For urban dwellers – and that’s over half of the world’s population, according to the United Nations – trekking in a nature reserve is a respite from the concrete jungle. Trees are unrestricted by regulations for height and gross floor area. The variety of species is not defined by land-use or conservation guidelines. Greenery is not a single shade, but a palette of textures and hues. Encountering this natural order of growth is a striking reminder (by way of comparison) of how much effort goes into designing, building and maintaining a city.
While city making has traditionally meant concreting over nature, this has given way in recent times to more environmentally friendly ideals. ‘Green buildings’, ‘sustainable architecture’ and entire ‘eco-cities’ are just some examples of how urban planners and architects have acknowledged and even embraced nature by planting more greenery, designing energy-efficient buildings, and investing in blue-green infrastructure. But beyond thinking for nature, cities can be like nature, and step into the wild.
Shannon Lim hated studying until he discovered design
If not for design, Shannon Lim may still be bumming around in life. He never did his homework in school and spent his time skateboarding instead, until he set his mind on becoming a photographer. But in order to get into one of Singapore’s top design schools where photography is also taught, Lim realized he needed good grades.
“It was an epiphany,” he recalls. “I really was a very bad student. I would sleep in class the whole day. For my chemistry paper, I wrote ‘bunsen burner’ for all the questions.” Even though it was a struggle to pass his exams, Lim did well enough to study photography at Temasek Design School. That was when he made his second epiphany in life: that he wanted to be a graphic designer instead.
Deep below the iconic Marina Bay lies the world’s largest district cooling system (DCS) that runs 24/7.
Drivers whizzing by Bayfront Avenue would most likely miss it. Standing next to the towering Marina Bay Sands hotel is a boxy structure that could well be a mirage. Shimmering in the sunlight is a curtain of aluminium flappers seemingly dancing with the wind — a mesmerising sight that camouflages the cooling tower of the world’s deepest district cooling system in plain sight.
Underneath this tower wrapped in a screen by the artist Ned Kahn is a plant that produces chilled water, which is five storeys and extends to 25m deep. The only other sign of this round-the-clock operation is a silver-on-silver sign of the “Singapore District Cooling Pte Ltd” tucked underneath Bayfront Avenue. Located just steps away from the Helix Bridge and the ArtScience Museum, this rectangular plaque points towards an off-white door: the entrance to the underground facility that keeps Singapore’s business district cool in its tropical climate.