A trip to Singapore isn’t complete without a visit to Gardens by the Bay, a magical icon of urban sustainability for the world to see.
Everywhere you turn at Gardens by the Bay, your imagination will be triggered and your senses stunned. Thick, tropical, emerald vegetation towering above and sprouting from below frames your vision in each direction. But this isn’t just any urban ‘garden’. Futuristic, unearthly structures, bright purple in colour, protrude from the ground at great heights and three ice-blue, glass Domes bulge out from the green grass. Abstract sculptures hidden away amongst the trees catch your gaze and glassy lakes, packed with grasses appear around winding corners. Strolling around Singapore Gardens by the Bay, you may feel that you’ve taken a leap forwards in time; to a world where thriving green life lives in perfect harmony with society. In many ways, you would be right.
Existent only since 2012, Gardens by the Bay was conceptualised in 2005 as a key component of the ‘City in a Garden’ plan put forward by the government to enhance Singapore’s reputation as a Garden City. This highly impressive and sprawling development exists as the perfect example of how nature, culture and science can, and should, come together in the name of environmentalism. A visit to Gardens by the Bay offers guests a glimpse of what a sustainable future could look like. Made up of three very distinct areas: Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central, Singapore’s most impressive Gardens hides a great deal of impressive sustainability secrets, making it even more awe-inspiring than you can ever imagine.
One of the most profound of these sustainability successes, not visible from a fleeting visit, has its origins in the use of Singapore-wide horticultural waste. Biomass collected from rural parts of Singapore is turned into wood chips, before being emptied into a biomass boiler, resultantly generating steam. Steam then rotates a turbine and generates electricity for the Gardens, reducing the need for electricity from the grid. Even the waste product has a use here too, and it’s Garden-wide. Ash from the wood chips is sprinkled onto plants across Gardens by the Bay to assist in improving soil quality. Sound impressive? This circular, eco-friendly system makes up only one part of the Garden’s efforts in sustainability.
The gigantic Domes
The largest of the three zones at Gardens by the Bay, is Bay South, which is home to a collection of truly enchanting attractions. This includes three gigantic Domes, each encapsulating entirely unique worlds within their glass walls. Flower dome – the world’s largest air conditioned greenhouse – takes guests on a winding path through extensive plant collections, showcasing plants from the Mediterranean and from semi-arid subtropical regions. Cloud Forest, contains a brilliantly designed, 35-meter manmade mountain with a giant cascading waterfall falling from its summit. The dome’s interior environment – sculpted to represent the tropical highlands of Southeast Asia – has its own very humid climate, and a collection of beautiful, rare plants. Finally, Floral Fantasy, the final dome construction, contains a breathtaking display of the most striking of flowers from across the globe and beautifully fuses creative arts with the most vibrant aspects of the natural world. You don’t want to miss any of these conservatory experiences if you’re into sustainable design.
Not only is the contents of these Domes a stunning sight to observe, but they also each incorporate cutting-edge sustainable technology and design and are incredibly eco-friendly. Each comprised of copious amounts of special glass sheets, the domes allow sunlight through for the health of plants but reflect heat. In addition, sensor-operated blinds create shade and help to cool the interior environments, helping to create automated systems for temperature control. In Flower Dome, cool water pipes are also built within the floor to cool air at the lowest levels, meanwhile hot air is expelled from the top. Such inspiring eco-friendly design, results in the wonderful achievement of 30 percent in energy savings.
The colossal Supertrees
Covering Bay South, you’ll find a huge array of plants, trees and flowers, interspersed with 40 sculptures, specifically chosen to complement the surrounding greenery. Yet at Supertree Grove is where you’ll really be transported to another world. Stand amidst the towering Supertree giants and soak up the vibrant, futuristic landscape as you glance up from below. Made of concrete and metal, the lofty structures are covered in a living skin, comprised of 200 different species of plants purposefully chosen for their ability to climb up the towers and to tightly braid a thick green covering. The magnificent trees reach a whopping 25-50 meters tall, providing much needed shade during the hottest hours of the day.
To get a different perspective, opt for a walk around the 22-meter high OCBC Skyway that connects a few of the giant trees, and walk just beneath the sprawling canopies. Alternatively, make your way to the top by paying a visit to the Supertree Observatory to soak in the luscious surroundings from up high. At dark, the structures light up and twinkle during an atmospheric light and sound show which takes place every evening. Naturally, Gardens by the Bay have ensured that even this performance has a sustainable twist, as the Supertrees are embedded with photovoltaic cells in their canopies which harvest solar energy for the shows at night. Collecting rainwater and acting as exhaust receptacles for the gigantic conservatories represent two more of the Supertree’s admirable sustainable functions.
The green gardens and grassy lakes
You’ll find 800 different species of plants across a massive 101 hectares at Gardens by the Bay, making this emerald jewel in the city Singapore’s largest green space. Throw in a dose of culture and history to your trip to the Gardens, by visiting the Heritage Gardens. Comprised of four themed zones (Indian, Malay, Chinese and Colonial), the Gardens will guide you on a journey through a colonial past, introducing you to the ethnic groups of Singapore. Fascinating stories and snippets of history come to life through the use of stunning flowers and meticulously sculpted vegetation in this part of Gardens by the Bay.
What’s more, two picturesque lakes – Dragonfly Lake and Kingfisher Lake – make for charming water features and also incorporate ecological processes which help to complete a living system in the gardens. There are a few ways in which the lakes do this. Aquatic reeds in both bodies of water, act as a natural filtration system for run-off water from the gardens, reducing alga bloom and therefore creating a better quality of water. Filtered lake water can also be used for irrigation of the gardens and what’s more, habitats for fish and dragonflies are created, enhancing biodiversity and keeping mosquito numbers in check. Who would have thought that even these wonderfully peaceful ponds would hide such integral environmental functions for the Gardens?
The sweeping lawns
After an inspiring trip to Bay South, head to Bay East. Bay East, is less about wow-factor and more about sweeping lawns and copious amounts of green space. Locals and visitors wander down to Bay East to enjoy walks by the waterfront and to take part in various leisure activities, all whilst being framed by the striking view of the Singapore skyline. Bay East is open seven days per week, 24 hours per day, which makes it the perfect spot for a stroll, to read a book or to catch some great shots of the city from afar. Bay Central will eventually serve as a green corridor-like connection between Bay East and Bay South. The garden promenade boasts stunning waterfront views of Singapore and at 3km long, is the perfect place for a scenic jog.
What might appear to be impressive, futuristic architecture and engineering at Gardens by the Bay, often hides a great deal of scientific design and processes, with sustainability and the environment consistently positioned at the forefront. Nature’s beauty is truly unveiled at Gardens by the Bay and what makes it extra special as a whole, is the way in which it intertwines and coexists with Singapore’s modern metropolis. Culture, nature and science seamlessly and aesthetically, come together at the Gardens, unveiling an exciting future and instilling an intense feeling of environmental optimism.
It will come as no surprise to you then, that exploring the entirety of the gardens can easily take a whole day. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to experience every visual spectacle nestled within the green urban jungle.