Singapore, like Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, is a likely stopover when you fly far. The city is a tiny urbanized hub but it’s very favorable if you know some high-spirited locals. I was lucky to hook up with king kimbo (@hakimbo), who showed me around. He took my lame limbs to the Gardens by the Bay, an amazing place which was visually striking. I was hugging some artificial trees there when I found a baby—a very big baby.
Gardens by the Bay is a 101-hectare man-made territory similar to the artificial island of Sentosa. It’s located in central Singapore and was created to enhance the quality of life by bringing in more flora and fauna. There are many tropical trees, flowers, and orchids to be seen. It’s a pretty new structure as it was planned in 2005 and had its first elements finished in 2010. It’s a park in progress which receives some new additions every now and then. The general entrance is free, but some exhibitions ask for a fee.
You approach the gardens through an elevated level while walking through a hotel, from what I remember. I reckon it’s done this way because the general opening hours are from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., so there’s a need for an eye of a needle-like policy to control the stream of visitors.
The first thing your eyes will see is the Supertree Grove, a giant forest made of artificial trees that look as if they were created by aliens. They are unique in shape and bold in execution. The trees are made of steel and are connected to each other via sky bridges. Even though it is obviously man-made from urban materials, there is a certain organic feel about them. They are between 25 and 50 meters tall and are entwined with plants and flowers. It’s like a 21st century metropolitan jungle. Within the trees are unique and exotic ferns, vines and orchids, and, as I have learned, rare bromiliaceaes which are ananas-like plants. Who would have known that there is a singular species consisting of ananas?
Photovoltaic cells were installed on the trees to harness solar energy, which is then used every night to illuminate them. Rainwater is used to irrigate the plants. There is a plan to build a restaurant on a tree in the future—I imagine a strict dress code of white linen pants and straw hats that could come along with it.
Even though I just observed everything from the ground, I was still quite impressed. But I gazed even more at the giant baby floating in the gardens. The name of the baby is Planet and it is a work of art. Marc Quinn created this, which is a mirror of his own son, in 2008 for Beyond Limits Exhibition of Contemporary Sculpture at Chatsworth House/ England. It might be one of his most important works and, man, it is impressive. Effortlessly floating on a little green hill, lying on a flowerbed with the silhouette of Singapore in the horizon. It became an instant landmark of the city-state.
Planet is made of bronze and displays the lightness and vulnerability of life. It’s true that as a work of art, it is commercial because it appeals to all of us with the simplest and biggest of effects. It is very Singapore, and it is good this way. Planet and the supertrees are there in the open. It ought to appeal to the masses yet it holds incredible, undeniable beauty. It gives room for imagination. As an analog photographer, I was inspired by it to use different cameras and film in creating my own world around what already exists.