As a graduate student on the IFTA, I am conducting some of my own research here in Singapore. I am interested in a comparative waterfront redevelopment study, looking at the ways in which Marina Bay and London’s Canary Wharf compare and contrast and some of the theories behind waterfront redevelopment. Since I spent some time in London observing the way in which people use the space and understanding the way in which London’s Canary Wharf relates to and fits in to the larger context of London, I decided to spend all day yesterday at Marina Bay. Although I went with specific research interests in mind (getting a feel for the area, understanding the ways in which different people utilize the area, and visiting the Marina Bay Gallery) what I discovered were sights of complete urban spectacle: one fantastic thing after another that just consistently made me have a tourist gaze. After walking from Raffles Place MRT station down the Singapore River to the Marina to experience the “seamless extension” of the Central Business District to the Marina, three sights in particular had me, as both a tourist and a researcher, astounded.
The first site was the Helix Bridge:
The Helix Bridge is designed like human DNA and it connects Marina Center to Bayfront. It is inspired by the structure of human DNA and therefore, in a way, the people and life in Singapore. To Singapore, it represents renewal, growth, life, and abundance. However, I believe its most important function is connectivity and continuity as it provides the essential pedestrian connection between the Marina Bay Sands and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands to the Singapore Flyer (Singapore’s equivalent to the London Eye). As I walked over the bridge and felt it buckling under me at a few points, I noticed that without this bridge there would essentially be no way for those who primarily use the space, who I determined to be tourists, to walk around the entirety of the Marina, feeding in to the urban spectacle of the area and creating this notion of connectivity that can’t be broken.
The second site of urban spectacle were The Shoppes at Marina Bay, or the large shopping mall located just below the Marina Bay Sands Hotel:
The mall was almost over stimulating in a sense. If I wasn’t on the budget of a graduate student and I had intentions to shop, I would have been completely lost as to where to begin shopping! It was just designer store after designer store: Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Coach, with the occasional Gap thrown in there and the list goes on and on. This area certainly appeals to the tourists and business elite who are ready to drop some serious cash on designer goods before retreating to their rooms in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, thus adding to the urban spectacle of the Marina. If the designer stores weren’t enough, one could pretend they were in Venice, Italy or perhaps Las Vegas by taking a gondola ride through the Shoppes from one end to the other. While this gondola ride may not be as private or as romantic as one in the actual Venice, Italy it certainly appeals to the tourist, looking for something interesting and unique to do.
The third site of urban spectacle is the centerpiece of Marina Bay: Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
The Marina Bay Sands is a true architectural wonder with 57 stories, three angled towers, an observation area on the top of its ship-like deck connecting the three towers, and a sky bar and infinity pool. Marina Bay Sands has completely transformed the image of the bay. My NUS graduate student friend Erica explained that people are more likely to identify the image of Marina Bay with Singapore rather than the Merlion, or the fish lion image of which Singapore was identified with. Dr. Glass and I spent quite some time on the observation deck where I was able to gain a better understanding of the design and lay out of the city below. This area proved to be a tourist destination and a site for urban spectacle when we ended our evening by watching Marina Bay Sand’s light, laser, and water show from across the bay. As shown in the video below, the show also highlighted the beauty of the bay and reinforced the fact that Marina Bay is truly a site for urban spectacle-open, connected, and appealing to tourists at all times of the day.
I am looking forward to drawing more comparisons between the history, usage, and spectacle of Marina Bay and Canary Wharf for my upcoming paper!