The process began just over three years ago, when the tropical paradise began to invite overseas architects. The first wave of international talent included Daniel Libeskind, Moshe Safdie, Zaha Hadid, Toyo Ito and Norman Foster, but the second wave comes from German talent. This is made possible by plenty of money, a will to build the unusual and a political system that is focused to "doing" not just talking about it. Singapore's government has invited the best architects from around the world to create some of the most amazing architecture seen anywhere, including what has become the country's landmark building and most photographed buildings of all time: the hotel complex Marina Bay Sands. The infinity pool on the roof is one of the most "snapped" images in the world, appearing in countless selfies. The "three-legged" Marina Bay Sands was created by Harvard Professor of Architecture Moshe Safdie.
Although it promotes itself as a resort with luxury shops and hotels, it is actually a huge casino. Safdie exploits a few cultural myths: the roof construction reminds western onlookers of a surfboard or even an ironing board, while Chinese visitors see the construction as a symbol for good fortune and success.
Singapore's spectacular Face-Lift
It began with the Theater Centre Esplanade, a symbol for modern Singapore. It was designed by the Singapore office of DP Architects and Wilford & Partners, a German outfit. That was in 2002, then in 2006 Norman Foster arrived and created a dome for the High Court, nothing to raise eyebrows over in Britain or Germany, but in Singapore this was quite a daring thing to do at that time. In the same year, the Japanese architect Ito created the stunning shopping centre Vivo City, which rises like a soap bubble out of the harbour.
After that, there seemed no end to the ingenuity of world-wide talent: Libeskind created his poetic residential towers along the seafront, which seem to sway with the wind like so many silvery stems of bamboo.
By 2009 Norman Foster had left aside his endless similar domes and created an amazing combination of old and new: his generous extension of the Capella Hotel on Sentosa, a much-loved colonial building. Six years later he designed the new South Beach complex opposite the old Raffles Hotel in the heart of the city.
German Architects are on their Way
City-state Singapore makes it easy for star architects to open an office and begin working. Fast-tracking decisions, professional development partners, reliable financing sources and will to create something amazing make the lives of architects far easier than elsewhere. And so German architects are daring to leave their footprints in the exotic locations of Singapore, such as team Dreiseitl from Lake Constance, who created the Bishan Ang Mo Kio Park, an eco-park where the team re-naturalised a stream for example, created wonderful play areas for children and generated the first real interest in sustainability and ecological projects. Today, the park is a landmark and symbol for the city-state's commitment to "green" living.
Ole Scheeren tries to tell stories with the buildings he creates. In 2013 he created the condominium The Interlace, which was named a World Building in 2015. The development looks like a jumble of giant containers, in direct sight of the harbour, or a gigantic collection of Lego pieces. But its very unpredictable series of shapes and textures make the complex the very opposite of "nanny state", something Singapore's government was often accused of in the past.
German architect Paul Ingenhoven uses a very different approach. His Marina One building looks almost threatening, like something out of Game of Thrones, a dark tower with sinister intentions. But inside, the tower is playfully arranged, designed to cater for humans, not monsters. Marina One stands on land that has to be wrestled away from the sea. Since the founding of the city state, the landmass of Singapore has been increased by around one quarter. In 1960 less than two million residents lived in the city state, but now this number is closer to 5.6 million. The only way to provide homes for everyone is to create more land and to build upwards and well as downwards.
Ingenhoven's Marina One will have two office towers, two residential towers with 34 storeys each respectively, and a shopping centre as well as a large green inner yard that corresponds to Singapore's idea to see itself as the City in the Garden.