10 Architectural Wonders in Singapore

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1. Marina Bay Sands Hotel

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Possibly the biggest and most well-known chunk of the Singapore skyline, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino is made up of 3 towers with a giant boat-like structure joining them at the top (57th floor). On said floor, there’s an infinity pool overlooking the entire central district, a restaurant/chocolate bar, and the popular club, Ku De Ta. The ground level connects directly to the metro system and has it’s own shopping mall complete with gondola pond, skating rink, and food court. It’s the most expensive standalone casino property valued at $8 billion. It was designed by Israeli/Canadian architect, Moshe Safdie who says it’s design was inspired by card decks.

2. Helix Bridge

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Due to the fact that this bridge brings together science and design in one structure, it is one of my favorites. The helical bridge leads straight to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Artscience Museum (how appropriate). Designed by Australian and Singaporean architects and engineers, it was opened in 2010. Although I didn’t get to see it up close when lit at night, I’ve read that it’s lit in alternating colors to represent the nitrogenous bases of the DNA double helix. Don’t you love the level of geek?

3. Esplanade

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This center for theatre and the arts is located by the Bay and you can’t miss it because of one simple architectural detail: it looks like a huge durian. Now why anyone would want to design a building to look like the most vile smelling fruit on the planet is beyond me but it’s probably because the spiky organic grenade appearance is funky when applied to a gigantic 3D space. The building opened its doors in 2002, has triangular panels applied to its exterior, and is lit up at night – and no, it doesn’t smell.

4. Artscience Museum

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Also designed by Moshe Safdie, the museum’s shape is a blossoming lotus flower. It has 21 gallery spaces and usually hosts exhibitions that are shown at museums around the world. This February, they had the “Art of the Brick” exhibition for NY-based Lebanese artist, Nathan Sawaya. He builds sculptures using Lego pieces. There was also a photography exhibition that had a disposable camera under glass as if it were something sacred from the past. It seemed ridiculous but that didn’t stop me from feeling older than Maggie Smith.

5. Louis Vuitton by the Bay

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The LV Island Maison is a glass pavilion that sits on the water surface right outside the MBS hotel. The store has a nautical theme and resembles the Avalon, a club not too far down the strip that has a similar geometric glass box shape. It was a collaborative design by Moshe Safdie (again) and Peter Marino. The glass panels are fit with UV-resistant membranes so that the luxury goods inside are not affected. My picture doesn’t do it justice so watch this to see/learn more.

6. Ion Shopping Center

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Being one of many underground shopping malls located on Orchard Road, Ion was the first I went to – and the only one I kept going back to. It’s curvaceous glass exterior makes it seem quite other-worldly. Even the MRT station entrance (the bubble between the two red columns in the photo) looks like a teleportation system from Kubrick’s Space Odyssey. The first few floors, which are above ground, are high-end luxury retail shops. Those below are the more pocket-friendly. It’s sort of like the Titanic, the lower you go, the cheaper it is.

7. Colonial Buildings & HBDs

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A lot of the non-skyscraper architecture of SG dates back to the colonial period; there are lines of shophouses (imagine those townhouses on a typical San Francisco street) and black & white bungalows. According to Wiki, “In Singapore, they were built from the 19th century until World War II. The style incorporated elements of UK’s Arts and Crafts and Art Deco movements as well as the need of wealthy expatriate families for airy and spacious family homes. Black-and-Whites were built by wealthy families, the leading commercial firms and above all, the Public Works Department and the British Armed Forces.”

These old-style residences are usually up against the backdrop of towering HBDs (Housing and Development Board), which are complexes that are a form of low-cost state-built public housing. The most colorful HBDs I saw were found in the area between Bugis & Arab Street – they reminded me of the pink and yellow houses of Ashrafieh.

8. The Gardens by the Bay

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The two domes

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Inside the Flower Dome

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The Falls – inside The Cloud

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The mountain inside The Cloud

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Taking a walk through the Supertrees

Recently opened in 2012, the 350 billion dollar project “Gardens by the Bay” is made up of two large domes, various gardens, and the Skyway. The two biodomes, The Flower Dome and The Cloud, house various species of flora within a temperature controlled environment. The Flower Dome has species from different parts of the planet divided based on geography/climate. The Cloud focuses on endangered flora that grow at higher altitudes – now at risk because of global warming. The Skyway is comprised of large tree canopies (also known as Supertrees) that are fitted with solar panels, hanging gardens, and rainwater catches. There’s a walkway that joins two of the trees so that you can walk across the 22-meter structures and take panoramic pictures of the gardens and the rest of the SG skyline.

9. Star Vista

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The Star Vista is another shopping/food plaza that also houses a large auditorium for shows. Located right outside the Buona Vista MRT exchange, it is one of the only shopping centers in SG without air conditioning. “The 15-storey mixed-development building keeps cool by optimising wind flow and air movement through open-air walkways and a 33m-high grand foyer that is not closed up so air can flow in. The shops, however, are air-conditioned.”  (source) The $976 million project was brought to life by American architect, Andrew Bromberg of Aedes architectural firm.

10. Red Dot Traffic Building

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Pretty Red Mailboxes

What used to be a traffic police headquarters is now home to restaurants and the Red Dot Design Museum. It’s located on Maxwell Road, walking distance from the Maxwell Hawker Centre so you can have a plate of chicken rice after you’re done sifting through the winners of the Red Dot Design awards (entrance to the museum is S$8, S$4 for students). When at the food stall, make sure to get all the little tubs of sauces and be generous with the combination that you prefer. When it’s boiled chicken, we all know the truth: it’s all about the sauce.

Disclaimer: These are just a FEW of the many architectural wonders of SG. 

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14 thoughts on “10 Architectural Wonders in Singapore

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