One of the hallmarks of a global city is a skyline that can be easily and instantly recognised. This is achieved almost entirely through the shapes that buildings make against the sky — the more iconic the architecture, the more easy it is to identify a city and give it a personality. Anyone who’s seen the Singapore skyline over the last couple of decades will know how much it’s changed but also how quickly it’s become one of the world’s best-known cityscapes.
The three tallest buildings in Singapore are each 280 metres tall: United Overseas Bank Plaza One, Republic Plaza and One Raffles Place (formerly OUB Centre). By the 1990s, these three buildings were well-established as the giants of the city skyline and continue to tower over the many other skyscrapers that have sprung up around them. Other buildings like The Concourse, a 41-storey office tower designed by Paul Rudolph and completed in 1994, give the city its distinct shape.
Speaking of distinct, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay has been compared to a great many things — the most memorable comparisons being a pair of microphones and a durian (a strong-smelling, spiky tropical fruit which you have to experience to understand). The two rounded frames of the performing arts centre are fitted with more than 7000 triangle glass sunshades and the centre houses a 2000-seat Theatre, a 1600-seat Concert Hall, smaller performance studios, outdoor performance spaces, food and retail outlets, and a branch of the National Library with some of the best views ever to accompany a good book.
In recent years, the Singapore skyline has become dominated by the instantly-recognisable Marina Bay Sands, an architectural project headed by Moshe Safdie and inspired by decks of cards. With its three distinct towers connected at the top at a height of 200 metres by the SkyPark that spans 9,941 square metres, Marina Bay Sands was considered one of the most challenging construction projects in the world. The infinity pool, at 1,296 square metres, is the largest outdoor pool at its height and no visit to Singapore seems complete without a photo at the edge of the pool, with the city skyline as a backdrop.
The ArtScience Museum, also designed by Moshe Safdie, was dubbed the “Welcoming Hand of Singapore” by Sheldon Adelson, the chairman of Las Vegas Sands. It’s certainly one of the first things you’ll notice when you’re on the bay. Inspiration for the design was taken from the shape of a lotus flower, which is associate with beauty, purity and femininity in many Asian cultures. Each of the ten extensions of the shape is referred to as a ‘finger’, the tops of which have skylights to let natural light through into the gallery spaces — one of several sustainability features in the Museum.
Explore Singapore’s architecture by first strolling around the city to get a feel of its unique sounds and sights. A river cruise is one of your best options — look for one that ends at Marina Bay for lots of photo opportunities with the Marina Bay Sands towers. And if you want a panoramic view of the skyline, head to the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark or to one of the bars and restaurants on the 57th floor of the integrated resort.