Last summer, my family and I vacationed in Singapore before I left for college. At first glance, Singapore might come across as a concrete jungle, but there’s so much more to the city than meets the eye. The success of Singapore’s booming tourism industry can be attributed to its versatility. There is something for everyone, be it art museums for you to explore, shopping districts for that much-needed retail therapy, the prettiest botanical gardens for you to become one with nature, amusement parks if you’re feeling adventurous, Chinatown and Little India for you to get a taste of the local culture and the list goes on. But what struck me the most and stays with me to this day is the sustainable design and conservation efforts of Singapore’s most popular attractions.
We decided to spend our first evening relaxing at Gardens by the Bay and exploring nature’s bounty. Little did we know that one evening would hardly be enough to cover all of the 250 acres! Gardens by the Bay is divided into many different conservatories and forests, each serving a specific purpose. The Cloud Forest is home to rare and exotic plant species that are rapidly disappearing. Featured in the 2015 Guinness World Records book, the Flower Dome is the world’s largest man-made glass greenhouse. But the highlight of the Gardens is the Supertree Grove, which consists of 25 and 50-meter-long steel supertrees that brim with vegetation, serve as an observatory for visitors and act as a canopy for nearby forests. Moreover, these supertrees collect rainwater and have photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into a usable form of energy. To top it all off, every night, the canopies of these supertrees transform into a display of vibrant colors that leave you awestruck!
In addition to the Gardens, Singapore is finding other ingenious ways of recreating nature. The Jewel Changi Airport, which opened its doors less than a year ago, is a retail complex inside of the airport, but with a twist. The centerpiece of the complex is the rain vortex, the largest indoor waterfall towering at 40 meters tall and surrounded by four stories of terraced forest. Walking through the man-made forest, breathing in the fresh air with the giant waterfall in view, it was hard to believe that we were actually indoors at the heart of a packed entertainment complex.
Apart from developing such complex conservatories, sustainability efforts are also on the rise in other tourist attractions. I visited many well-known aquariums and zoos during my travels, but what set the S.E.A Aquarium at Sentosa and Singapore Zoo apart from the rest was their significant efforts to raise awareness about climate change, endangered species and ocean conservation.
Today, as the issue of climate change is becoming more and more prevalent around the world, it has become all the more important to incorporate sustainability in design. Singapore is a trailblazer when it comes to this. Architects, engineers, environmental experts and conservationists, just to name a few, have been involved in the creation of these spaces that serve not only as aesthetic tourist spots, but as hubs for natural life.