Gardens by the Bay
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The Gardens by the Bay are three public gardens with a total land area of 1,010,000 m2 in Marina Bay. Built on reclaimed land, the three gardens of Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central are managed by the National Parks Board (NParks). The Gardens include cooled conservatories, individual gardens, event and dining spaces, connecting waterways, lakes, aerial bridges and the showpiece Supertrees, structures up to 50 m high covered by plants. The largest garden, Bay South, officially opened on 29 June 2012.
The Gardens were conceptualised in 2003 as a key component of the government’s City in a Garden vision, which evolved from Singapore’s reputation as a Garden City. NParks envisioned a garden that would eventually rival iconic green spaces like Central Park in New York and London’s Kew Gardens and become a defining feature of Singapore’s aspirations to become a global city. A new public green space in the city area was also needed, as the Botanic Gardens were being overstretched by the demands of leisure, research and academic usage. It was thus decided that the Gardens by the Bay would be the focal point for horticultural recreation, while the Botanic Gardens would largely cater to education, research and conservation.
The Gardens project was led by Tan Wee Kiat from the time he was chief executive officer (CEO) of NParks. Upon his retirement as NParks CEO in 2006, he was appointed as advisor to NParks and project director of Gardens by the Bay. Tan promoted the Gardens as a public space for all Singaporeans in the prime area of Marina Bay. He sought public funding for the project and the usage of a prime plot of land by pointing out that an iconic green space would boost the commercial value of developments around it as well as enhance Singapore’s economic, aesthetic and tourism appeal. Tan has also credited the support of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Design process, construction and development
In January 2006, NParks launched a competition for the masterplan and design of the Gardens. The competition was open to local and international architects and landscape planners, and drew more than 70 entries by 170 firms from 24 countries, including entries by well-known architectural firms Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Foster and Partners. The 11-member international jury considered designs on their appeal to both local and foreign recreation-seekers as well as the profiles of the design teams.
Four months later, the designs of 10 teams consisting of 38 firms had been shortlisted based on their respective track records and approaches. Of the 38 firms, 9 were from Singapore, 10 from Japan, 9 from the United Kingdom, 3 from the Netherlands, 6 from the United States and 1 from Australia. In September 2006, NParks announced that British landscape consultancy Grant Associates had been chosen to design Bay South, while Bay East would be designed by London-based firm Gustafson Porter. The design for Bay Central was left open pending public feedback. The designs for the Gardens were also displayed at the Singapore pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
In June 2007, the existing Marina City Park and Marina South Promenade were closed for construction of the Gardens. The groundbreaking ceremony was then held in November, and it was announced that the Gardens would cost an estimated S$900 million, receive around 2.7 million visitors each year and generate S$1 billion annually in tourism receipts.
During the construction of the Gardens, NParks acquired plants and trees from numerous sources worldwide. A S$7 million research facility was set up at HortPark, comprising six glasshouses that simulated various climatic conditions and enabled NParks to test the most efficient methods of getting non-native flowers to bloom. In April 2008, NParks received the first shipment of plants meant for the Gardens, a S$2 million collection of bromeliads native to the Americas. The collection consisted of 210,000 bromeliads of more than 3,000 varieties.
The first conservatory in the Gardens, Bay South’s Flower Dome, was completed in February 2011, and the first trees were installed in the dome three months later. In October, the water-themed Bay East was opened for interim public use with NParks planning further development of the garden. Bay South then opened for a week-long preview in November 2011, in conjunction with the 20th World Orchid Conference.
Construction costs for Bay South had risen more than 30% by then but were kept manageable through the use of cost-efficient technologies, an increase in public funding and the corporate sponsorship of a number of the Gardens’ features. Bay South opened to the public on 29 June 2012, while Bay East (open as an interim garden) and Bay Central remain in development.
Envisioned as a garden filled with colour and vibrancy throughout the year, Bay South is the largest of the three gardens at 540,000 m2. The garden showcases tropical blooms and colourful foliage, as well as plants of economic importance to international trade and their connection to the daily lives of people in the region. There are two conservatories in Bay South: the Flower Dome that replicates the cool-dry climate of the Mediterranean and hosts baobabs, olive trees and date palms, among others; and the Cloud Forest with a cool-moist climate akin to tropical montane regions between 1,000 m and 3,500 m above sea level. The two conservatories contain around 226,000 plants and cover a combined 20,000 m2.
The Gardens’ 18 Supertrees are all located in Bay South, with the tallest steel-framed concrete structure standing at 50 m and the shortest at 25 m. Each Supertree is covered with nearly 163,000 plants of more than 200 species and varieties, including bromeliads, orchids and tropical flowering climbers. The Supertrees, inspired by the giant trees of the rainforest, also function as exhaust vents for the conservatories and as dining spaces, and 11 of them have environmentally-friendly features such as solar panels and water harvesters. Bay South also includes individual themed gardens such as the Heritage Gardens, lakes and over 9,000 m2 of commercial space.
The Gardens’ energy needs, such as the cooling of the conservatories, are partially met by an underground bio-mass boiler that utilises horticultural and organic waste to power a steam turbine. The conservatories are cooled by chilled water pipes at ground level, which allow warm air to be vented out at high levels, and a liquid dessicant system dehumidifies the air in the Gardens, reducing energy usage.
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The information in this article is valid as at 2 July 2012 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from out sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.