Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay: The Best of Nature and Architecture

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Super fancy high tech architecture usually doesn’t excite me. I used to think that sublime design is more my thing. It all changed when I visited Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay: its architecture blew my mind! It’s without a doubt one the most beautiful parks I’ve ever visited. This green oasis of around 100 hectares gave Singapore new green lungs. Likewise, it catapulted the city to the forefront of metropolis both in Southeast Asia and the world. Since its opening in 2012, the gardens have become an integral part of Singapore’s unique skyline and its most visited landmark.

Gardens by the Bay Singapore

Gardens by the Bay Location

The Gardens by the Bay occupy a privileged location on reclaimed land east of the city center. From 1969 to 1992, some 360 hectares around Marina Bay were reclaimed from the sea. To the south of Marina Bay, we find Marina South. Until the project picked up, people would come to the area to play soccer and fly kites. The central business district grew and now occupies the western section of Marina South, adjacent to the historic center. The park on the eastern side of Marina South, known as Marina City Park, closed in 2007 to make room for Gardens by the Bay South.

Gardens by the Bay Location

Gardens by the Bay Project

The Gardens by the Bay is an ongoing project born out of Singapore’s desire to promote itself as a city inside a garden. The Gardens have three different sections: Bay South, Bay East, and Bay Central. Wilkinson Eyre and Grant Associates Landscape Architects designed the first and largest section: Bay South. They did so in the shape of an orchid flower. However, Gardens by the Bay is not only the child of architects. State of the art technology is used to grow endangered plants. Take note that the section with the massive steel trees is Bay South. Bay East is a beautiful park, and Bay Central is yet to be.

Gardens by the Bay Project

Gardens by the Bay South (Bay South Garden)

General Layout

The beauty you’ve seen on photos is Gardens by the Bay South, also known as Bay South Garden. The main access is a bridge over beautiful Dragonfly Lake. This bridge takes you to the Heritage Gardens. The Supertrees are after these four small gardens. You can go from tree to tree on the OCBC Skyway. You can eat at any of the restaurants and cafés behind the Supertrees. Behind the restaurants, you will find another set of gardens: the World of Plants. Two giant glass structures dominate the area closer to Marina Bay: The Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. A giant canopy connects these two glass structures. As you can see, everything in Gardens by the Bay follows a plan.

Gardens by the Bay South Map

Dragonfly Lake

The Dragonfly Lake is the larger of the two lakes inside Gardens by the Bay. A canal connects both lakes with Marina Bay. As we mentioned, most tourists enter through The Dragonfly Lake. Be sure to grab your camera since the views from the bridge are spectacular. The 440-meter boardwalk along the eastern side of the lake is perfect for discovering the area from the ground. Two aluminum statues depict kids riding dragonflies. To spot real dragonflies, use the binoculars at the northern end of the boardwalk.

Dragonfly Lake

Heritage Gardens

After crossing the bridge, you’ll step into the four Heritage Gardens of Singapore. Three are about Singapore’s ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay, and Indian. The fourth is about its colonial heritage. In the Chinese Garden, you’ll see artistic artificial rocks, trimmed bushes, and water elements imitating nature. The Malay Garden houses plants that Malays cultivate, like coconut, durian, rambutan, and breadfruit. The Indian Garden represents Hindu religious texts like the Ayurveda, where plants are offered to Gods and Deities. Finally, the Colonial Garden tells the story of the spice trade. Here you’ll find aromatic plants, from coffee and cocoa trees to rubber and cloves.

Heritage Gardens Singapore

Supertrees and OCBC Skyway

The most recognizable elements of the gardens and probably of Singapore, are the enormous man made trees called Supertrees. The 25 to 50-meter tall structures culminate in giant canopies that provide shade from the sun. Each tree has a concrete core, steel frame, and numerous species of plants inside the trunk. In total, there are 18 extra-large tress: 12 in the Supertree Grove, 3 in the Silver Garden, and 3 in the Golden Garden. The impressive Supertree Grove is the center point of the Gardens by the Bay. It consists of eight smaller trees, three larger ones, and one enormous tree that homes the Supertree Observatory. The famous aerial walkway, OCBC Skyway, connects two large trees 22 meters above the ground. As you can imagine, the views from there are unbelievable.

Man made trees Singapore Supertrees

World of Plants

The World of Plants is another group of thematic gardens. Here you can learn about tropical plants and ecosystems. The Discovery garden showcases some of the oldest plants in the world. The Web of Life houses several different fig-trees, the favorite food of orangutans and hornbills. The Fruits and Flowers section is an impressive collection of different fruit and flower species. The Understorey Garden teaches us how decomposers like mushrooms produce nutrients for the ecosystem. In the World of Palms, you can learn about the different uses of these beautiful plants. Finally, the last garden of World of Plants, Secret Life of Trees, talks about the challenges that Singapore trees face to survive.

World of Plants Singapore

The Flower Dome

The Flower Dome conservatory, with its thousands of flowers from semi-arid regions, is the largest glass greenhouse in the world. This giant glass structure occupies an area of 1,3 hectares and can receive up to 1000 visitors. It contains eight permanent gardens and one that changes, the Flower Field. The gardens are Olive Grove, Mediterranean Garden, Californian Garden, South American Garden, South African Garden, Australian Garden, Succulent Garden, and Baobab Trees. Flowers thrive inside the dome thanks to constant temperatures of 23 – 25 ºC and humidity of 60-80 %. To achieve this, water pipes in the ground cool the air, and warm air escapes from the top.

Flower Dome

The Cloud Forest

On the other hand, the Cloud Forest conservatory houses rare plants. There are different levels inside. The first thing you’ll notice is an artificial mountain covered by plants. The waterfall falling from the 35-meter mountain is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The Lost World is at the top of the mountain. As you can imagine, it is a collection of plants found at high altitudes. A long pedestrian bridge called Cloud Walk surrounds the mountain. Under the top, there is a Cavern and a Crystal Mountain where you can see real stalactites and stalagmites. In the middle of the venue, the Secret Garden displays several types of plants, from orchids to begonias. Next to it, the Cloud Forest Gallery and Theater are two educational rooms. What else could you ask for? Another pedestrian bridge, the Treetop Walk, connects it all.

Cloud Forest

Gardens by the Bay East (Bay East Garden)

The Gardens by the Bay East is the second largest area. The Bay East Garden is northeast of the South Garden, across the Marina Bay. The gardens are much more subdued and feel more like a regular park. Other than tropical trees, bushes, and flowers, there are a couple of small lakes and resting areas. The 2-kilometer path along the bay, the Skyline Promenade, offers outstanding views of the city center and Gardens by the Bay South. The Marina Barrage, open to pedestrians, connects the east and south gardens.

Singapore Gardens

Garden Rhapsody Light and Sound Show

Everything in Gardens by the Bay is spectacular: its gardens, lakes, and architecture. To enjoy it to the fullest, stay for the Garden Rhapsody light and sound show. Lighting designer Adrian Tan and music composer Bang Wenfu created a colorful music show that highlights the beauty of the gardens. This 15-minute spectacle takes place every evening at 7:15 and 8:15 at the Supertree Grove. We recommend watching part of the show under the trees and the rest from a distance. You won’t believe your eyes!

Garden Rhapsody

Marina Bay Sands

Every visit to Gardens by the Bay should include its neighbor Marina Bay Sands. The uniquely shaped buildings are part of the same development project and offer the best views of the gardens. The multibillion structure includes a giant hotel, casino, convention center, mall, two theaters, galleries, and museums. Its architect, Moshe Safdie, designed it to resemble a giant stack of cards. We are talking about the three imposing towers that house the hotel. A 340-meter long platform named SkyPark tops it all. During construction, builders used Feng Shui to improve the design.

Marina Bay Sands

Books on Gardens by the Bay

As you can imagine, there are plenty of books about Gardens by the Bay. The Green: House Green: Engineering: Environmental Design at Gardens by the Bay Singapore by Patrick Bellew, is about the engineering miracle of the two conservatories. Fantastic photos and graphics follow the detailed descriptions. In Planning Singapore: The Experimental City (Planning, History and Environment Series), Stephen Hamnett and Belinda Yuen describe the city’s urban development in the late 20th century. The book has a great section on Singapore’s future challenges. For insiders’ information on the project, read DP Architects on Marina Bay: Evolution of a Civic Downtown by Collin Anderson. It’s a fascinating description of the studio’s involvement in developing the Marina Bay area.

OCBC Skyway

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