Singapore Airshow: heading for the Garden City
The 2020 Singapore Airshow is set to take place from 11 – 16 February. A perfect opportunity to take a closer look at this surprising city-state, a place of many contrasts. Known as the “Garden City”, this sophisticated metropolis, one of the world’s most densely populated, has decided to reduce its ecological footprint and become a benchmark for sustainable development.
Singapore, a city-state in South-East Asia synonymous with prosperity and a booming economy, is ranked 7th in the list of countries with the highest ecological footprint. Hardly surprising when you consider its population density – (842.39 inhabitants / sq.km), the highest in Asia and the second-highest in the world -, combined with a high standard of living and energy-intensive lifestyle, in a tropical climate with stifling heat. In this corner of the world, three out of four inhabitants have air-conditioning… And yet, as another illustration of its numerous paradoxes, Singapore is also the world’s greenest metropolis. To make sure Singapore remains an attractive tourist destination well into the future, the government has made the ecological transition one of its priorities, setting an ambitious goal: 80% green buildings by 2030. To reach that goal, it has set up the “Green Mark” initiative, a green building rating scheme based on 5 criteria: energy efficiency, water efficiency, integration into the external environment, indoor environmental quality and other innovative features. Proof of its appeal – green buildings are springing up all over the place! In addition, the government pledged to make sure 90% of the population lives within 400 metres of a park. Almost a third of Singapore’s land surface is now covered by green areas, reinforcing its status as the Garden City.
Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay are the most emblematic example of this sustainable development policy in action. Located in the Marina Bay district, overlooking the mouth of the Singapore River, this futuristic park inaugurated in 2012 stretches over 250 acres of greenery.
The centrepiece of these spectacular gardens is the Conservatory Complex, made up of two biodiversity conservation areas, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. They house over 250,000 varieties of rare plants under their glass domes. “Cloud Forest” (42 metres high, almost 2 acres) recreates the humid climate of South-East Asia’s tropical mountains, typically found at around 2,000 metres above sea level. The temperature hovers around 24°C, with 90% humidity. It houses a 35-metre tall “mountain” laced with luxuriant vegetation, down which the world’s tallest indoor waterfall flows. The Flower Dome reaches a height of 38 metres and spans nearly 3 acres, recreating a semi-arid, Mediterranean climate in a cool, dry atmosphere. Visitors can marvel at plant species from California, South America, South Africa and Australia, as well as those from the Mediterranean basin, including an olive grove.
Growing Mediterranean plants in tropical areas? A challenge, which may seem like an environmental aberration! But this is not the case. These domes are veritable life-size laboratories for green technologies, which demonstrate our ability to correct climate conditions locally without harming the planet!
As perfect examples of sustainable, energy-efficient structures, the domes are made of a special type of glass that allows optimal light in for plants, but reduces a substantial amount of heat. They are powered by a Combined Heat Power (CHP) steam turbine that produces heat and energy from horticultural waste, along with fertilizer in the form of ashes. Waste heat is captured and recycled to produce a liquid desiccant to de-humidify the air.
The air released from the greenhouses is then channelled towards the Supertrees, huge steel tree-like structures between 25 and 50 metres tall, another of the original attractions on display at the Gardens by the Bay. Covered with lush vegetation, these real-fake trees are home to numerous birds and insects. These structures harvest rainwater to water the plants in the greenhouses and gardens, and have photovoltaic cells on their canopies to harvest the solar energy required to light them. Indeed, be sure not to miss Garden Rhapsody, a daily light-and-sound show that brings the Supertrees to life in the early evening (admission is free).
Singapore National Museum, to find out more about the history of this city-state and its awe-inspiring economic success story. to find out more about the history of this city-state and its awe-inspiring economic success story.
Wander through Chinatown or Kampong Glam
With their colourful traditional houses and curiosity shops, a vibrant atmosphere permeates the bustling alleyways of the Chinese and Malay neighbourhoods: a refreshing contrast to the modern, sophisticated districts, which can sometimes be a little lacking in character.
Explore Tiong Bahru
Tiong Bahru is reminiscent of the Marais in Paris: a city-centre neighbourhood that kept its original charm for many years post-independence. The younger generations have now taken over this historical corner of the city, ushering in a more gentrified atmosphere. Take a stroll through its streets for a glimpse of how Singapore looked and felt before independence, in 1965.
Admire the Merlion, the statue with a lion’s head and the body of a fish that overlooks the marina, with Marina Bay Sands shimmering in the background. Mascot of the city, the Merlion is to Singapore what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or the Statue of Liberty to New York. In the same vein, Marina Bay Sands is the signature building of the bay. Don’t leave without taking a photo!
Food courts, small-scale eateries serving street food you can trust completely from a health and safety standpoint, are a must when visiting Singapore. You will be impressed by the dexterity of these chefs mastering the creative art of wok cooking. They offer excellent dim sum, a varied assortment of sweet or savoury bite-sized portions of food. Some other popular dishes include chicken rice, laksa (spicy noodle soup), roti-prata (Indian flatbreads served with a curry sauce) and hokkien mee (egg noodles stir-fried with slices of pork, prawns and vegetables).
Don’t let the delights of Singapore make you lose sight of the purpose of your visit.
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