Bronte Cullum visits Singapore's most ambitious horticulture project - Wilkinson Eyre and Grant Associates' Super Trees
The structural lovechild of highly acclaimed architects Wilkinson Eyre, landscape architects Grant Associates and structural engineers Atelier 10, the Gardens by the Bay at Marina South is set to become one of Singapore's most popular tourist attractions. Although the project is not yet complete, the Super Trees development is already an established part of the Singapore skyline. The eighteen trees, eleven of which are built of environmentally sustainable materials, are all located in the Gardens by the Bay at Marina South, which will be officially opened to the public in June of 2012.
The Supertrees range from heights of 25 to 50 metres, the tallest of which will accommodate a treetop bistro. In their height, the trees aim to create a contrast between the relatively low-lying gardens which surround them. Some of the eleven trees which will have environmentally sustainable functions will be fitted with photovoltaic cells, which will use solar energy to power the trees during both the day and the night. The remaining of the eleven trees will act as an air exhaust system repository.
The structure of the trees constitutes of a concrete core, a steel trunk, planting panels and a canopy. The planting panels, when the trees are completed, will be filled with a total of approximately 162,900 plants of over 200 different species from tropical climates around the world. The trees will consist of various colour schemes in both warm and cool tones. The plants were chosen because of their durability, lack of soil requirement and their rarity in Singaporean rain forests.
Two of the 42-metre Supertrees will be connected by a 128 metre long elevated walkway at a height of 22 metres, offering visitors a superb view of the Supertree Grove in which 12 of the 18 colossal Supertrees will be located. The remaining six Supertrees are located in clusters of three in other areas of the Gardens.
Approaching the construction site of the Supertrees Grove from the walkway connecting the Gardens by the Bay at Marina South development to the Marina Bay Sands, I felt a sense of extreme inferiority from the behemothic size of the Supertrees. The gargantuan structure was opened to the public for a preview from the 13th to the 20th of November, as a chance for the citizens of Singapore and tourists alike to experience a close-up view of the development before its official opening in June of 2012.
The Gardens by the Bay will occupy a total of 101 hectares of land by the water at Marina Bay. It will comprise of three gardens - Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. The main features of Bay South will consist of a Conservatory Complex, a horticultural attraction which will feature different climate zones and corresponding species of plants; a Heritage Garden which will reflect on Singapore’s three main ethnic groups - Indian, Malay and Chinese; and of course the Supertrees themselves. Bay East, on the other hand, will accentuate a more serene atmosphere, incorporating a Water Sports Arena, a Water Garden and a Food Garden. Bay Central will act as a link between Bays South and East, with a three kilometre promenade by the water, giving sensational views of the city.
The Super Trees, amongst all of the other intrepid developments of the Gardens by the Bay project, are by far the most audacious. Walking away from this capacious piece of architecture left me awed, with a nostalgic sense of wonder for the future. The Supertrees’ height, their beauty and the architectural ingenuity which it took to envisage such a colossal step in architecture is set to make Singapore a botanical capital for many years to come.