Meet PSRenew summer intern Anna Holm. She recently traveled to Singapore. Below she shares with us her thoughts on Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay as both a park and a public space.
Beautiful and popular parks are found all over the world. Many of these public spaces share ideals of community-building, safety, and amusement that people seek out and notice in a good park.
While traveling through the small Asian island nation of Singapore, my host brought me to the country’s largest green space, Gardens by the Bay. This park is a top attraction in Singapore, drawing more than 30 million visitors to date. Located near the seashore, the park consists of art sculptures, gardens, playgrounds, lakes, plant domes, and “Supertrees,” — 50-meter tower-like structures that branch out at their tops, resembling a tree. A visitor has the opportunity to take a walking tour and travel between these trees at an astounding 22 meters in the air.
When I visited this park, I was instantly captivated by the vastness and beauty of the gardens. From the gasps and chatter I heard around me, I could tell that the other spectators felt the same way. But paying a visit to the Gardens by the Bay goes beyond just seeing its beauty. In particular, walking the skywalk between the “Supertrees” as well as through the gardens, I could feel a sense of serenity. Time seemed to slow down as I made my way between the trees. This walk among the supertrees was entirely different from looking out over a balcony in a skyscraper because I could feel the sun’s never-ending heat and breathe in the slight breeze from the sea 360 degrees around me.
There was a lull in the conversations visitors had with one another as they too took in the sights. What is so brilliant and awe-inspiring about Gardens by the Bay is that it is so unique, yet still gives you the same feelings of solace and tranquility as strolling through a neighborhood park. In my opinion, this park is so popular not only because of the breathtaking views and plants, but also because of the connection visitors make when exploring the grounds and sights. I will always remember my experience at Gardens by the Bay because it was unlike anything I have encountered before. Gardens by the Bay is not just a must-see destination in Singapore, but a must-experience destination.
Seeing so many tourists at the park, I became interested in what role the local community plays in its existence. While talking with various residents, I learned that Gardens by the Bay is a typical tourist spot rather than a public space for many of the citizens of Singapore. In contrast to New York City’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Gardens by the Bay is not as integral to Singaporeans’ every-day lives. Possibly having to do with its location, Gardens by the Bay is decentralized from the city and is a metro or car ride away for most people. Unlike many central urban parks, you don’t see workers enjoying a meal on their lunch break or people jogging and dog-walking.
Another factor that differs from public spaces is that many of the park’s attractions have a fee. While the park does have some free exhibits and hold events for all ages, such as a Supertree light show, Gardens by the Bay seemed to be more of weekend trip rather than a community space for all to enjoy any time or day of the week.
The park’s landscape architect director, Andrew Grant, stated, “We wanted to capture people’s relationship with nature and use innovative technology to create rich lifestyle, educational and recreational experiences for both local residents of Singapore and visitors from around the world.” From my experience at Gardens by the Bay, Grant is correct that the park develops and strengthens a connection between people and nature in an ingenious and daring way. But as a public space to include all communities, the park falls a bit short. With all this being said, Gardens by the Bay is not a typical public space, but is definitely one worth experiencing.