2012 World Building of the Year

A Look at The Cooled Conservatories at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay:

Each year, architects from around the world gather for the World Architecture Festival (WAF). The WAF is the largest gathering and awards ceremony of its kind and provides a venue for architects to debate, learn and inspire one another. Awards are given for buildings and designs from across the globe, with the highest honour given as ‘World Building of the Year’.

In 2012, the title for World Building of the Year went to the Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. The gardens are located in Singapore’s Marina Bay and are built on reclaimed land. The project is central to furthering the government’s vision to transform Singapore from a ‘Garden City’ to a ‘City in a Garden’. As a city, Singapore has become renowned for its modern, innovative and environmentally friendly design. The Gardens by the Bay project encompasses 101 hectares of land and consists of three expansive waterfront gardens. A team led by Grant Associates from the UK won the bid to design the Bay South garden and ultimately created the extraordinary Cooled Conservatory Complex. The complex is the focal point of the gardens.

Two conservatories, in excess of 20,000 square metres, are among the largest climate-controlled greenhouses in the world. They are comprised of two main attractions, a 1.28 hectare dry conservatory known as the ‘Flower Dome’ and a 0.73 hectare moist conservatory called the ‘Cloud Forest’. The two naturally cooled, distinct conservatories provide an exploration into horticulture in environments that are likely to be affected by climate change.

The Flower Dome is based on the Mediterranean climate zone and teaches visitors about how plants in those regions will become extinct as temperatures rise. It contains more than 10,100 square metres of plants. Visitors discover a wide range of plants, including lavender fields and olive groves in the ‘Cultivated Worlds’ section and exotic-looking baobab and pachypodium trees in the ‘Strange Worlds’ area. At the center of the conservatory is the ‘Flower Field’, in which the blooms change seasonally.

The ‘Cloud Forest’ is designed to explore the relationship between plants and our planet, and how the warming of cool tropical cloud forests will threaten biodiversity. At the heart of this display, is a mountain featuring a 35 metre waterfall which visitors can explore on several different levels. At exhibition spaces within the mountain, visitors can learn about both the impacts of climate change and the sustainable practices used in the gardens. At the foot of the mountain, visitors can explore dark, mysterious and mist-covered gardens.

The conservatories are built on a dual system structure of lightweight, clear gridshell and arches in order to allow in as much natural light as possible. Gridshell sturctures derive their strength from their double curvature and are constructed of grid or lattice. The conservatories’ gridshell structure is extremely fragile and can only support its own weight and the weight of the glass. The arches serve to resist wind loads and protect the delicate gridshell. The Flower Dome is considered one of the largest gridshells in the world.

Bay South garden was opened to the public in June of 2012.  Its new focal point, the Cooled Conservatories, not only serve as a tourist attraction, they also highlight the fragility of biodiversity across the globe. Further, the conservatories’ use of natural cooling is exemplary and points to using this process in other buildings.  This architectural wonder serves several purposes and has high objectives, and so it is fitting that it was named the 2012 World Building of the Year.