With so many water ways and rivulets forking across Singapore, it’s little wonder the country has several bridges, each with its own story and legends.
Anyone heading to the city centre from Singapore’s Changi Airport will likely take the undersea tunnel to the central business district, or cross Singapore’s Benjamin Sheares Bridge. Named after the second President of Singapore, the Benjamin Sheares Bridge connects the city’s east and west expressways. The bridge has a graceful turn which affords spectacular views of Singapore’s skyline. It is Singapore’s longest and tallest bridge, spanning almost two kilometres and standing 20 metres high. Perhaps the most striking feature of the bridge is hidden from view: the bridge was built over land that was reclaimed from the sea to expand Singapore’s total land area. The Benjamin Sheares Bridge is a local icon, and a testament to this is its appearance on Singapore’s older fifty dollar notes.
Not all bridges in Singapore are as long as the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, but each has a compelling history and a story. The Anderson Bridge, named after Sir John Anderson, is a vehicular bridge that was opened in 1910. Built as a link between the civic district on the northern bank and the commercial district on the southern bank, Anderson Bridge’s seventy meter span links Singapore’s busiest areas. Built to facilitate easier travel, the bridge became associated with a far more sinister function during World War II when the severed heads of criminals were hung from its steel arches as a warning against civil disobedience. The bridge’s white metal supports and structures make it easy to recognise. The bridge still serves vehicular passage across the Singapore River, and is part of Singapore’s Formula One circuit.
Cavenagh Bridge is Singapore’s oldest surviving bridge across the Singapore River and is the only suspension bridge in the country. Named after General Cavenagh, Governor of the Straits Settlement, the bridge was formerly known as the Edinburgh Bridge in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Singapore. Opened in the 1870s, the bridge was used by pedestrians and oxen crossing the Singapore River, a feat they’d have to accomplish by boat before the bridge was built. A delightful anachronism still exists from its cattle-crossing days: a police notice from the 1910s warns the public against using horses and cattle to cross the bridge or driving any vehicle across that weighs more than 3 CWT (imperial hundred-weights), about 152 kilograms.
Alkaff Bridge is a bright, multicoloured pedestrian bridge that facilitates passage for Singapore’s quay-side residents and revellers in Robertson Quay, a hub for riverside wining and dining. It was opened in 1997 and has been in use ever since. Also known as the Art Bridge, it’s easy to guess at the origins of the pseudonym from the different shades and hues used for each of the 2350 stencils that adorn the bridge’s facade.
If Alkaff Bridge is a tribute to the arts, The Helix Bridge is a salute to science. Formerly known as the Double Helix Bridge, this pedestrian link way between Marina Centre and Marina Bay opened in 2010 and is accompanied by a vehicular bridge. The Helix Bridge spans the entire circuit around Marina Bay, offering gorgeous views of the ArtScience Museum and the city’s newest architectural wonders. But the bridge itself is something to look at, with its double helix structure, perforated mesh, and the pairs of letters (C, G, A, and T) on the bridge, denoting the four DNA bases. The bridge has won several awards for its design and engineering, and serves as a symbol of Singapore’s progress in the digital age.