For a considerably small country, Singapore boasts quite a good collection of iconic buildings designed by several starchitects. One example would be the Marina Bay Sands, Casino and Hotel.
image source: http://www.cppwind.com/
This building is one of architect Moshe Safdie’s best projects. It’s a tri-tower building that is connected along with roof with a sky park and infinity pool. According to Safdie, “There’s no city if all we build is towers. We have to find a way to deploy towers in a way that creates public place, public realm,” he said. This building became the talk of the town when it was in construction, and when it was opened to the public, tourists would fly into Singapore, wanting to visit “the building that looks like it has a boat on top”. Of course, the fact that Singapore spent quite a large sum of money to build this up, they had to make sure that it would rake in as much revenue as possible from the tourist industry. This building is not only a hotel, but it is also a casino. Contrasting to the other skyscrapers we have in Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands is all about portraying the high class, elegant vibe. If you take a walk in the building, the shops are all high end brands, and possibly only the wealthy could afford. Everything in there, including the food court, is priced a couple of notches higher than what you can get outside. Even though it’s a privatised space, they’ve tried to make it as much of a public space as possible, but at a price. Visitors don’t have the privilege to use the infinity pools as they are only available to hotel guests, but are allowed to go up to the sky park, 57 stories above ground, at a price of SGD$23 ( £10.50 ) per entry.
Before the Marina Bay Sands building was built, the “most iconic” building we had was probably the “Esplanade by the Bay”. It was designed to resemble a lantern/spiky dome. It was a place that hosted shows, musicals and all things theatre.
Definitely the highest profile building in Singapore at the moment, MBS has transformed the skyline of Singapore. It now hosts most of the star studded events, and when government figures visit Singapore, MBS is the place to visit and stay. However, there is a downside behind this glassy faceted building. Where it sits used to be an empty public space where people would walk by and sit by the bay. It is now a place where the wealthy and upper class go to.
As a goal to attract tourists and increase consumerism in this small country, Singapore is constantly upgrading the redefining the architectures all around. Which brings about the next point from the seminar; Museumization. To match up with the MBS, the Art Science Museum was built. Of course, it’s not only just a museum where works and exhibits are showcased. It’s designed to combine spectacle with consumption.
Strategically placed, the Art Science museum has an entrance and an exit at two points. Visitors can enter the museum via the Bay front, or they could enter/exit via MBS. Either way, they’ve made sure that visitors are enticed to spend by having rows of gift shops, aesthetically designed cafes, ensuring that when you walk through the museum, chances of you spending money would be increased.
With reference to the example of the Guggenheim Museum, where it’s supposed to be visited for the contents it hosts, visitors go there to see the museum once, only for it’s architecture, and that’s it. I feel that in Singapore’s case, the entire area where the MBS and Art science museum sits, is essentially the “Disneyland” for grown ups. Even if visitors go there to look at the architecture, Singapore has made sure that we leave the place spending at least on something. Tourists are constantly surrounded by things that promotes consumption, which in my point is a successful project by the government with the aim of expanding Singapore’s tourism and promoting Singapore as a hub for tourism.