Gardens by the Bay in Marina Bay opened temporarily to the public in November for the 20th World Orchid Conference, and it gave eager Singaporeans and tourists a sneak peek at what to expect when the gardens officially open in June 2012.

Designed and planned by landscape consultants Grant Associates, and in collaboration with Wilkinson Eyre for architectural design, this 54 hectare urban park by the sea is unlike anything else in Southeast Asia and features 3 key attractions that will keep visitors occupied and entertained. Alongside the sprawling heritage gardens which take up a good portion of the site, there are the building sized Super Tree clusters and 2 stunning Asymmetrical Glass domes, nicknamed “the sea serpent” , that house flora from cooler climates around the world. This last attraction has made punters and enthusiasts draw comparisons between this city centre park with the seminal Eden project in Cornwall, UK. Like that project, which simulates various climate conditions to house a wide array of plants from around the world, the 2 big domes at the gardens by the bay use energy efficient cooling and active sun-shading to achieve the same idea in the tropics.

Spot the environmental sensor!

Untapped was fortunate enough to get a brief run-down on how the domes work structurally and also the systems put in place to keep the interior cool.

Essentially, the whole structural system consists of giant steel ribs caging a self-supporting glass skin. What this means is that the glass skin can stand on its own but it can’t take lateral loads like the wind. That is where the ribs come in to brace the glass skin by structurally pinning it in several places. Every part of the design was considered to keep it looking light, elegant and floating. The architects and engineers achieved this incredible thinness to the ribs through extensive structural modelling on the computer and part of the need to push the boundaries for this reduction of mass of the ribs was to benefit the amount of natural daylight that needed to flood the interior of the domes.

These are the pins that unite the steel ribs and the glass skin

On the climate control front, there are 3 big systems working to control the condition of the air inside the domes. One system pumps cool air into the structure, another extracts the humid air and dries it through a large desiccant system. The third system is a series of motorised sun shades installed discreetly in the rib structure that extend and contract automatically based on the environmental conditions of the moment.

This is dome to be opened in June 2012. We are told it will be even more spectacular than the Flower Dome

The demand to create several different climate zones for all the plants within the same dome means that a highly complex network work of air ducts had to be engineered to recreate the ideal conditions for plant survival, and in some areas, it even extended to under floor cooling! If any of you had a chance to visit the preview, you could have distinctly felt the change of temperature of the zones as you descend from the higher parts of the garden to the lower concourse.

This urban park is right in heart of the future city centre of Singapore. Nothing else quite like it in Asia

As part of an environmentally conscious drive in the operations of the park, one interesting fact is that all the surface run-off in the park gets drained to a huge man-made lake where the water is naturally filtered by a series of reed beds before being recycled.

On the urban planning front, Gardens by the Bay is part of, and the final connection to, a comprehensive east to west link in Singapore for cyclists and runners. Together with the Marina Barrage, future urban-scale mass events like marathons will leave the East Coast park, cross the Barrage and skirt along the western bank of the barrage towards the Marina Bay Sands Art & Science Museum via a road that slips between the glass skin and rib supports of the “sea serpent” . Truly a stunning route, that together with the Singapore Night F1 Race, is a bit of computer game urbanism made real.


This view from the link bridge from Marina Bay Sands. See the sea serpent and the super tree clusters.

On site, work is still flying on the second dome which is even more “out there” . Think mountain jungle under a glass skin. We are really looking forward to that one!

Also due for completion is the aerial walkway that spirals up at the center of the main cluster of Super Trees, of which, the biggest tree houses a spectacular F&B outlet in its crown.

We’ll save further details of the park for the future as details become clearer. Stay tuned for updates!