The making of Marina Bay

8 11 2012

The decades that followed Singapore’s somewhat reluctant independence from Malaysia were ones of enormous growth and development which has led to an amazing transformation of a city state, with a burgeoning population, the threat of unemployment and facing much uncertainty into the modern city that it is today. One place where that transformation is very apparent is in and around the city centre, particularly in the Marina Bay area which has seen it morph from the old harbour on which Singapore’s wealth was built into the city of the future built around what has become Singapore’s 15th fresh water reservoir that it is today.

The dawn of a new Singapore at Marina Bay.

View of Clifford Pier, the Inner Roads and the Breakwater in the 1950s from an old postcard (courtesy of Mr. Low Kam Hoong).

Map of Singapore Harbour in the 1950s showing the Detached Mole, Inner Roads and Outer Roads.

The transformation that took place was a story that began in the years that followed independence. Singapore embarked on the State and City Planning Project (SCP) in 1967, assisted by the United Nations under the UN Development Programme’s special assistance scheme for urban renewal and development for emerging nations. The SCP which was completed in 1971, Singapore’s first Concept Plan, identified the need to build an adequate road transportation network. This included a coastal highway to divert traffic that would otherwise have to go through the city. For this land was to be reclaimed, with the construction of what is today Benjamin Sheares Bridge providing a vital link. Initial thoughts were that a green belt could be created on the reclaimed land with space created providing for a future expansion of the city. What did become of the plan and further developments over the years was to give us not just the highway which is the East Coast Parkway (ECP), but in addition to that a city of the future, a city in a garden, and certainly what is a truly amazing new part of Singapore we celebrate today.

Singapore’s City in a Garden concept is very much evident in the transformation of Marina Bay.

The last decade has seen the many developments which were the result of decades of planning take shape around Marina Bay.

You can find out more about this transformation and how it took place by participating in a guided walk this weekend or the next, ‘The Making of Marina Bay‘ which be conducted by Zinkie Aw, held as part of a month long ‘Loving Marina Bay‘ event organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Details of the walk (and also one more that I will be conducting on 25 Nov 2012 entitled ‘A Walk Around the Old Harbour’) can be found at The Loving Marina Bay site. To sign up for the walks, do visit the Eventbrite signup page. The month long event will also feature a street museum exhibition at Clifford Square (in between Clifford Pier and One Fullerton) in which photographs of the old have been superimposed on the new to provide an appreciation of the changes around the bay through which you can also discover where places such as the Satay Club once were.

A ‘Street Museum’ panel at Clifford Square.

Discover where places such as the Satay Club were through the street museum.

About Loving Marina Bay

See the story of Marina Bay through our AmBAYssadors

Located at the heart of Singapore’s city centre, Marina Bay is the centrepiece of Singapore set to be a thriving 24/7 destination with endless exciting events and a necklace of attractions where people from all walks of life come together to live, work and play.

This photography exhibition showcases the different facets of the Marina Bay precinct through over 100 enthralling photos taken by 20 of our beloved AmBAYssadors made up of Singapore’s popular bloggers and photographers.

Heritage is very much part of the precinct’s foundation, captured in key historical landmarks such as Merlion Park and Collyer Quay.

An interesting Street Museum section chronicles Marina Bay’s story over its first few decades since the 1960s, telling a story of strategic, far-sighted and meticulous planning and committed engagement to reach its present state through archive photos superimposed on its modern-day context.

Join us during the month-long event where every weekend is full of exciting activities such as heritage walks and photography workshops led by our very own AmBAYssadors. We want you to be part of Loving Marina Bay too – submit a photo taken at Marina Bay anywhere, anytime to win prizes; or simply pen a Love Note to your family/friends, drop it into the red pillar post boxes at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore and we will send it anywhere in the world for you! Visit for more details.

No wild boars here but definitely a ‘wow’

29 06 2012

Singapore wakes up today to a new wonder, the latest in a series of projects which sees a brand new world being built on land that was once the sea, as the Bay South Garden of the Gardens by the Bay opens to the public. The highly anticipated Bay South Garden was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last evening at a ceremony held in one of the two cooled conservatories at the garden, the Flower Dome, which was attended by some 700 guests. Mr Lee in his speech touched on the ‘wow’ factor of the garden, remarking how he had looked up at 30 metre high waterfall in the Cloud Forest (the second cooled conservatory) and exclaimed ‘wow’, and being informed that was what one ‘was expected to say’.

The 30 metre high waterfall on the Cloud Mountain that had PM Lee exclaiming ‘wow’.

Mr Lee also spoke of the value of creating a green space as a motivating factor in the decision to devote what would essentially be prime real estate, giving Singaporeans not just a green lung, but also as a green oasis in the city where Singaporeans can enjoy and identify with much as New York’s Central Park is to New Yorkers. Mr Lee in touching on the desire to bring flora and fauna made mention of bringing plants, flowers, butterflies and ‘once in a while, a few wild boars’. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the recent debate on the wild boar population and the need to cull it.

PM Lee Hsien Loong speaking about being wowed and about wild boars.

One of two cooled conservatories – the 58 metre high Cloud Forest which replicates the cool-moist climate typically found in Tropical Montane regions between 1,000 to 3,500 metres above sea level.

Guests for the official opening visiting the Cloud Forest.

Although there were no wild boars in sight, I had a chance to say ‘wow’ by taking my own walk inside the completed Cloud Forest. I had once previously seen it during a media preview I had the privilege to attend in early April. Then, the man-made Cloud Mountain which dominates the interior of the conservatory, wore the green not of plants attached to its side, but the green of the netting that was laid around its sides mixed with the dull grey of the scaffolding that was put up all around it. It was a very different view that I got this time around. The 35 metre Cloud Mountain, on its 35 metres takes a visitor up some 1000 to 3500 metres above sea level to a replicated environment of high altitude tropical zones, was not just a lot greener, it was also shrouded in mist and certainly gave mean impression of an ascent into the clouds.

The mist shrouded Cloud Mountain. There are two walkways at its side, a 122 metre long Cloud Walk (above) and a 130 metre long Treetop Walk (below).

Guests for the official opening walking along the Cloud Walk.

The waterfall isn’t the only wow about the Cloud Forest. Ascending into the clouds – with the help of the modern convenience of an elevator, gives the visitor a whole new set of experiences that go beyond the display of fauna some of would not otherwise have been seen in Singapore. The ascent takes the visitor to the top of the ‘mountain’ to the Lost World featuring cloud forest vegetation typically found at around 2,000 metres above sea-level where the ‘source’ of the waterfall is and down a 122 metre cantilevered walkway, the Cloud Walk from which the visitor takes in a spectacular view in descending through the mist covered exterior of the Cloud Mountain which also offers the visitor a glimpse of the epiphytic plant species on the side of the ‘mountain’ – another big ‘wow’. It is this ‘wow’, as well as for the other cooled conservatory – the Flower Dome which features some curious looking trees, including one commonly referred to as a Monkey Puzzle Tree, as well as twisted and bent 1000 year old olive trees, that makes the garden well worth a visit. More information is available on my previous posts on the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.

The Lost World at the top of Cloud Mountain is where the waterfall falls from.

The Lost World at the top of the Cloud Mountain.

The waterfall.

Flowers found in the Lost World.

A plant in the Lost World.

The mist shrouded view from the Cloud Walk down to the Treetop Walk.

Part of the Cloud Walk seen above the mist.

Another view of the Cloud Walk.

The external walkway offers a chance to get up close to the epiphytic plant species on the side of the ‘mountain’.

Besides the cooled conservatories, the 54 hectare site which is designed by UK-based landscape architecture firm Grant Associates also features vertical gardens taking the form of 18 Supertrees in the Golden Garden, Silver Garden and Supertree Grove; the Heritage Gardens; The World of Plants; the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes. The Supertree Grove features a suspended aerial walkway, the OCBC Skyway and the OCBC Light and Sound Show (making its debut on 2 July 2012). Bay South is also the largest of the three gardens which form the larger Gardens by the Bay. When completed, the Gardens by the Bay will occupy a total of 101 hectares of land by the water around Marina Bay and will include the 32 hectare Bay East Garden which will be linked to the Bay South Garden by Bay Central which will feature a 3 km promenade that offers stunning views of the city.

The Cavern.

The Treetop Walk seen through an opening in The Cavern.

Light streaming into The Cavern.

Another view of the Cloud Walk and the Treetop Walk.

Through the waterfall.

The opening of the Bay South Garden is expected to draw large crowds to it, especially with the host of exciting events lined up to coincide with its opening. The opening weekend (29 June to 1 July 2012) will see a series of events that is collectively named as Rhythm with Nature. More information on the events can be found at the Gardens by the Bay’s website. While entry into the garden is free, there is an entry fee to visit the two cooled conservatories and the OCBC Skyway – a 128 metre long aerial walkway suspended 22 metres above the ground at the Supertree Grove. Information on admission charges is available at the Gardens by the Bay’s website.

Opening Scenes

Guests gathered in the Flower Dome for the official opening.

There was food too!

Dr Kiat W Tan, CEO of Gardens by the Bay.

Host for the evening, the very lovely Glenda Chong.

More information:

Where wonder blooms

28 06 2012

The huge and spectacular project being undertaken by the National Parks Board (NParks) that hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Marina Bay area, part of an effort to transform Singapore into a ‘City in a Garden’, reaches a major milestone this evening when the 54 hectare Bay South Garden is officially opened. The Bay South Garden which will open to the public from tomorrow (29 June 2012) is designed by a UK-based landscape architecture firm, Grant Associates, will feature themed gardens, somewhat futuristic looking Supertrees and offer visitors a chance to experience the cool-dry springtime climate of the Mediterranean and semi-arid sub-tropical regions and an ascent into the cool-moist climate of the Tropical Montane regions in two cooled glass conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Besides the two conservatories for which admission charges apply, another highlight would a 128 metre aerial walkway suspended 22 metres above the ground – the OCBC Skyway (admission charges also apply) which offers a spectacular view of the gardens, at the Supertree Grove. The Supertree Grove will also feature the “OCBC Light and Sound Show” which makes it debut on 2 July 2012.

The Supertree Grove and the OCBC Skyway at dusk (this is one of two photographs of mine that were selected for display at the “Where Wonder Blooms” photo exhibition).

A series of events has been lined up for the opening of the gardens to the public from the 29th of June, which will include several which will span over the opening weekend (29 June to 1 July 2012) that is collectively named as Rhythm with Nature. This will feature two open air concerts, the first with Jason Mraz performing (already sold-out) on the 29th and the second on the 30th in which local songbird, Corrinne May, who is back in Singapore after a four-year absence, will perform. More information on the opening events, which will also include a free outdoor screening of a Movie at the Gardens on 30 June during which the movie “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs” will be shown (free admission upon redemption of tickets at Rhythm with Nature info counter at Green Fair – subject to availability and limited to 4 tickets per person), can also be found at the Gardens by the Bay page.

Some previous posts and useful resources: