In January 2006, Landscape Architects Grant Associates together with Architects Wilkinson Eyre emerged as winners of an international competition that drew over 70 entries to create the world’s best tropical garden at the waterfront edge of Singapore’s Marina Bay.
Their winning masterplan: 18 massive steel super trees, six dining areas and two climate-controlled conservatories (Flower Dome and Cloud Forest) that are among the highlights at the 54ha Bay South.
Featuring the world’s largest and columnless greenhouses, the conservatories are home to over 250,000 species of plants. The Flower Dome is cooled to temperatures between 23-25°C to showcase flowers and plants typically found in the Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical regions. The Cloud Forest portrays plant life from the mountain top.
Each 16,000m2 glass conservatory is made up of more than 3,300 individual panels that offers a clear view of the Marina Bay skyline. Arup optimised the glass panels into repetitive and practical sizes, thus simplifying the procurement, building and maintenance of the conservatories. To mitigate the greenhouse effect, a high-performance glass that allows only 65 per cent of the sun’s light and just 35 per cent of its heat was used. Electrically controlled vents are also installed to ensure that heat can escape. On days that sunlight levels are high, rolled fabric sails with light-sensitive sensors unfurl from the steel arcs of the structures to provide more shade.
As the local fire safety code does not cater for such non-conventional buildings, Arup devised an innovative strategy by adopting a performance-based design approach. This utilised the domes’ architecture to great effect, allowing smoke to ventilate naturally through vents in the dome should there be a fire. The design also enables the conservatories to be built as entirely open spaces without sub-divisions, or need for sprinklers and smoke detectors, which would otherwise have been required by the local fire safety code.