Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Old Pictures: Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay Sands isn't terribly far up on my overall list but it's still a pretty standout building. A long park/pool/leisure complex plonked on top of three skyscraper hotels, it's a hugely distinctive addition to Singapore's skyline and it's not one you're going to confuse with anything else. Let's quickly remind ourselves of what it looks like.

It's a recent addition to Singapore too, being completed in 2010 after three years of construction. As such, there's not exactly a lot of history to be add here. Old photos are restricted to photos of its construction, which are perfectly pleasant if you like that kind of thing.

It gets a little more interesting when you realise exactly where the Marina Bay Sands is built. Let's zoom out a little.

Given the hotel complex's name, it's no surprise a bay is involved, and even less surprise that it's called Marina Bay. The "Sands" actually refers to the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who build casinos and hotels across the world. Looking at Singapore's skyline today, Marina Bay Sands stands out not just because of its unusual form but by its location, across on the other side of the bay from all the other skyscrapers. But take a look at some old pictures, and you realise that not only is Marina Bay Sands very new, but the entire strip of land it sits in has only been around a few decades. It used to just be sea. To get our bearings, the green patch of land pictured above is called Padang. Now, check out these photos from 1969 and 1973, which are taken from newspapers scans as found on this Singapore blog.

Singapore has changed so radically that it's almost impossible to get your bearings (we've flipped round 180 degrees from the earlier photos), but to the right of Padang in 1969 - where Marina Bay Sands now stands - is just water. But by 1973, you can see a slight change. Singapore had began a land reclamation program. As the pictures below further demonstrate, this was not a half-hearted effort.

By 1977, the strip of land that Marina Bay Sands now stands on is clearly visible, in the form of a large sand bank. A massive section of land had also been reclaimed adjoined to the main city. Nine years later.. wow. Singapore isn't hanging around. Development was rapid. Strangely though, it took a little longer on the Marina Bay site. The below photo isn't dated, but the blobby things at the bottom of the picture are a performing arts centre (called "Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay) and were only finished in 2002.

The following photos lifted from this property developer's website are from the same era.

Soon after, the Marina Bay Sand was built. The greenery behind has been kept, turned into carefully crafted and beautiful gardens called, simply, Gardens on the Bay.

The same website has a projection of what Singapore is going to look like in the future, with the gap between the Marina Bay and the main city filled with skyscrapers. I'm not a colossal fan of shiny glass skyscrapers, but I think modern hi-tech cities like Singapore can pull them off pretty well.

Slick, Singapore, very slick.

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