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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A big stink (but a welcome one) hits the Gardens

18 09 2013

The very first successful hybrid of the so-called ‘Corpse Flower’, the Amorphophallus titanum and the Amorphophallus variabilis, the Amorphophallus ‘John Tan’ – being seen for the first time in Singapore, has bloomed and now on display at the Cloud Forest, one of the two cooled conservatories in the Gardens by the Bay.

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The Corpse Flower, which is native to Sumatra and grows at 120 to 365 metres above sea level, is so-named for the foul smell it emits which is similar to the smell of decaying meat. The hybrid is attributed to Ralph D. Mangelsdorff who was successful in crossing the seed parent plant of the Amorphophallus variabilis, which grows at 700 to 900 metres above sea level in Indonesia and the Philippines, with the pollen parent plant of the Amorphophallus titanum. The flower of the Amorphophallus variabilis produces a durian-like smell to attract pollinators.

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The Amorphophallus ‘John Tan’ on display, the blooming of which is unpredictable, stands at 205 cm and is named after a Singaporean, John Tan Jiew Hoe, for his support of the Amorphophallus hybridisation programme. The 5.9 kg tuber was donated by John Tan to the Gardens by the Bay on 27 August 2013. The bloom is expected to last for only two days and for the very rare opportunity to view it, the Gardens by the Bay is offering 15% discount off standard rate single conservatory tickets on 18 and 19 September 2013. The conservatory is opened from 9 am to 11 pm on both days (I did not quite get a smell – but I was told it is stronger in the evenings).

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An invasion of pumpkins

3 10 2012

Step into the Flower Dome, one of the two cooled conservatories at the Gardens by the Bay, this October and November and what will greet you is the surprise of the orange glow of 1,500 pumpkins, on show as part of the Autumn Harvest seasonal display at the Flower Field. The 850 square metre Flower Field, the centrepiece of the Flower Dome, has as part of the Autumn Harvest display, been decorated with some 18,000 blooms – Sunflowers, Marigolds, Lavenders, Heucheras, Calla Lilies, Tomatoes, Kales and Chrysanthemums, which mixed with scarecrows, wheelbarrows, hay, hay rabbits, a cornucopia, and different coloured ears of corn, gives that sense of the time of harvest that is associated with the warm glow of autumn.

Some 1,500 pumpkins will colour the Flower Field orange.

The Flower Field will be decorated with scarecrows and wooden wheelbarrows to give a sense of the harvest season in the warm glow of autumn.

They are sunflowers ….

and some 18,000 blooms as part of the Autumn Harvest display on the Flower Field.

The pumpkins, a fruit which ripens in the autumn, are at the heart of the display. A total of 10 varieties including green marbled and white miniature pumpkins with a combined weight of 1 tonne have been flown in from Oregon, USA, specially for the display. Amongst the 1500 pumpkins and exotically shaped gourds, there is one that will certainly catch the eye – a giant pumpkin, the diameter of which I have been told is about 1 metre!

The giant pumpkin.

A rabbit made of hay.

Autumn Harvest will be on display from now up until the end of November and is part of the changing display on the Flower Field that reflects different seasons and festivals through the year. More information on the Gardens by the Bay, opening times and admission charges to the conservatories can be found at the website.

Varieties of corn and a cornucopia – the horn of plenty also decorate the Flower Field.

Autumn Harvest provides a wonderful backdrop for photos.


Other recent views around the Gardens by the Bay

The 30 metre high waterfall off the Cloud Mountain in the second cooled conservatory – the Cloud Forest.

The Supertree Grove at sunset.

The OCBC Skywalk at the Supertree Grove.





Kids at the Conservatories

4 09 2012

With the September school holidays upon us in Singapore, the Gardens by the Bay which has not seen any let up in the flow of visitors since it opened at the end of June, has been running what is the first of their school holiday programmes which they hope to extend to the future school holidays as well. The programmes, named “Kids at the Conservatories“, is a series of specially curated guided tours aimed at children between the ages of 4 to 9 and each includes a tour of the two conservatories with an interactive activity at the end of each which reinforces the key lessons learnt during the tour.

A school holiday kids programme in the clouds! The Gardens by the Bay’s school holiday Education and Outreach Programme has kids on the Cloud Walk learning more about plants and their usefulness.

I was able to follow one of the activities, Talented Plants, designed for children of ages 4 – 6. While at the initial introduction, many of the young participants seemed reluctant to part with their parents, most had warmed up by the time the guided walk took them into the cool conservatories, starting with the Australian Garden in the Flower Dome and participated in answering questions that the guide, who introduced herself as ‘Teacher’ Grace, posed along stops where she introduced plants and their usefulness to other living things around them.


‘Teacher’ Grace introducing water holding bromeliads in which tree frogs lay their eggs at the Cloud Forest.

The walk also took the kids (and their parents) through the Cloud Forest, where one of the things I did learn was that tree frogs lay their eggs in water holding plants known as bromeliads. The walk which took a little over an hour ended with an activity during which the participants were able to participate in a craft activity using recycled materials – used plastic bottles and newspapers – which were transformed into a ‘bottle tree’ which they were introduced to during the visit to the Flower Dome – which judging by the smiles on the faces of the kids at the end of it, was very well received. The tours, more information about which can be found at the Gardens by the Bay’s website (click here), are unfortunately all fully booked for this holidays, but do look out for more at the next school holidays.

Grace and the participants in the Cloud Forest.

The participants at the source of the waterfall.

The interactive activity at the end of the programme which saw the kids turn recycled materials into a bottle tree which they could each take home.

Real plants were used.

A proud owner of a ‘bottle tree’.





A garden in bloom

10 07 2012

In Pictures: The Bay South Garden which opened on 29 June 2012 and its two cooled conservatories in full bloom.

A place for community activities … both those that are organised …

… and those that are not …

Ticket queues for entry into the cooled conservatories … the two conservatories which offer a peek into botanical worlds that are out of reach for many are proving to be a hit with visitors to the Bay South Garden.

Cacti in the Flower Dome which replicates the cool dry climate found in areas such as the Mediterranean and Semi-Arid sub-tropical regions around the world.

Ghost Trees from Madagascar.

A thousand year old olive tree.

The Baobabs section of the Flower Dome.

The Flower Dome also features a changing floral display in the Flower Field.

The Cloud Forest replicates the Cool Moist climate of the Tropical Montane regions.

Pitcher plants are abundant in the Cloud Forest.

As are some rather unusual orchids.


All photographs in this post have been taken using a Sony α57 (SLT-A57) DSLR camera.


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The enchanted garden

5 07 2012

The opening weekend of Bay South Garden of the Gardens by the Bay saw crowds turning up in droves to have a look at the latest attraction – one of several developments that adds to the futuristic looking part of the city that is fast coming up on land that once had been the sea. The opening day – a Friday, had attracted as many as 30,000 visitors to the garden, 15,000 of which came for the first of two open air concerts held at the garden’s The Meadow – a sellout featuring Jason Mraz. The concert was part of a host of activities held to celebrate the garden’s opening. I managed to attend the second concert, a one-and-a-half hour performance in which Singapore born singer – the very talented Corrinne May, impressed the 5,000 audience with a soulful repertoire of songs which she had herself written. Both concerts were very well received and the garden is set to become the location, much as New York’s Central Park is, for open-air concerts in Singapore.

The enchanted garden – the Bay South Garden by night.

Concert goers at the Corrinne May concert on 30th June.

The Meadow seen during a free screening of an open air movie during the opening weekend.

After the madness that accompanied the opening weekend, I was glad to able to find the time to take a walk through part of the 54 hectare garden without the distraction of the crowd on a weekday evening. Free from the distraction of the weekend crowds, I was able to see how, as day turned into night, the garden being transformed into a world like none other – a world bathed in a magical glow of the illuminations of its rather curious but strangely captivating man-made structures. The visual highlight of the garden by night must certainly be the garden’s Supertrees of which there are three clusters which seem to sprout around the two cooled conservatories. The Supertrees, of which there are 18 in total, are really vertical gardens that are planted on steel structures arranged around a concrete core that ranges from 25 to 50 metres in height. The vertical displays of plants are primarily of tropical flowering climbers, epiphytes and ferns. The largest cluster, the Supertree Grove, is made up of 12 Supretrees. The other two clusters are each of three Supertrees in the Golden Garden (near the Arrival Square) and in the Silver Garden (near the Dragonfly Lake).

The Supertree Grove – a cluster of 18 Supertrees including one that is 50 metres high and two 42 metres high ones – one of which is dominates this scene.

Two other clusters of three Supertrees can be found at the Silver Garden (seen here) near the Dragonfly Lake and the Golden Garden near the Arrival Square.

The moon rises over a Supertree in the Golden Garden.

The Supertree Grove is the cluster that will certainly draw the most interest, not just because it is the largest cluster and also where the largest Supertrees are found – the 50 metre tall one which will house a treetop bistro and two 42 metre tall ones between which a curved 128 metre long aerial walkway, the OCBC Skyway, is suspended. The OCBC Skyway, 22 metres above ground, offers not only an amazing view of the garden, but also a view that extends east towards the Marina Barrage and west where the Marina Bay Sands Complex stands.

The OCBC Skyway at dusk.

The Supertree Grove also plays host to a 15 minute long audio-visual spectacle – the OCBC Light and Sound Show (which opened on 2nd July 2012). The show will come on twice every night at 7.45 pm and 8.45 pm and is something that certainly should not be missed.

The Supertrees during the OCBC Light and Sound Show …

Supertrees in the Supertree Grove and the OCBC Skyway against the backdrop of Marina Bay Sands.

Another part of the gardens that I found to be quite a wonder at night is inside one of the two cooled conservatories – the Cloud Forest. Whether by day or by night, the entrance into the Cloud Forest is one which would be greeted by a spectacular sight – that of a 30 metre high waterfall that falls from Cloud Mountain. It is however at night that the waterfall bathed in the purple-blue of its illumination takes on a magical appearance. The conservatory takes on a warmer and a more welcoming appearance by night and it is for this, the conservatories magical waterfall, and the glow of the Supertrees that makes what seems almost like an enchanted garden, very much worth a visit after night has fallen.

The 30 metre high waterfall that greets the visitor is bathed in an enchanting purple-blue glow at night.

The cantilevered Cloud Walk seen from ground level.

A view of the Treetop Walk, seen from the Cloud Walk at night.

The Cloud Walk and the Treetop Walk below.

The Cloud Walk, with Cloud Mountain and The Cavern, seen from the Treetop Walk.

Another view of the side of Cloud Mountain from the Treetop Walk.

View from the Secret Garden by night.


All photographs accompanying this post have been taken using a Sony α57 (SLT-A57) DSLR camera.


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