Gardens by the Bay: Singapore’s garden city
Spanning an area of 101 hectares of reclaimed land adjacent to the Marina Reservoir in southern Singapore, Gardens by the Bay is a fast growing national symbol and a popular hotspot for both tourists and locals alike all year round. Currently comprising three waterfront gardens and several iconic structures, Gardens by the Bay serves not only as the ideal model for a sustainable futuristic Singapore, but also as a convenient and relaxing spot for a jog or simply to laze around in the midst of nature.
A brief history of Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay was developed as part of the plans of the Singaporean government to realize the “City in a Garden” concept for an environmentally sustainable Singapore. Among its aims are to promote greenery as a vital element for Singapore’s future development, as well as to raise awareness on sustainable management of energy and the environment. Plans for its development were first announced during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech in the 2005 National Day Rally, and in January of the following year, an international competition for a master plan design was launched in order to obtain ideas from leading world experts. Drawing more than 70 entries from 170 firms over 24 countries, the competition eventually saw two firms from the UK emerging victorious, namely Grant Associates and Gustafson Porter for the Bay South and Bay East Gardens respectively.
Work on Bay South Garden commenced in November 2007, shortly followed by work on Bay East Garden. The latter, however, was the first to be finished, as it was developed as an interim garden to host some of the rowing and canoeing events of the 2010 Youth Summer Olympics. After undergoing further development, Bay East Garden was finally opened to the public in October 2011, marking the first segment of the garden to be made accessible to the general public. Bay South Garden was opened to the public from June 29, 2012 onwards, whereas work on Bay Central Garden is still in the early development stages at the time of writing.
How to get to Gardens by the Bay
Taking public transport to Gardens by the Bay is simple and convenient, although with the Gardens by the Bay MRT station still under construction at the time of writing, accessing the gardens via public transport may require a little bit of walking. Currently, the nearest MRT station is Bayfront on the Circle Line. Take Exit B, which leads to the gardens via an underground linkway. Another alternative is to alight at Marina Bay MRT station on the North South Line or Circle Line. Take Exit A, after which taking Bus No. 400 will bring you to the bus stop along Marina Gardens Drive, which is the nearest to the gardens.
If you happen to be in the nearby Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay is just within short walking distance. Find your way to Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, at which there is a bridge on Level 4 that connects directly into the hotel towers and subsequently another bridge that leads to Bay South Garden. Alternatively, from the Helix Bridge that leads to the Art Science Museum, there is a footpath that goes under the East Coast Parkway (ECP) leading directly into Bay South Garden along the waterfront area.
Introduction to the gardens
Bay East Garden, as its name suggests, is situated on the eastern side of the gardens. It covers an area of 15 hectares, and features a 2km waterfront promenade from which visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of Singapore’s Marina Bay financial district skyline. In this interim garden, visitors can enjoy various kinds of recreational activities such as picnicking or jogging, or simply laze around amidst the garden’s scenic and relaxing landscape. Various development plans for Bay East Garden are currently in progress, in which the garden will be developed further based on the theme of water.
Bay South Garden is the largest of the gardens, spanning a total area of 54 hectares. Its overall design is creatively modeled after Singapore’s national flower, the Singapore orchid. Bay South Garden was developed with the aim of showcasing the best of Singapore’s tropical horticulture and garden landscaping, and it is here where most of the attractions and main features are located.
Bay Central Garden is still in the early stages of planning and development at the time of writing this article.
Bay South Garden
Currently home to most of the gardens’ attractions, Bay South Garden covers the largest area within Gardens by the Bay. This area was developed and is maintained by incorporating the latest sustainable environment-friendly technologies, making it a model for future green development projects in the country.
1. Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes
From the end of the observation bridge right across from Marina Bay Sands hotel, one can get a panoramic view of the gardens, including a section of it called the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes. These manmade lakes were designed as part of the gardens’ natural eco-filter system to filter water captured from the nearby Marina reservoir. Aquatic reeds can be found in various strategic spots throughout the lake, acting not only as part of the lake’s eco-filter system, but also to absorb excess nutrients in the lake water and thus maintain its water quality. Dragonflies can occasionally be spotted flying on the water surface. Additionally, there is a 440-metre wooden walkway by the side of the lake from which visitors can enjoy a closer view of the lake.
2. Heritage Gardens
Comprising four segments designed around different themes and motifs, the Heritage Gardens reflect Singapore’s rich multicultural heritage, with each of these segments representing one of the three main ethnic groups of Singapore and the country’s British colonial past.
After descending from the observation bridge right across from Marina Bay Sands hotel and crossing another bridge across the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes, one will find himself or herself in the first segment of the Heritage Gardens – the Malay Garden. The Malay Garden, designed around “A Reflection of Community,” displays themes regarding the communal spirit of Singapore’s Malay community, featuring traditional fruit and medicinal plants such as the belimbing (starfruit) and tongkat ali. Adjacent to the Malay Garden is the Chinese Garden, built based on “A Reflection of Literature,” celebrating the influence of nature’s beauty in much of China’s valuable literary works. The Indian Garden lies beyond the Chinese Garden, in which its design based on “A Reflection of Devotion” closely follows the Hindu concept of devotion to the holy books known as Vedas. West from the Malay Garden lies the Colonial Garden, which was constructed based on “A Reflection of Ambition,” reflecting the ambitious aspirations of Singapore’s former British colonial masters in conquering Singapore, Malaysia and much of the world. This segment features plants that were brought into Singapore and Malaysia by the British for commercial purposes, such as rubber, oil palm and cocoa.
3. World of Plants
This segment of the Gardens offers visitors an exciting overview of nature’s biodiversity and how the various components of the ecosystem work together in harmony to ensure balance. World of Plants offers visitors an educational walkthrough regarding the planet’s ecosystem, besides showcasing a colourful variety of flowering and fruit-bearing plants, and a collection of plants skillfully trimmed to resemble life-sized animals.
4. Supertree Grove
Perhaps the most outstanding of all structures within the Gardens, the Supertrees are unique queerly-shaped tree-like structures that range between 25 metres to 50 metres in height. Most of the Supertrees are found in the Supertree Grove located in the central part of Bay South Garden. On the outer surface of the Supertrees, one can see different species of plants being planted, most of which are not native to Singapore. Some of these Supertrees are fitted with photovoltaic cells used to harvest solar energy for lighting up the Supertrees, while others serve as part of the cooled conservatories’ exhaust systems.
One of the highlights of the Supertrees is the OCBC Skyway that connects two of the larger Supertrees in the Supertree Grove. This elevated walkway provides visitors with a stunning aerial view of the Gardens. There is also a Supertree-top bistro where visitors can enjoy amazing views of the Gardens over a nice drink or meal.
5. Flower Dome
Situated along the edge of Marina Reservoir are two large cooled conservatories specially constructed using the latest energy-efficient technologies. One of these is known as the Flower Dome, currently the world’s largest columnless glasshouse spanning a total area of about 1 hectare. The Flower Dome houses a vast array of plants native to the Mediterranean and other arid or semi-arid regions of the world, such as olive and pomegranate trees, Mexican and African cacti, Baobab trees, Australian eucalypts, and many others. In addition, there is a nice flower field in the centre of the conservatory, where visitors can enjoy taking numerous photographic shots amidst colourful blooms.
6. Cloud Forest
Right beside the Flower Dome is the second cooled conservatory, known as the Cloud Forest. With Singapore’s lack of mountainous regions and highland jungles, the Cloud Forest is perhaps the closest one can get to them within the island-city. What is so special about the Cloud Forest is that it is designed to replicate the cool climate of tropical highland jungles, with an artificial mountain and waterfall to add to the feel. Various plants can be seen covering the “mountain,” and visitors can even take an elevator to its peak and follow the descending walkways that lead to several interesting exhibitions located at different levels within the “mountain” itself.