Friday 29 June 2012

Gardens By The Bay officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 28 June 2012

Gardens by the Bay not an easy decision: PM Lee
Vital to have such green space despite giving up 101ha of prime land, he says
By Tan Dawn Wei, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2012

SETTING aside 101ha of prime land in the heart of Singapore's new downtown for Gardens by the Bay was not an easy decision, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last night.

The land could have been used for far more valuable commercial and residential developments, but planners believed in the value of an iconic green space - one that would be a key part of the new downtown in Marina Bay South and Singapore's answer to New York's Central Park and London's Hyde Park.

Speaking at the opening of the attraction, at which he unveiled a silver plaque, he said that with the city-state being so densely populated, such green lungs were needed.

'In fact, the more developed a city Singapore is, the more important it is for us to have such peaceful oases amid our tropical concrete and expressways, in order to give us emotional well-being and a sense of belonging.'

He was addressing 700 civil servants, corporate partners and students who were at the Flower Dome conservatory for the opening ceremony. He had earlier gone on a tour of the Gardens, taking in the sights from the OCBC Skyway, a 128m-long aerial walkway linking two 42m-tall Supertrees.

Mr Lee had announced the idea for the Gardens in his National Day Rally speech in 2005.

By far the largest and most expensive endeavour undertaken by the National Parks Board, the facility is made up of three gardens and is the latest manifestation of the city-in-a-garden vision.

The first and largest of the gardens, Bay South, took five years and $1 billion to build. It has two cooled conservatories that are among the largest in the world. The other gardens, Bay East and Bay Central, will be developed later. A global design competition in 2005 was won by British firm Grant Associates, which came up with the idea for the Supertrees.

A construction boom fuelled by developments like Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa resulted in the cost of the Gardens going up by 35 per cent.

After some rethinking, the number of Supertrees was halved to 18, and excavation work for a full basement carpark forgone.

The Gardens' chief executive Tan Wee Kiat said the project had its share of problems, chief of which was that it was a full-fledged garden built on reclaimed land - and in a short time at that.

Yesterday, Mr Lee singled out former national development minister Mah Bow Tan for pushing for the project when he was in charge.

'He saw value in having Gardens by the Bay right in the city, a value beyond enhancing the price of the rest of the land in Marina Bay,' said Mr Lee.

Speaking to The Straits Times later, Mr Mah said no one would think of putting a commercial value on New York's Central Park. He said: 'Can you imagine if someone said, 'We should have built houses on Hyde Park'? Or 'Let's turn Botanic Gardens into good-class bungalows'?'

National Parks Board chief Poon Hong Yuen said he expects the new Gardens to attract five million visitors in its first year.

Guests at yesterday's opening took many pictures of the lit Supertrees, but the one thing that left most of them awestruck was the 30m waterfall in the Cloud Forest conservatory. 'Wow!' was the word that escaped many lips.

Gardens an iconic jewel in Singapore's skyline: PM Lee
More than 30,000 people expected to visit $1 billion mega park today
By Tan Dawn Wei, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2012

GARDENS by the Bay's first garden Bay South, which took the National Parks Board five years and $1 billion to create, opened its doors to the public at 5am today.

Described by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as 'a jewel in the skyline of the Singapore city', the mega park features two of the world's largest cooled conservatories, more than 2,000 plant species from nearly every continent and 18 Supertrees, which are vertical gardens of up to 50m tall.

The country's latest icon is also kitted out with green technology - horticultural waste, for example, cools the twin domes. The gardens have six dining outlets, with two more opening later this year.

The attraction is open from 5am to 2am daily. The two conservatories and the OCBC Skyway, a 128m-long aerial walkway, are open from 9am to 9pm daily.

More than 30,000 people are expected today.

Admission is free, but entry to the conservatories will cost adult Singapore residents $12 for one conservatory or $20 for both. Entry to the walkway costs $5 per adult.

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