What to Do in Singapore

Art and Architecture in Marina Bay

By Angelia SeetohEvents - 12 July 2010 3:00 PM | Updated 16 September 2010

Art and Architecture in Marina Bay

With its three soaring towers bridged together by a spectacular sky garden shaped like a ship, the striking Marina Bay Sands Resort creates a silhouette that is more art than architecture. Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, who termed the design ‘transparent’ and ‘porous’, the diverse components such as the casino, signature stores, theatres, and restaurants elevate the resort into an integrated experience of culture, entertainment and lifestyle.

Antony Gormley’s Drift

More than an opulent leisure and business destination, Marina Bay Sands is also a showcase for six artists whose work has never shown in this part of the world.  Get up close and you'll discover that nine exhibits by artists handpicked by Safdie, have been seamlessly integrated into the buildings. The work of international luminaries, including Britain's Antony Gormley and American environmental sculpture specialist Ned Kahn, harness technologies as varied as the eight-century-old Chinese ceramic arts to state-of-the-art expertise from one of Singapore's leading offshore engineering companies.

Functional, abstract, and thought-provoking, all these monumental works are open for public viewing. In the hotel lobby, the startling concentric coloured bands of Sol LeWitt's Arcs and Circles form a bright, playful background to the reception desk.  LeWitt's works (another called Arcs, Circles and Irregular Bands is being created in the basement entrance to the MRT station) stand out as the least architectural of the public works that Safdie chose and the only non-living artist of the collection. After LeWitt died in 2007, his works were continued by a chosen group of master painters. Those in the hotel were made with the help of artists from the nation's own Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

Sol LeWitt's Arcs and Circles

To admire the second piece of work, one has only to look up. Suspended by just seven wires above the airy atrium is Gormley's Drift, perhaps the most massive and complex work on display. The beautiful delicacy of the 40-metre-long matrix of interconnected steel rods belies the mammoth task of putting this astounding creation together. It took 60 workers to assemble the 16,100 steel rods and 8,320 steel nodes in eight sections, which were then raised into place five stories above the ground.  Altogether, the structure weighs 14.8 tonnes, and if you look carefully as you walk around it on the balconies above, you can see the signature outline of a human body that appears in many of Gormley's works.

Zheng Chongbin’s Rising Forest

Move past the lounge, and you could be forgiven for missing altogether the next exhibit. Zheng Chongbin’s 83 three-metre-tall glazed ceramic pots, each with a tree growing from it, are dotted in and around the atrium. These pots are so big that the Shanghai-born artist had to build a special kiln to fire them in Yixing, China, which has been producing beautiful pottery since the 11th century. The trees, watered though computer-controlled tubes under the floor as they mature to their maximum potential, give the work its name: Rising Forest.

Exiting the atrium at the far end is the first of three works in the resort by Ned Kahn who utilizes and harnesses the elements in his singular works. Tipping Wall will be a vertical waterfall of polycarbonate channels that tip over as they fill with water, entertaining the long queues from the casino across the road as they wait for a taxi. Kahn's next work, Wind Arbor, is a curtain of small aluminum plates that ripple with the wind providing a shimmering lightplay and giving shade to the lobby during the day. 

James Carpenter's Blue Reflection Facade

 Across the road, Safdie overcame the restriction that the casino must have no exterior windows, by cladding the front of the building in James Carpenter's Blue Reflection Facade a series of blue-lit vertical glass and metal fins that mirror Singapore's tropical skies. In the shopping mall, the most kinetic of work of all awaits. Kahn's 90-tonne Rain Oculus features a giant acrylic bowl, 22 metres across, on a steel structure. When functioning, a vast vortex of water swirls round the bowl, creating a dynamic skylight feature, and plunges through an aperture at the base, falling into the canal that runs though the mall a floor below.

Ned Kahn’s Rain Oculus

When installed, Chinese artist Zhan Wang’s shiny Artificial Rocks on the Garden Bay Bridge, inspired by traditional Scholar’s Rocks held in high regard among the upper class and educated, will reflect the surroundings in an illustration of the ever-changing view of China’s rapid modernisation.

With these unique works, Singapore cements its position as the art centre of the region, and delights the artistic community,  the masses, and the visitors from around the region that are drawn through Marina Bay Sands’ doors.