Blink and you’ll miss it. The breakneck pace at which Singapore’s urban landscape is developing is truly something to behold. Never mind the backwater swamp we were 44 years ago, think about what has changed in the last six months. “These are exciting times in Singapore where significant new additions to the urban-scape are taking place.
Change of this scale hasn’t been seen since our early phases of nation building and it is definitely a sign of a new era in Singapore,” says Adib Jalal, founder and editor of FiveFootWay.com, a local architectural e-zine. “But we also have to be mindful and see whether these projects really benefit Singaporeans and not just visitors and foreigners,” counters writer and urban theorist Professor William Lim. “If our own people do not feel a sense of ownership or identify with them, then I guess they’re just window-dressing.”
Certainly our city-state has become flashier, more mobile and greener than ever before, but with more grand-scale projects such as the Singapore Sports Hub and Gardens By The Bay all well underway, we decided it was time to take a closer look and see if this is all money well-spent.
Singapore Sports Hub
The erstwhile National Stadium—host to 18 National Day Parades, Pope John Paul II’s mass in 1986, and Michael Jackson’s Dangerous concert dates in 1993—will make way for the new Singapore Sports Hub. The grey oval will turn into a 55,000-seat National Stadium with a retractable roof, a 6,000-seat indoor aquatics arena, about 41,000 square meters of business, commercial and retail space, and a sports institute. There will be a sports library and sports museum, as well as other amenities including a volleyball court, rock-climbing wall, hard courts, a skate park and state-of-the-art training and sports recovery facilities, among others.
How Much? $1.33 billion
When? April 2014
Verdict: Finally, we’re just happy to see the National Stadium finally go after two years of delays. Demolition work was originally set to begin in 2008, but the 2007 global financial crisis and high construction costs delayed the project. There was even a farewell party held in June 2007, for crying out loud. The Singapore Sports Council has a lot of work on its hands, trying to build a sporting culture and getting locals to participate at the same time (not just as spectators). We can only hope that the very expensive Sports Hub won’t become yet another tourist-dollar chasing venue and will offer more than just occasional international events.
Gardens By The Bay
If you’ve driven along the East Coast Parkway and up the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, you’ll have noticed those strange structures (not Marina Bay Sands, the other ones) being constructed where Marina South City Park used to be. Gardens by the Bay, an ambitious project undertaken by National Parks Board (NParks), will occupy 101 hectares of prime waterfront land in Singapore’s new downtown, Marina Bay. It will comprise three gardens: Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. Bay South is the largest of the three gardens and the first to be completed. Highlights include the cooled conservatories, “Supertrees” and horticultural themed gardens. But do we really need another botanical gardens? According to an NParks spokesperson, “Both gardens offer different leisure experiences and will complement each other in terms of horticultural offerings. While the Botanic Gardens, as a botanical institution, focuses on botanical displays for education, research and training, Gardens by the Bay will bring together the best of horticulture and garden artistry for the purpose of “edutainment.”
Where: Marina South City Park
How Much? $1 billion
When? It will be open for public review this November
Verdict: This is the closest we’ll probably get to New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park, never mind the cheesy “Supertrees” concept.
National Art Gallery
The old City Hall and Supreme Court buildings will soon do our arts and culture scene some justice, as home to the National Art Gallery (NAG), the largest art museum in Southeast Asia. It will house a range of permanent and temporary galleries, showcasing works from both our national collection and international travelling exhibitions. “NAG has a Southeast Asian art focus, the only such focus in the world. The museum also provides a platform to evince even greater cultural vibrancy through a civic space belonging to the community and visitors alike,” explains Kwok Kian Chow, director of the National Art Gallery. He adds, “The National Art Gallery will give Singapore a specialization in cultural studies—that of Southeast Asian art, as our contribution to world culture. This will benefit the Singapore art scene tremendously as we are not seen as merely drawing inspiration from the surfaces of current vogue.” (Really. That’s just how they talk in the art world.)
Where: Former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings along St. Andrew’s Road.
How Much? $520 million
When? To open progressively from the end of 2014
Verdict: This one’s been a long time coming—a center where Singapore and Asian art can flourish. There is certainly room in Singapore’s growing visual arts scene for an expansion of museums and visual arts institutions. Local artists will also have another platform to strut their stuff as one of the key components of NAG will be to engage and involve our homegrown arts talent. Plus, entry to four areas within the museum will be free.
NEXT: Reflections at Keppel Bay; Capitol Theater Project