Singapore – Super Trees, Biomimicry and Public Transportation

October 2013 – Gardens by the Bay is Singapore’s major water front development that flaunts all the grandeur we’d expect from a world class city. The vast development is home to a major hotel with an enormous rooftop infinity pool, two conservatories by the names of Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, a shopping center, a giant ferris wheel and a garden of Super Trees.

The Super Trees have metal exoskeletons  that support vertical gardens and large solar panels. Beneath the bionic arms of the Super Trees is a garden esplanade featuring educational panels informing visitors of the natural cycles of various plant types. Aside from the awe inspiring design of the Gardens by the Bay, the development reminds us of the potential that natural processes have within our urban centers. Biomimicry, the idea that we can learn from nature by mimicking and modifying some its inherit wisdom and thus integrate it into our own human systems, holds a lot of promise for the future growth of our cities. Can we cultivate habits within our cities that are more in tune with the natural pulse of the earth? Is it possible to harness the innate intelligence of our planet to develop alternative forms of energy or create more sustainable patterns of habitation? Singapore’s cyborg-like Super Trees prod our imagination to think about what could be.

People often jeer at Singapore, describing it has a ‘fine city’ because of its tendency to fine everything and tax what isn’t fined. For example, chewing gum or eating on the subway can yield fines amounting to hundreds of dollars. Similarly, special computer chips are installed on each car that enters the island to give the city the ability to directly tax drivers for road usage. Although this method is a bit controlling, it encourages people to use public transportation, particularly at peak hours when congestion in the city center is at its worst. The country is only a small island with just five million residents but nonetheless, Singapore shows us that a well supported public transportation system in conjunction with policy that deters automobile usage creates a city that offers residents a high level of urban mobility.

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