the four days of the exhibition.

Soe Niang (photo: Yone Arts).

Soe Niang (photo: Yone Arts).

A feature from Malaysia to look out for will be Justin Lim’s (Richard Koh Fine Art) There is no other paradise, a work that the artist describes as stemming “from an on-going amalgamation of social commentary and contemporary reality within the framework of symbolism and make-believe”. The project will see work in a range of media that addresses social issues in contemporary Malaysian society, touching on the subjects of racial divide, nostalgia, ethnicity and religion including Washing the obsolete in the arms of the absolute. The installation borrows from “Mandi bunga” (flower bath) ritual that was also interestingly what another Malaysian based artist, Sharon Chin, borrowed from in her recent work at the Singapore Biennale 2013.

Washing the obsolete in the arms of the absolute 165x68x70cm Fiberglass bath tub, fabric, video projection 2013

Washing the obsolete in the arms of the absolute 165x68x70cm Fiberglass bath tub, fabric, video projection 2013(photo: Richard Koh Fine Art).

More information on Art Stage Singapore 2014, which runs from 16 to 19 January 2014 at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, is available at the fair’s website, Art Stage Singapore, including a list of exhibitors, a guide to the fair and information on ticketing.


Photographs from previous editions of Art Stage Singapore on this site:






Opening up a backdoor

6 01 2014

An partly wooded area on the edges of Toa Payoh that for long has been insulated from the concrete invasion next to it is the plot of land south of Toa Payoh Rise and the site on which the former Toa Payoh Hospital (ex Thomson Road General Hospital) once stood (see also a previous post: Toa Payoh on the Rise). That, is a world currently in the midst of a transformation, one that will probably see the face of it changed completely and one that will destroy much of the tranquil charm the area would once be remembered for.

A formerly quiet area on the fringes of Toa Payoh that is in the midst of a huge transformation.

A formerly quiet area on the fringes of Toa Payoh that is in the midst of a huge transformation.

The elevated area, is bounded in the north by Toa Payoh Rise, in the south by the expansive grounds of the former Thomson Primary and Secondary Schools, and to the west by Thomson Road, where the SLF Complex – a mid-1980s addition to the area and a wooded area that has been referred to a Grave Hill is found. Grave Hill was where the grave of the illustrious Teochew immigrant, successful merchant and community leader, Seah Eu Chin, was discovered in November 2012 (see Straits Times report dated 28 Nov 2012: Teochew pioneer’s grave found in Toa Payoh and also Seah Eu Chin – Found! on All Things Bukit Brown).

Grave Hill is located on the left of the photograph.

Grave Hill is located on the left of the photograph.

Much work has already been carried out in the vicinity of Toa Payoh Rise – the construction of the Circle Line’s Caldecott MRT Station has seen the area left vacant when the buildings of the former Toa Payoh Hospital were torn down, take on a new face. This, along with the expanded Toa Payoh Rise – previously a quiet road where the calls of tree lizards were heard over the noise of the traffic, is perhaps a harbinger of things to come.

What the future does hold for the area - from the URA Draft Master Plan 2013.

What the future does hold for the area – from the URA Draft Master Plan 2013.

Looking into the crystal ball that is the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) plans, the latest being the Draft Master Plan 2013 released in November 2013, we can see that a vast part of the area will be given to future residential development with transport infrastructure to support the developments probably kicking-off the complete transformation of the area. Besides surface roads that will be built and the already built Circle Line station, there will also be a Thomson MRT Line station that will expand Caldecott Station into an interchange station, and also the construction underground of the planned North-South Expressway.

The former Thomson Secondary School, now occupied by SJI International.

The grounds for the former Thomson Primary and Secondary Schools, now occupied by SJI International, is a area I was acquainted with in my Toa Payoh childhood.

One part of the area that is familiar to me from my Toa Payoh childhood, is the grounds of the former Thomson schools, now occupied by SJI International School – an area the construction of the North-South Highway will also be change to. The huge sports field down the slopes from where the school buildings are, was often where football teams formed by groups of boys from the Toa Payoh neighbourhood would meet to play a match in the early 1970s – taking a short cut to the grounds from Lorong 1 from the area close to where the Philips factory is.

A inter-schools match being played on the football pitch in 1972 (source: http://archivesonline.nas.sg/).

A inter-schools match being played on the football pitch in 1972 (source: http://archivesonline.nas.sg/).

A pavement where there once wasn't, along a well-trodden path that served as a shortcut to Thomson Primary and Secondary Schools from Toa Payoh.

A pavement where there once wasn’t, along a well-trodden path that served as a shortcut to Thomson Primary and Secondary Schools from Toa Payoh.

Besides providing the huge playing fields, I always thought that the grounds of the schools placed them in a such a beautiful setting, one that rose high above the main road, close to the forest of trees now being replaced by a forest of towering trunks of concrete. For students of the schools getting in from Thomson Road however, it must have been quite a chore to have to walk up the incline of the road everyday just to get to school – a sight that greeted me passing on the bus in the mornings was the stream of students making what appeared to be a very slow climb up the rising road.

The playing field seen today.

The playing field seen today.

Another view of the field and the expansive grounds.

Another view of the field and the expansive grounds.

The schools were relocated at the end of 2000, after occupying the grounds for over four decades. Thomson Secondary does trace its history by to 1956 as a Government Chinese Middle School when, based on information at the website of North Vista Secondary School (which it was renamed as after its relocation to Sengkang), it was formed. Through a merger of Thomson Government Chinese Middle School and co-located Thomson Vocational School, Thomson Secondary was formed in the second half of the 1960s. Thomson Primary on the other hand started its life as Toa Payoh Integrated Primary School.

Towering trunks of concrete seen rising behind the former Thomson Secondary School.

Towering trunks of concrete seen rising behind the former Thomson Secondary School.

Next to the grounds of the schools, the twin octagonal towers of the SLF Complex, has dominated the landscape since the mid-1980s. Built by the Singapore Labour Foundation, one tower, built originally with the intention that all unions affiliated to the National Trades Union Congres (NTUC) could be housed under one-roof, was sold to the Ministry of Community Development (currently the Ministry of Social and Family Development or MSF) in 1986. The People’s Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since independence, also had its headquarters in the SLF Complex. It moved the headquarters there in 1986 from Napier Road, before moving out to its current premises in New Upper Changi Road in 1996.

The Singapore Polo Club has occupied its current grounds since 1941.

The twin octagonal towers of the SLF Complex as is seen from the Singapore Polo Club across Thomson Road.

At the SLF Complex’s backdoor, which leads out to Toa Payoh West, the impending transformation that will come to the area is very much in evidence. Clearance work is already underway on both sides of the road that will permit construction works for the future MRT line as well as tunneling work for the future expressway to be carried out.

Clearance work is already being carried out at Toa Payoh West.

Clearance work is already being carried out at Toa Payoh West.

On the south side of the road, a complex of low-rise buildings from a more recent past is currently in its final days – demolition work on the complex, the former Elders’ Village is already underway. The village, completed in 1995, was put up by the Singapore Action Group of Elders’ (SAGE) on land it obtained on a 30-year lease which expired in 2012. SAGE originally had ambitious plans for the Elders’ Village, which would have included resort-type facilities and chalets, but was forced to scale back on plans due to a lack of funds.

The former SAGE Elders' Village as is seen from the SLF Complex, now being demolished.

The former SAGE Elders’ Village as is seen from the SLF Complex, now being demolished.

A view of the clearance works around Toa Payoh West.

A view of the clearance works around Toa Payoh West.

On the relentless march Singapore has embarked on towards achieving its vision for the future, there certainly will not be any lack of funds. Much activity seems now to focused on developing roads, transportation links and housing to support the huge growth in population that is anticipated (see also: Population White Paper and the supporting Land Use Plan). With this effort, many places such as the quiet and somewhat forgotten buffer between Toa Payoh and Thomson Road, will all too soon have to go. While the efforts will bring us new worlds some may wish to celebrate, with it will also come the inevitable crowd of concrete. And while it is nice to see that the Draft Master Plan 2013 does provide for many pockets of green spaces, there will however be but a few places left on the island that will be left to find an escape that for me will increasingly be needed.

Another view of the former Elders' Village.

Another view of the former Elders’ Village.


Changing Landscapes in the vicinity:






The Feast of Fools

24 12 2013

A scene that is one of several that celebrates the musical Notre Dame de Paris, currently playing at the MBS MasterCard Theatres, is possibly The Feast of Fools. Accompanied by the confused frenzy of movement, it is at this point that sees the introduction of Quasimodo, the well-known character of the tale behind the musical many would be familiar with from their childhoods, who in the scene is crowned the King of Fools.

Belle, one of three scenes presented during a media preview of the musical.

One of three scenes presented during a media preview of the musical, during which the popular song, Belle, was sung. The musical features Matt Laurent as Quasimodo (L) and Alssandra Ferrari (R) as Esmeralda.

It is not the Quasimodo that in the wake of Disney’s retelling of Victor Hugo’s novel that many would recognise. The same can unfortunately be said of the storyline or the lack of it in its musical version. Except for a few popular music numbers such as Belle, it would probably be better remembered for what has to be said, was a impressive display of dance.

Another scene shown during the preview - Refugees - which again was more about the dancing rather than singing.

Another scene shown during the preview – Refugees – which again was more about the dancing rather than singing.

Certainly for me, the musical did not quite live up to the hype that surrounds it. Whatever my impressions are, the musical is still quite a watchable one and certainly one that does provide some entertainment value – that is if you need some extra to distract you this Christmas season. The musical, which opened on 17 December 2013, will see its run in Singapore extended to 11 January 2014. For more information and also for ticketing, do visit the Marina Bay Sand’s page for the musical, or the SISTIC website.

Esmeralda (Alessandra Ferrari) in Live.

Esmeralda (Alessandra Ferrari) in Live.


More on the musical (from a press release from its Singapore opening):

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Singapore – 17 December 2013 – The musical spectacular Notre Dame de Paris, which has become a phenomenon around the world cutting across generations, opens tonight at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands, Grand Theatre. Performed for the first time in Singapore in English this majestical show tells the story of Quasimodo the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Esmeralda the Gypsy girl, in one of the most powerful love stories in history on par with Romeo and Juliet.

Since premiering in Paris, France in September 1998, the musical has attracted audiences of more than 4 million in France alone and broken box office records in Canada, Russia, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and South Korea surpassing 10 million spectators while combined sales of soundtrack and cast albums have reached the 10 million mark.

Notre Dame de Paris has been staged over 4000 times in 20 other countries, including Italy, Great Britain and the United States, receiving standing ovations every night.

Faithful to Victor Hugo’s classic novel Notre Dame de Paris, the show tells the emotionally charged story of the unfortunate Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral Bell Ringer, the hunchback Quasimodo, and his hopeless devotion for the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda. Phoebus, the untruthful soldier and Frollo, the priest torn between his faith to God and his desires will compete for Esmeralda’s love. While Clopin, the leader of the refugees or underclass, and Gringoire the poet will try to save Esmeralda.

The musical spectacular is the creation of lyricist Luc Plamondon and composer Richard Cocciante, whom have both won numerous awards for their work and is directed by Gilles Maheu. The English lyrics were written by Will Jennings, Oscar-winner for “My heart Will Go On” from the smash-hit film Titanic.

“It’s a well-known story which stands up on its own and doesn’t need to be explained. That’s why there are at least a dozen films based on the Victor Hugo novel, from the silent era to the recent Disney animation,” said Luc Plamandon.

Reminiscent of The Beauty and the Beast and presaging The Phantom of the Opera, Notre Dame de Paris remains a poignant and powerful myth with some of the interwoven storylines being more relevant today than ever: asylum-seekers, racism, the role of religion, the fear of the unknown and man’s place in an ever-changing world.

Riccardo Cocciante beautiful melodies will leave a long lasting impression on local  audiences. Featuring more than 54 vivid arias of operatic beauty and rock resonance, the characters are brought to life through stunning vocal performances and visual spectacle – courtesy of the show’s seven principal artistes and 24 dancers and acrobats.

The show will feature acrobatic contemporary dance choreography by Martino Muller, renowned modern dance visionary, contrasting with a beautiful love story moments to create an audience experience reminiscent of French cirque. Dancers appear to be flying across the stage under fantastic arcs, freely incorporating gymnastics, contemporary and even break dance moves into their repertoire – at one moment whirling across the floor in a series of pirouettes, and the next tumbling from a bungee rope high above the stage.

The show will be presented on a grand scale at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. The modern impressionistic stage set features a 12 metre high ‘climbing wall’ representing the façade of the grand cathedral of Notre Dame as well as the famous Bastille prison in Paris. This amazing edifice is also the platform for a series of stunning acrobatic routines that will leave the audience breathless.

Notre Dame de Paris, the musical spectacular, stands out because of the masterful staging and artistic integrity of director Gilles Maheu, who has revived the 170-year old story with contemporary touches and deft inspiration incorporating choreographies by Martino Muller and costumes designed by Fred Sathal and set by Christian Ratz.

The English language album, featuring the main stars of the London production, also features guest star Celine Dion singing “Live for the One I Love”.
Hit musical, rock-show, opera, concept-album or gothic melodrama, Notre-Dame de Paris retains traditional theatrical elements while using modern staging techniques and choreography to present eternal, universal, mythical tales and themes.

About Notre Dame de Paris

  • First opened at ‘Palais des Congres’ theatre in Paris in September 1998
  • Based on the novel ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ written by Victor Hugo in 1831
  • Sell-out tours in France, Canada, England, Switzerland, Russia, Spain, America, Italy, Monaco
  • 4000 performances over 20 countries and seen by more than 10 million people.
  • The most sensational and successful musical in France, Italy, Belgium and Russia
  • Taking Europe by storm, “Notre Dame de Paris’ opened in London at the Dominion Theatre on 23 May 2000, following previews which opened on 15 May 2000.
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, Notre Dame de Paris still holds the record as the show with the most successful first year of any musical ever produced.

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Promising a splashingly colourful start to the new year

22 12 2013

Touted as Asia’s Largest Beach Countdown Party, the highly anticipated Siloso Beach Party returns this year and promises to bring in 2014 with a splash of colour. Happening from 6 pm on 31 December 2013 and stretching to 6 am on 1 January 2014, the party, which is expected to draw a crowd of 20,000 to it, will offer five party zones, a giant foam pool and a sandy dance floor, as well as an opportunity for party goers to get splashed with colourful paint (all of which is water based and will be washable). For ticketing and more information on what looks to be another exciting countdown party do visit the Siloso Beach Party’s website.

 A sneak peek at what promises to be a splashingly colourful start to the New Year:

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Celebrating a new day in an old world made new

18 12 2013

The celebration of the new day as seen in the relatively new world at Lower Seletar Reservoir Park.

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Work on the reservoir, formed by the damming of the Sungei Seletar estuary, was completed in the late 1985. The construction of the 975 metre long dam at a cost of some S$60.8 million, cut off a river around which the Nee Soon area developed and with which is an association with the indigenous community of sea dwellers known as the Orang Seletar.

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The dam now provides a link between what is today the Yishun (the public housing estate named after Nee Soon) area of Singapore with the Seletar area and has created a reservoir with a surface area of some 352 hectares. The reservoir was originally named as the Sungei Seletar Reservoir, and was renamed in May 1992.

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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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A look at a dump

30 10 2013

Travelling down the Tampines Road of old back in the 1970s and 1980s, it was hard not to miss the convoys of trucks on their eastward journeys down the road.  The trucks, laden with much of what Singapore discarded, were headed to what then became Singapore’s last onshore dumping ground, occupying some 234 hectares of land on the right bank of Sungei Serangoon, which before the conversion to a rubbish dump site in 1970, was a large swamp (mangrove swamps lined much of Singapore’s original coastline, particularly along the northern coast) rich in bird life.

A very natural looking man made stream close to the area where a village, Kampong Beremban, once was.

A very natural looking man made stream close to the area where a village, Kampong Beremban, once was.

Taking a look around the former Lorong Halus dumping grounds these days, it is hard to imagine that it as a dump site for close to three decades (it was closed on 31 March 1999 and incinerated refuse has since been dumped offshore at Pulau Semakau). Part of the area today has been remade and is now a man-made wildlife sanctuary, the Lorong Halus Wetland. Despite the obvious signs of human intervention, the area (including that beyond the sanctuary) does have an aesthetic value from a natural environment (albeit man made) perspective, and offers that escape that can be hard to find in an island overgrown with too much concrete.

Another part of the former dump site.

Another part of the former dump site.

The wetland, is also linked to a bridge across what has since the mouth of the river was dammed, become Singapore’s 17th reservoir, the Serangoon Reservoir. The bridge provides access to what was the left bank of Sungei Serangoon, where the new public housing estate of Punggol has been developed, via the Punggol Promenade Riverside Walk.

Sungei Serangoon today.

Sungei Serangoon today.

For those familiar with the area, the area of Sungei Serangoon upstream from Lorong Halus at the end of Upper Serangoon Road was where old Kangkar Village was. Kangkar Village was a fishing port and once a base for fish traders and also Singapore’s fishing fleet, which numbered some ninety vessels in 1984 when it was closed to be moved to Punggol. The location of Kangkar today would be close to where Buangkok East Drive is.

Punggol Estate looming in the background on the left bank of Sungei Sernagoon.

Punggol and Sengkang public housing estates looming in the background on the left bank of Sungei Serangoon – Sengkang was the area where Kangkar Village was.

Interestingly, Lorong Halus was also where Singapore’s last night soil collection centre was located. The practice of collecting night soil (human waste) using buckets in both urban and rural areas, was carried out from the 1890s up to early 1987 when the last rural outhouses were used. Besides the rufuse that was generated by Singapore, also buried at Lorong Halus is the remains of a false killer whale which was stranded in shallow waters off Tuas in early 1994. The wetland was opened in 2011 and more information can be found at this link.

The bridge across the reservoir.

The bridge across the reservoir.

The view on the bridge.

The view on the bridge.

A resident of the wetland.

A resident of the wetland.

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Thorns in the urban landscape

22 10 2013

Intended to be an icon of a new Singapore, a building topped with a crown of thorns blocks the view from a once well-loved part of Singapore where many enjoy a meal of satay by the sea. The building, which houses Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay, which was completed in 2002, steals its name from the once popular promenade from which we could gaze out into the openness of the old harbour we can no longer see.

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The building is one some of us in Singapore struggle to find a connection in the same we have connected with the old National Library and the National Theatre and even that wonderful promenade by the sea that the real Esplanade was. Those icons, now erased from the new urban landscape, were ones which for many of us symbolised Singapore’s coming into the world as a nation, and point to humbler times we now seem not to want to be reminded of. This does perhaps exemplify what the new Singapore has become for some of us – a place we struggle to recognise and connect with, and one which has become a  Singapore we find hard to call home.





A sunrise from Ghost Island

25 09 2013

A view of the rising of the sun at 7.25 am on 24 September 2013, looking across Keppel Harbour from Keppel Island. Keppel Island before 1983, was named Pulau Hantu or “Ghost Island” and was renamed when Keppel Shipyard started development of shipyard facilities on the island which was obtained in exchange for two graving docks, the Victoria and Albert Docks, which were transferred to the Port of Singapore Authority for development of the Tanjong Pagar Wharves. The island where the Marina @ Keppel Bay is now located, is now linked to the mainland by a cable-stayed bridge, the Keppel Bay Bridge (on the left of the photograph). The bridge, opened in early 2008, is said to be the longest in Singapore with a span of 250 metres. The bridge and marina are part of a luxury waterfront development taking place in what was formerly land occupied by Keppel Shipyard. More information on the shipyard, the historic graving docks it operated in the area and the developments taking place can be found in two previous entries: A sunrise on another strange horizon and The King that lost its glory.

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More information on Keppel Bay Bridge can also be found at Keppel Corporation’s website (click on this link).





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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