The emerald city
Singapore is an astonishing city carried by a dual vision where greenery, glass and concrete mingle in harmony. Over the last few decades, the towering capital has boldly created a biophilic environment where nature is controlled thanks to an impressive network of urban parks, green infrastructures and high-rise buildings enshrouded in flourishing plants.
The metropolis in the garden
Two hundred years ago, foreigners would arrive by boat to Singapore, a sleepy little island covered by a dense jungle and led by a local sultan. Discovered by the British in the 18h century, the unknown piece of land grew into a commercial port where the world exchanged goods. Fast-forward to the 21st century, the colonial town is gone, replaced by a hyper urban Asian metropolis. And nowadays, foreigners discover an emerald city upon getting off the plane at Changi Airport. At the sight of Jewel, the colossal structure and architectural masterpiece that connects the three terminals, the weary traveller feels suddenly full of life. Forgotten is the long journey, as he stares in awe at the glass dome and its 40 meters cascade powered by rainwater. He feels already rested as he walks among the massive botanical garden inhabited by 2 000 trees and 10 000 plants, a vegetal labyrinth and a glass suspended bridge. When he decides, with a hint of regret, to leave this exotic cocoon behind, he heads to the city that is also an island and a country. On the road, he notices expensive streetscape and roadside greenery paving the way to the gathering of glass and slender buildings. As the city comes nearer, the urban landscape appears out of this world. Indeed, among the hundreds of skyscrapers reaching 150 to 200 meters, the visitor spots here and there, vegetation suspended in vertical space. He has arrived in Singapore, the city where the fusion of botanical treasures and futuristic architecture strikes the eyes and appeases the heart.
A cluster of metal flowers
In the heart of the island, in Marina Bay, near Singapore‘s financial district spreads the Gardens by the bay, the green lung of the city. Within the 100-hectare park, the most peculiar forest thrives. Called the SuperTree Grove, the eighteen gigantic metal structures, ranging from 25 to 50 metres in height and topped by large alien-like canopies offers a nightly oneiric light show. Because this is Singapore, the steel framework of the trunks have morphed into vertical gardens, intertwined with thousands of plants, an exotic arrangement of verdure, orchids, ferns, and creeping vine. From the Skywalk, the bridge that connects two of the tallest SuperTrees, the spectacular vista shows the way to the Flower Dome, an egg-shaped edifice filled with plants and flowers from Mediterranean and semi-arid region and the Cloud Forest conservatory that houses a 30-metre waterfall set against the Cloud Mountain, dressed with luxuriant ferns and colourful orchids.
Botanic architecture for the future
Singapore’s love for nature doesn’t stop at its 300 world-class parks, three millions trees, scintillating rivers and soothing ponds. In the compact city, where space is a luxury, greenery has found a way to climb to the heavens giving the island a feeling of space it deeply desires. One only needs to wander along its streets to gape in wonder at apartments and office buildings that have joyously integrated green roofs, verdant walls or indoor hanging gardens. Evidences of this connection between nature and the city are scattered all around the metropolis. Here for example, in the quiet Bukit Timah neighbourhood, the Tree House Condominium has the largest vertical garden in the world where vines cover the 24-storey tower like a benevolent shroud. Or there, a few minutes from the Central Business District, the 5-star hotel-in-the-garden Parkroyal on Pickering is proud of its 15,000 square metres of lush gardens, flora, waterfalls, solar-powered vertical gardens and a breath-taking exterior inspired by Bali’s rice-paddy fields. Exploring the city is to understand how flora and design can grow together as one. In the future, Singaporeans predict buildings will be totally green. A harmonious vegetal kingdom sets to metamorphose the city of tomorrow as well as humanity‘s well-being.
Pachanatt Ounpitipong: header
Isabel Gavahan / EyeEm: image 1 (left)
Carlina Teteris : image 1 (right)
Claude Saubusse/500px: image 2