Artist: Grant Associates, Atelier One, Atelier Ten
Location: Marina Bay, Singapore
Year of completion: 2012
Researcher: Kelly Carmichael

Gardens by the Bay is a new, large, public garden close to Singapore’s financial district. Bay South is the first and largest of three planned gardens, and it’s at the heart of the project is a public art project called Supertrees. Resembling a futuristic woodland of giant structures, each of the 18 tropically-inspired and manmade “trees” range in height from 25-50 meters. As tall as city buildings, the installation has giant steel and concrete trunks and thousands of thick wire rods for branches. Two of the trees are connected by a canary yellow 128-meter-long aerial walkway, suspended approximately seven stories high.

Although manmade and industrial materials create the form, nature is reintroduced as an essential part of this artwork. Supertrees creates vertical gardens, home to 162,900 plants and over 200 species. Spread across 54 hectares, the master plan for Bay South takes its inspiration from the organization and physiology of Singapore’s national flower, the orchid. An attempt to capture the essential qualities and characteristics of orchids in the layout and underlying philosophy for these new gardens underscores the approach. Led by British landscape architecture and urban design practice Grant Associates, the desire for the site was to “blend nature, technology, environmental management, and imagination to create a twenty-first century focus for tropical horticulture and a unique destination experience.”

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An increasingly important component of sustainable urban development in the twenty-first century is the incorporation of green spaces into densely built urban areas positions, and this project exemplifies current thinking. Both the urban and the natural have been carefully considered in this development. Singapore is a small island with land restraints and high-density urban living. The island state is famous for its bustling city attractions and shopping but is also surprisingly green despite urbanization. The Supertrees installation extends this paradox further.

Providing scale and dimension to the Gardens, the height of Supertrees compliments the tall developments in the Marina Bay area. Towering up to 50 meters in height, the scale of Supertrees responds to neighboring skyscrapers, operating not in contradiction but in sync with the urban environment. Supertrees brings a natural element to the space, providing a home for orchids, flowers, and various ferns that climb across the steel framework. The trees’ large canopies operate as temperature moderators, absorbing and dispersing heat, and providing shelter from Singapore's tropical sun to visitors below. Positioned just beneath the canopy, the aerial walkway leads to a treetop bar and bistro, offering a unique social space.

While the fuchsia-colored supports, canary yellow walkway, and tropical flowers create an exotic visual and have become a destination for locals and tourists alike, the Supertrees installation is hard at work. Each “tree” is made of four parts: a reinforced concrete core, trunk, planting panels of the living skin, and the canopy. Each structure in Supertrees is fitted with solar panels and rainwater catches, while simultaneously functioning as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories. Eleven of the Supertrees are fitted with solar photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight into energy, providing lighting for the Gardens at night and aiding water technology within the conservatories below. The trees act as an integral part of the overall site system. A fusion of nature and environmental technologies, this project embodies cutting-edge thinking about how we manage our resources with the charm of an old fashioned stroll in the park. Bay South and its star attraction, Supertrees, is a highly sophisticated and integrated three-dimensional network of horticulture, engineering, and architecture.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency