Gardens by the Bay

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

In Singapore, a new park is opening called Gardens of the Bay. The place is dedicated not only to creating a beautiful open space for people to enjoy as a getaway from the city, but also aims to create a living, breathing work of art. While I like the fusion, I wonder how natural the place really is.

A view of the garden from afar–the two rounded buildings at the far left are the conservatories. (Creative Commons, RnD.de.Portraits, Flickr)

The park has been in development since 2006, when Singapore first announced its plan to develop a garden within the city. There was a contest for designs, and of over 70 entries from 24 different countries, two finalists were chosen, each assigned to their own gardens–Bay East and Bay South (by the way, as a lover of London, I’m proud to say that both finalists were firms in the UK! But that’s beside the point…).

The bay gardens (a third, Bay Central was added into the works later) have opened to the public in the last year or two. They provide city-goers with a nice distraction from urban life and offer a cool setting for events, weddings, and the like. While I don’t know how much of an actual “garden” these bays really are, there’s no doubt that they’re cool. And they have a distinctly sustainable focus, too.

The central lakes in the gardens feed the nearby Marina reservoir, as well as have specifically engineered water beds that filter the water and irrigate the rest of the garden. And, of course, the lakes serve as an ecosystem for fish and other aquatic animals.

The Flower Conservatory (Creative Commons, chooyutshing, Flickr)

There are also two conservatories in the gardens–giant glass buildings with swaying, rounded shapes. Inside, carefully controlled temperatures mimic tropical and mediterranean climates, allowing plants unseen in the region to thrive. The design of the conservatories is 30% more efficient than standard cooling houses (although you can bet they’re already sucking up plenty of energy). BUT…the buildings are made of special glass that allows light in for growth but minimizes heat, and there are even automated sails on the roof that pop up to provide a cooling shade for the plants. Furthermore, the conservatories run on energy that is partly generated by horticultural waste both from these gardens and other neighboring parks. So while the conservatories probably aren’t the most energy friendly things around, the engineers made a specific effort to reduce energy consumption and waste.

The supertree grove under construction in 2011. (Creative Commons, chooyutshing, Flickr)

Coolest of all, in my opinion, are the Supertrees. First off, they just look awesome. The grove of supertrees is more of a sculpted arboretum, with giant “trees” up to 16 stories high made of metal and other materials. At the top of one tree is a bistro, providing a beautiful panoramic view of the garden, city and bay area, while other trees have connecting bridges that span over a hundred metres suspended in the air. And, perhaps most magical, at night the trees glow to create a beautiful light display. Again, this isn’t a very natural look, but it’s beautiful in its own, surreal way. Furthermore, some of the trees are fitted with photovoltaic cells to absorb solar energy during the day and use that to glow at night. Other trees serve as “air exhaust receptacles,” according to their website. Not quite sure what that means, but it sounds like it’s a good thing.

Overall, this park/garden sounds pretty awesome and like a great tourist destination. I’m not sure I’ll ever jet over to that part of the world, but if I found myself in Singapore, I’m sure I’d go right away.

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