When I first saw a picture of Singapore’s new Gardens by the Bay, I thought it was a joke. Who would build a series of “supertrees” up to 160 ft. tall and 5 acres of domed tropical gardens? I mean, whoever even thought up a supertree (seems very Willy Wonka-esque).
However (much as Wonka’s Chocolate Factory) this series of attractions in downtown Singapore seems to garner serious attention. Up to 6.4 million people visit a year—17,534 people per day. That’s more people than visit either of the two Universal Studios, the Lincoln Memorial or the Palace of Versaille, and enough to put it in the top 50 most visited tourist attractions in the world.
So what is this thing exactly? With this case, a picture is worth a thousand words—though you won’t believe the words either.
History of the Gardens
The Gardens by the Bay was first announced by then Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 2005 National Day Rally (a kind of hyper-State of the Union Address). The project was designed to be not only the city-state’s premiere recreation site in the urban core, but a source of national pride.
The idea was to up the ante. Singapore already claimed to be the “Garden City,” and this development was designed to make it a “City in a Garden.” As a Chicagoan—where the city motto is Urbs in Horto, or City in a Garden—I bristled at the usurpers. As an urban environmentalist, however, I can only applaud their efforts.
According to Wikipedia, 170 firms competed for the massive contract on, with two British firms winning out. So far, two of the three planned complexes are complete—Bay South (130 acres), Bay East Gardens (79 acres). The link between them all, the Bay Central Gardens will be developed in the next few years and is expected to be 37 acres.
Supertrees and Domes
At 130 acres, the Bay South Gardens is by far the largest. It opened in June 2012, and is designed to represent an orchid, the national flower of Singapore. Most importantly, Bay South houses the supertrees…
You may be wondering, what qualifies as a “supertree”? As far as I can tell, it’s not some genetically modified version of a real tree. Rather, it’s a serious of systems that mimic a trees functions (also known as biomimicry).
The supertrees have photovoltaic cells on the top to mimic the photosynthetic creation of energy. They also harness rainwater in the tropical rainforest climate, which is used for functions within the park, mimicking a tree’s use of water for its functions. Perhaps most importantly, they actually do represent a mini-ecosystem with exotic ferns, vines, orchids and bromeliads covering the largely latticed structure.
Bay South also houses two massive domed structures—the Cloud Dome and the Flower Dome. The former mimics a cloud forest between 3,300 and 9,800 feet in altitude. The Flower Dome is also cooled and features plants from Mediterranean and semi-arid tropical regions. To boot, the Flower Dome is the largest columnless dome in the world.
Bay East was opened in October 2011 after being a part of the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics. At 79 acres, it’s the smallest of them—but it’s supposed to have a hell of a view of the Singapore skyline.
The coolest part about this is that, if you visit, you’ll be walking into a mini-forest of human supercharged flora. Their like the Robocop of the plant world, a trip into the imagination of humankind.