Design of the Year 2013
Gardens By The Bay (Bay South Garden)
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Gardens by the Bay
Dr Kiat W Tan
Peggy Chong
Kenneth Er And Team
Grant Associates (UK)
Andrew Grant And Team
Wilkinson Eyre Architects (UK)
Paul Baker And Team
CPG Consultants Pte Ltd
Khew Sin Khoon And Team
PM Link Pte Ltd
CPG Consultants Pte Ltd
Atelier One Ltd
Meinhardt Infrastructure Pte Ltd
Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH
Atelier Ten Ltd
CPG Consultants Pte Ltd
Langdon & Seah Singapore Pte Ltd
Swee Hong Limited
Woh Hup (Private) Limited
Expand Construction Pte Ltd
Planar One & Associates Pte Ltd
Precise Development Pte Ltd
Tropical Environment Pte Ltd
TEHC International Pte Ltd
Horti-Flora Services Pte Ltd

Comprising three waterfront gardens spread across 101 hectares at Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay is designed to be Singapore’s national gardens in the heart of the city. The first phase of its development focused on Bay South Garden (54 hectares). Bay South Garden will shape the distinctive qualities of Singapore’s Downtown, and is the first-of-its-kind tropical garden that brings together botany, horticulture, architecture, landscape design and engineering. It is uniquely Singapore in that it reflects our natural and cultural histories through plants.

Bay South Garden is designed with the objective to shape the distinctiveness of Singapore’s Downtown, creating immense value to the surrounding developments by bringing forth quality living environment. It seeks to attract people who do not normally go to gardens, providing a venue for community to bond and for memories to be made amongst Singaporeans and visitors. To realise these value propositions, the Gardens’ design was guided by the following principal considerations: (a) integration within the larger context of the city; (b) outdoor visitor comfort amidst a hot, humid and wet tropical climate; (c) “wow” factor and conditions to present the plant world in a compelling way; (d) new standards in social, economic and environmental sustainability. As part of the design process, public consultation was undertaken at the outset. The design of the Gardens therefore captured the expressed ideas, aspirations and needs of the populace in an increasinglybanised city-state.

The design team worked hard with the urban planners to ensure that the Gardens would occupy the waterfront around Marina Bay: This changed the paradigm in urban planning, where such lands would typically be allocated to developments of greater economic value. In doing so, the Gardens set the tone for the city, creating an environment for live, work and play. The three gardens of Gardens by the Bay are linked to form a seamless green promenade around Marina Bay. Altogether, the three gardens have a combined waterfront of 8.1km. In Bay South Garden, a lake system (the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes) is incorporated around the periphery of the Garden. Dragonfly Lake on the western side creates an additional waterfront of 1.2km, enhancing the view from the future reserve site developments, bringing forth incremental land enhancement value. The Garden is also well-served by the Mass Rapid Transit railway; and integrated to the Marina Bay Sands and rest of the city via a foot-bridge across the East Coast Parkway.

Optimal outdoor comfort in a tropical garden: To address the heat, humidity and rain in Singapore’s tropical climate, which often limits visits to gardens in the early parts of the mornings and evenings, several layers of natural and anthropogenic strategies were implemented. Firstly, wind studies were conducted to guide the shaping of the Garden topography. This helped to facilitate wind movement through the Garden, ameliorating the high humidity. Secondly, an extensive vegetative cover was undertaken through the planting of mature trees. This was further juxtaposed by a network of covered walkways (including the colonnade in the Supertree Grove) and canopied areas (e.g. Visitor Centre and the Canopy between the Conservatories). Thirdly, the Supertrees helped to provide further shade in the heart of the Garden and the arrival areas. Lastly, the Conservatories provided an all-weather facility at optimal human comfort ambient temperatures of 23oC to 25oC. This brought the gardens from the outdoors to under-glass. The realm of physical comfort extended to the development of infrastructure to support a people-mover system and food and beverage spaces.

Creating the “wow” factor and conditions for plant display: Through the integration of cutting-edge architectural, engineering and novel horticultural plantings, the Conservatories and Supertrees provide two unique environments to present plants. The Conservatories bring forth the concept of perpetual spring in the tropics by providing cool environments for the display of colour and unique plant forms in nature from the Mediterranean climatic regions of the world and the Tropical Highlands. The Supertrees bring to life the sky gardens of tropical rainforests that tower high up into the canopy. Together, they are iconic and create the “hook” for visitors to enter, immersing and transporting them into another world. They exemplify our vision of bringing the world of plants to Singapore and presenting Singapore to the world.

Creating sustainability – social, economic and environmental balance: To sustain the Gardens, it is imperative that it is purpose- designed for families as well as the young and old, to foster community bonding and for memories to be forged. Programmable spaces were incorporated in strategic locations, taking into account the type of events, performances and occasions. This ranged from the Meadows, an outdoor events lawn that can accommodate at least 20,000 people, the Flower Field Hall within the Flower Dome, an indoor convention-style space that can seat 700 people. Open spaces and intimate corners have also been created in the Gardens for picnics and informal gatherings. Nine food and beverage outlets have also been developed to cater to different segments of the community. This includes a hawker-centre style, Satay by the Bay, which comprises eight satay stalls and 18 other local food stalls. The F&B outlet provides the revenue stream that will help in the partial cost-recovery of the Gardens’ operating cost.

Finally, the Gardens’ design has been driven by environmental sustainability. This has focused largely on creating a sustainable energy cycle where electrical energy is generated from the burning of horticultural waste and coupled with advanced cooling technologies to cool the Conservatories; a sustainable water cycle where 95 per cent of the rain within the Gardens catchment is captured and cleaned by aquatic plants before being used for irrigation and returned to the Marina Reservoir; creation and enhancement of habitats for biodiversity.

Horticulture-themed Gardens – World of Plants and Heritage Gardens: A series of horticulture-themed gardens is strategically located on two raised land mounds that surround the heart of the Gardens. The World of Plants comprises six gardens – the Secret Life of Trees, World of Palms, Understorey, Fruits and Flowers, Web of Life and Discovery. Each of these gardens provided a window into the tropical rainforest, highlighting key ecological components of the rainforest and the use of plants by man. The Heritage Garden comprises four gardens – Indian, Chinese, Malay and Colonial Gardens. These gardens bring to life our cultural heritage and colonial history, by interpreting the affinity between plants and cultural communities in Singapore. It also traces the history of the commercial crops that were discovered and/or cultivated in Singapore and Southeast Asia. These Gardens are uniquely Singapore, providing education outside of the classroom on our socio-economic and natural history.

Supertrees – Sky Gardens in Tropical Eden: To add drama and impact to the Gardens, the Supertrees are designed to a scale that would become instantly recognizable in views across the site and offered the opportunity to create vertical gardens in the tropics. Their heights range between 25m to 50m, rising significantly above the canopy of trees in the gardens. An elevated walkway between the Supertrees would allow dramatic views across the rest of the Gardens, while offering a unique experience of exploring the Supertree canopies. The 50m tree housed a tree- top bistro. At night, the Supertrees come alive with a lighting and projected media.

The Supertrees illustrate man’s attempts at re-creating nature’s balance. Like dominant trees in the rainforest, they support a living skin of epiphytes, ferns and flowering climbers, creating sky gardens in tropical Eden. They are fitted with advanced environment technologies that mimick the ecological functions of trees – photovoltaic cells harness solar energy for the functioning of the Supertrees just as how trees would photosynthesize; rainwater harvests collected rainwater just as how trees assist in cloud formation and bring rain. Conservatories – Spring in Perpetual Summer: Located at the waterfront, the Conservatories provide an iconic image for visitors coming into the city from the airport. Designed as the world’s largest single-span grid shell glass systems, the Conservatories are fitted with advanced energetics. This allows the Conservatories to replicate cool conditions for the display of an increased range of plant varieties that could be brought into flower. The Conservatories utilize renewable energy for cooling, energy generated from the burning of horticultural waste, resulting in an energy budget that is no more than that of a well air-conditioned building in Singapore. The Conservatories provide an all-weather edutainment space within the Gardens, as well as a cool alternative when the outdoor Gardens get warm and humid.

The Flower Dome, 1.2 hectares in footprint and 45m tall, brings about the cool-dry, springtime climate of the Mediterranean- type and semi-arid regions of the world. This allows the display of habitats and plants from regions such as California, Western Cape (in South Africa), Western Australia, the Mediterranean Basin, and Madagascar. Special emphasis went into highlighting the colours from the flowers, and interesting forms and adaptations of these plants to the cool and dry environments – the development of bulbous trunks in trees such as the Baobabs is one of several examples. The design intent was also to showcase plants that provided food to man in our daily lives – the olive tree being a prime example of this. An exhibition field is incorporated to enable changing flower shows and displays to be held within the Conservatory.

Complementing the Flower Dome is the Cloud Forest, 0.8 hectares in footprint and 65m tall. It replicates the cool-moist climate found in tropical mountain regions between 1,000m to 3,000m above sea level. Plants featured included tropical rhododendrons, high elevation orchids, bromeliads, pitcher plants and other epiphytes. An artificial “mountain” is constructed, accessible by an elevator at the look-out point at its peak. Visitors would descend the “mountain” in a circular path, during which they would enjoy the various plants that are cladded to this “mountain”.

The Gardens by the Bay project has been successful in creating awareness and buzz for Singapore and the “City in a Garden” vision, both locally and internationally. The project has reinforced the Government’s commitment towards creating a distinctive quality living environment with the Garden City as its key feature. Leveraging on the publicity for the Gardens, much public support has also been garnered for the Government’s programme in developing the Garden City and its infrastructure. Most importantly, the multi-cultural milieu of a cosmopolitan nation is now in greater evidence in the residents that now visit and enliven the Gardens.


Dr Kiat W Tan headed and steered the development of the Gardens by the Bay project as chief executive officer. Born in Singapore, Dr Tan began his tertiary training as a botanist and horticulturist at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA, in 1965, where he was awarded the Dwight Botanical Prize. Subsequently, he was trained in Orchidology, first at Michigan State University where he received his M.Sc in 1967; then at University of Miami, Florida, receiving his Ph.D. in 1974.

He is advisor to the National Parks Board of Singapore, a position created for him when he stepped down as the immediate past CEO of the National Parks Board and the Commissioner of Parks in 2006. Dr Tan was presented the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 2003 and the Medal for Meritorious Service in 2007 in recognition of his vision, commitment and outstanding contribution to enhancing Singapore’s natural landscape. In June 2011, Dr Tan received the President’s Award for the Environment, the highest environmental accolade in Singapore.

Dr Tan led the Gardens by the Bay project team with his content knowledge and clarity of vision.

On one hand, Dr Tan aims to introduce the plant kingdom to Singapore, to create a habitat that supports life as well as the diversity it attracts. For him, the pursuit of botanical knowledge especially of the tropics has not been fully tapped. It has taken him years to build a network of global contacts to bring the world of plants to Singapore.

On the other hand, he is also aware of the task to captivate the audience. The Gardens by the Bay needs to capture the interest of people who do not normally look at plants; as well as those who enjoy plants. In order to sustain the interest, a “comfort zone” is created. It is not just what the team wants to show, but also in understanding what the audience needs and wants. According to Dr Tan, the Gardens have components of research, conservation, education and recreation. Visitors add the human component. The Gardens serve as recreation and edutainment for its visitors.

While this project needs to be sustained environmentally and economically, the team also believes that the study of botany is about the knowledge and experience. Economics only comes after all that. The financial and physical resources generated by the Gardens add to its sustainability.

Gardens by the Bay is planned as a green lung, not just a park, but a tropical garden that is unique to this part of the world. It is envisioned as a living mantle. The team is already seeing it attract birds and insects. The Gardens by the Bay is a work-in- progress, conditioned to give results.

Dr Kiat W Tan’s advice for emerging designers:

“Always understand and be clear about your target users and context. Good design is not only iconic structures, it must be functional and sustainable.”


To the world, the Supertrees of the Gardens by the Bay have been recognizable emblems of Singapore. The Supertrees are iconic, emblematic of the original design intent but over time, they are overtaken as real expressions of nature, abstract structures that eventually bring familiarity to us of the elements and workings of nature.

The Gardens by the Bay is a big global vision that is composed of many small elements that grow in the local context to create contextualized layered spaces. The important sustainability and environmental issues are woven into the design, as form and function are integrated with careful consideration for aesthetics and engineering systems. The relationship between disciplines – architecture, engineering, economics, landscape architecture, horticulture and botany – open up opportunities for education programmes and immersive experiences of the place. The Gardens by the Bay is a wonderful example of a sustainable environmental and business model, where the outdoor gardens are free to the public while the revenue generated by the food and beverage spaces and the conservatories create an economic eco-system.

The distinctive forms of the conservatories create symbols of different environmental conditions and experiences. The entire process of making the Gardens by the Bay, the exceptional integration of different disciplines and professions to work as one, allow us to be cognizant to the different aspects of nature like wind, water, energy that we usually do not pay attention to. The Gardens by the Bay makes us enjoy sounds, the changes of cold and warm temperatures, as well as the rough and smooth textures in the city.

The Gardens by the Bay is an ambitious project of national importance that catalyzes the new downtown urban space, drawing local Singaporeans and visitors alike to enjoy the place. Growing from the vigorous vision and consummate passion of Dr Kiat W Tan, the Gardens by the Bay is brilliantly integrated into a remarkable oneness of different expertise and knowledge.

The delight, optimism and the possibilities for the future embodied by the Gardens by the Bay inspire the Jury to give the project the acclamation of the President’s Design Award for Design of the Year.



Located in Marina Bay, the Gardens by the Bay, is planned as Singapore’s premier urban outdoor recreation space and a new national icon. It represents a cornerstone of the Government’s vision to transforming Singapore into a City in a Garden. The project arose from a bold decision to set aside a significant extent of the waterfront and land at Marina Bay for a new major garden. The three distinct waterfront gardens – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central – form a “green lung” in the heart of the city and help realise the planning intention to make Marina Bay a vibrant place to live, work and play.

Bay South Garden, the largest of the three gardens, showcases the best of tropical horticulture and garden artistry. The overall master plan for the Gardens was selected through an international competition. The design concept by Grant Associates draws inspiration from an orchid, representative of both the tropics and of our national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim.

Bay South Garden incorporates a series of unique sustainable design features. A lake system, which takes into account the aesthetics and hydrology within the Garden’s catchment, captures run-off from within the Garden and the surrounding area. It acts as a natural “eco-filter”, cleaning the water using aquatic plants, before it is discharged into the marina reservoir. the former “flat” reclaimed land has been transformed with new landforms that create internal spaces cooled by prevailing winds. Tree canopies, plant trellises and other structures, including the two conservatories and the Supertrees, provide shade and shelter to visitors.

The focal point of Bay South Garden is the Cooled Conservatory Complex situated along the edge of Marina Reservoir. The two conservatories are a showcase of energy efficiency and sustainable building technologies. The conservatories are the world’s largest columnless climate-controlled glasshouses and provide an all-weather edutainment space. Each conservatory has a distinct character, showcasing the horticulture of world environments most likely to be affected by climate change.

The Flower Dome is a cool dry conservatory, replicating the climate of Mediterranean and semi-arid tropical regions. In contrast, the Cloud Forest is a cool, moist conservatory, replicating the climate of tropical mountain regions. It houses a 35-metre tall mountain and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

At the intersection of the two conservatories is a cluster of Supertrees. These vertical gardens are fitted out with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees – photovoltaic cells harnessing solar energy which is used for powering lighting and rainwater collectors for irrigation and fountain displays.

The Gardens captures the essence of Singapore as a premier tropical Garden City. It demonstrates how the Government places importance on creating a liveable environment for our residents. The project is deserving of the President’s Design Award for its achievements, as well as for setting a world benchmark for new recreational and leisure spaces.