Singapore, Republic of
Wilkinson Eyre Architects, London, United Kingdom
World Architecture Festival 2012 – World Building of the Year

Robert Such

Located in Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay is a key project in delivering the Singapore
Government’s vision of transforming Singapore into a ‘City in a Garden’. At a total of 101 hectares, the Gardens by the Bay project comprises three distinct waterfront gardens – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. The commission to design the 54 hectare Bay South garden was won in 2006 by a team led by Grant Associates and including Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Atelier One, Atelier Ten, Land Design and Davis Langdon and Seah.

At the heart of Bay South Garden is the Cooled Conservatory Complex which is the focal point of the Gardens. The two main Conservatories cover an area in excess of 20,000sq m and are among the largest climate-controlled glasshouses in the world. They provide a spectacular, all-weather
attraction and comprise a 1.28 hectare cool dry conservatory (the ‘Flower Dome’) and a 0.73 hectare cool moist conservatory (the ‘Cloud Forest’). Each has its own distinct character, but both explore the horticulture of those environments most likely to be affected by climate change.

The Flower Dome tells the story of plants and people in the Mediterranean climate zone, and how the plants cultivated in these regions will gradually become endangered as temperatures rise. It has a planted footprint of more than 10,100 sq m and aims to bring alive the experience of seasonal change for visitors more used to Singapore’s eternally tropical climate and lush green vegetation. From the lavender fields and olive groves of the Cultivated Worlds section to the baobab and pachypodium trees in the Strange Worlds area, the visitor is presented with a unique collection of plants. The landform of the conservatories draws inspiration from Mediterranean landscapes and evokes the language of dry, sun-baked hillsides punctuated with rocky terraces and stony outcrops, and the intimate bond between land, geology, vegetation and cultivation. At
the centre of this permanent display is the Flower Field – a vast carpet of flowers in bloom which will change seasonally.

The Cloud Forest highlights the relationship between plants and the planet, showing how the warming of the cool tropical cloud forests will threaten biodiversity. With a smaller footprint but greater height than Flower Dome, it has at its heart a planted ‘Mountain’ from which a 35m high waterfall drops. Visitors can experience the forest at different levels from a Cloud Walk, a Canopy Walk and the Forest Floor and Ravine Walks. Within the mountain, a series of exhibition spaces describe the impact of incremental temperature change and the sustainable technologies employed across the gardens, while at its foot is the Ravine – a series of darkened secret
gardens surrounded in mist.

Both conservatories have a dual system structure of gridshell and arches to permit as much light as possible through to the planted displays within. The gridshell portion is very fragile (like an egg) and is designed to only support its own weight and the weight of the glass. Wind loads are resisted by the arches that are set away from the surface of the envelope and arranged radially in line with the geometry of the gridshell. This structural combination creates a distinctive,
lightweight clear-span structure which, in the shallower slope of the Flower Dome, is thought to be among the largest gridshells in the world.

Bay South Garden is built on reclaimed land, a low lying, flat area on the shore of Marina Bay. In the absence of a natural landscape the conservatories are envisaged as landforms, a pair of artificial landmarks that prominently address the bay and the skyscrapers of dense urban districts
around it.

Lead Architect »

Wilkinson Eyre Architects
United Kingdom


Closing Keynote Address by Andrew Grant

Gardens by the Bay consists of three distinctive waterfront gardens in the heart of Marina Bay that will define Singapore as the world’s premier tropical garden city. Slated for opening in the summer of 2012, the presentation shows the scope, content, and progress of this spectacular 101-hectare project with particular reference to the innovative use of vertical planting and ecological management systems.

18 ‘Supertrees’ provide a framework for vertical gardens rising 25 to 50m above the ground. Strategies for sustaining planting within the cooled conservatories and the specific designs for the 40m high ‘mountain lattice’ within the cool moist conservatory are discussed along with spectacular graphics and construction photos.

4 pictures in text and video are selected by us. VA