Singapore rarely fails to impress with it’s novel attractions but this new public feature is a disappointment to both tourists and locals – especially the botanist or the nature lover. Looking less of an eco-park and more like a Dr. Seuss landscape, Marina Bay’s new Gardens By The Bay only caters to those who enjoy fast food, dull restaurant chains and wide concrete avenues.
A strong tradition of botanical gardens, manicured lawns and conservatories of exotic flora was exported to the British colonies. Singapore did more than just inherit the English love of public gardens, they went further and developed their tiny island home into what the National Parks Board call a “city in a garden”. Singapore has over 55 parks and gardens. Many locals note that the majority of the national budget goes towards defence and parks. The parks and gardens are beautifully kept – indeed a welcome oasis in a city state.
The most recent addition to Singapore’s collection of green space is the Gardens By The Bay, which has been marketed to the world as an eco-friendly “super park”. The fact is that there was no ecological consideration involved in planning this attraction: This SGD$ 1 billion garden is built on reclaimed land. Anything in the park that is not concrete is painted in playground hues of magenta and yellow. The statues are uninspiring ones of bulls, dragonflies, wild cats and abstract humanoids.
The park is illuminated at night by giant, artificial trees of reinforced concrete known as “supertrees” adding to Singapore’s increasing photo pollution problem. What is a supertree? These veined, metal and concrete eyesores are essentially vertical plant holders which are lit by solar power, similar to Babylon’s hanging gardens only in suspension and otherwise just a building with a few potted plants inserted into the sides. The supertrees are to be an example for all cities which have limited space for greenery. A giant, expensive plant stacker. In most cities in the world, people would just plants some trees.
I have another ethical dilemma in visiting Gardens By The Bay: I can’t really enjoy myself in a place that I’ve seen built by exploited foreign workers, but that’s another story.