Friday, October 31, 2008

Singapore - Clarke Quay

Clarke Quay used to be the centre of commerce in Singapore. Lying at the mouth of Singapore River,the shophouses and godowns served the shipping trade between Asia and Europe. You can imagine that Sir Stamford Raffles and his officers once roamed these streets to keep things in order. 

Today, Clarke Quay has been transformed into a tourist magnet, with dining, shopping and entertainment venues fitted into the converted warehouses and shophouses. A street canopy designed by London Architect Will Alsop provides shelter from the tropical sun and rain. Specially designed low speed fans in the shape of  "Whale-tails" introduce artificial breeze into the covered streets. The canopies are called "Angels" - the umbrella-like structures are constructed out of steel frame and covered with high-tech plastic ETFE. 

Some of the most interesting dining establishments in Singapore can be found here - e.g.  The Clinic - a fine-dining restaurant and pub fitted out as an operating theatre, Restaurant Madame - part of the IndoChine group of restaurants, Coriander Leaf - a Pan-Asian fusion food hub, and Tomo Izakaya where the seafood is flown in straight from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market.

The canopies do function as intended, and walking in the streets even under the hot tropical heat is quite pleasant.

There are more covered terraces next to the River. The circular sun-tents are supposed to evoke Chinese lanterns, but to me they look more like those huge magnets they use in a scrap-metal yard. A bit scary to sit under these !

Singapore - Botanic Gardens

Another green oasis worth a visit in Singapore is the Botanic Gardens. Located just a stone's throw away from Orchard Road, it is easily accessible. The garden is open from 5.00 a.m. to 12.00 mid night, so very convenient.

The Garden covers an area of around 52 hectares. It is huge for the land-scarce island of Singapore. There are many attractions including 3 lakes, an orchidarium, a mini-rainforest,  a ginger garden, etc. 

If you don't have much time, head to the entrance at Holland Road. Take a quick walk around the Swan Lake, then head back to the Green Pavilion for a nice cold drink. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours and get some much needed exercise.

If you are into nature photography, the Garden provide great photo-opps.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Singapore - Crowne Plaza at Terminal 3

Crowne Plaza at Terminal 3 is one of the latest designer hotels to open in Singapore. Designed by white-hot Singapore architecture firm WOHA, it features an iconic white twisted metal screen on the facade. Externally it is basically a rectangular box dressed-up by the metal screen. When seen close-up, the screen takes on the shape of little flowers. 

The interior is done in the currently popular spa-chic style, with very dark lighting and small repetitive decorative elements scaled up to cover whole walls and features. While most of the ideas can be seen in trendy design magazines, overall the execution was quite well done. It is definitely one of the more interesting hotels in Singapore.

The hotel as seen from skytrain from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3.

The twisted metal screen.

The entrance to the hotel from Terminal 3.

The lobby and atrium spaces.

The coffee house. Looks interesting with the repetitive retro tile design on the screen and walls behind. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Singapore - Terminal 3

Airports have been slowly morphing into shopping malls over the years. With the introduction of the hub and spoke model, airline hubs have become places where passengers spend a lot of time in-between flights. The delays and longer check-in times caused by security concerns make these hubs even more of a place where one could spend hours, if not days waiting for the next flight. To help us kill time, airports have conveniently introduced more shops, restaurants, bars and even entertainment centres. These are now important revenue centres for airport management, and where they try their best to wrest those dollars from our pockets. 

At the Singapore Terminal 3, the transformation is complete. Opened in January 2008, this is truly the new model for air-travel - the airport as shopping mall. The departure hall is typical high-ceiling open plan concept, designed to get travellers through check-in as quicky as possible. Once you have checked in, the shops and food outlets are conveniently located on the mezzanine level, accessible by escalators. The layout and design are even modelled after high-end shopping malls, with wide aisles and tastesfully understated decoration. Even the departure lounge is a shopping paradise full of shops and all kinds of concessions. 

The verticle green wall is one of the main features of this airport. It is basically a set of wireframes planted with different types of creepers.

The mezzanine level with the shops and restaurants.

The departure lounge with more shops.

Singapore - VivoCity

VivoCity is one of the latest attractions in Singapore. Designed as a destination by itself, it even has it's own dedicated MRT line. It is now the largest shopping mall in Singapore with over 1 million square feet of retail space, bigger then the already huge Ngee Ann City at Orchard Road, and Suntec City.

When I first saw the design of VivoCity, I was really excited by the architecture. Designed by renowned Japanese architect Toyo Ito, it looked very different from a typical shopping mall which is usually just a dressed-up square box. This one has lots of open terraces facing the harbour, very organic curved forms, and the roof top is not just a roof but a public open space. 

Seeing the actual building, I was a bit disappointed. The real thing just did not have the same dream-like quality of the early renderings. For a Singapore building, the workmanship was also surprisingly below standard.

Still, VivoCity is worth a visit as it is very different from the usual shopping mall. What sets it apart is the roof top garden which covers the entire shopping mall, with lots of different play areas for kids as well as relaxing corners for everyone else. You also get views of the harbour and Sentosa Island from here.

VivoCity is next to the Singapore Cruise Centre, where Star Cruise liners make their stops.

Inside there's not much to set it apart from other shopping centres.

The roof top is where you want to be. It is a really nice public space, especially for the kids.