by Eleanor Dodman, AA 4th Year
22 January 2012 AA Lecture Hall, London   Jim Eyre of Wilkinson Eyre Architects came to lecture at the AA on what is a very unusual project, Gardens by the Bay, proving to us that environmentally friendly architecture does not have to be ugly. Situated on the reclaimed land of Marina Bay in Singapore, this building is truly remarkable. Its two glass grid shell conservatories serve very different purposes, both containing two very different climates, Mediterranean and Mountain.   The cool dry conservatory, known as the Flower Dome, which is the larger of the two conservatories, holds the Mediterranean plants and spans 171m.  The cool moist conservatory, Cloud Forest, which pans 123m and is 58m in high contains a 35m high waterfall situated in a mountain like structure for plants that like higher altitudes as well as a raven. The mountain contains a number of exhibition spaces, which highlight the effect of climate change. Visitors are able to walk on a skywalk, which circles the mountain enabling them to view the plants from above. Both conservatories contain plants from endangered climates, which as Jim pointed out are all regions that produce wine.   Through envisaging this building as a system Wilkinson Eyre have managed to conceive of it as one that is not only striking but also that radically defies expectation in terms of energy use. Using the waste bio mass collected from plants and trees in and around Singapore, which would have ordinarily be sent to landfill, to fuel the buildings is just one of many clever technologies utilized within the building. A clever use of boating technology also enables the building to be shaded by retractable computer controlled shades, which open when needed.
The structure, as Jim explained, dissolves before the eye – not inhibiting the openness of the project. Designed to hold up its own weight, the delicate glass grid shell structure which spans the project is comprised of a radial array of external arches which are set back from the grid shell to further emphasise the openness of the building.  As well as the two conservatories this project includes 16 Supertrees – large-scale filigree structures covered with climbing plants. Ranging in height from 25 to 50m, the tallest of which houses a restaurant at the top, many of these trees contain solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity as well as water technologies to help cool the conservatories.   Jim took us on a detailed tour through the various design details that went into Gardens by the Bay. This project may not be as geometrically convoluted as current projects by other firms but therein lies its beauty. It is the largest climate-controlled glasshouse in the world and one that I hope I have the pleasure of visiting.
[caption id="attachment_676" align="alignnone" width="360"] Gardens by the Bay
Image credit: Wilkinson Eyre[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_675" align="alignnone" width="360"] The Supertrees with the two conservatories in the background
Image credit: Wilkinson Eyre[/caption]   For more information: Gardens by the Bay lecture listing Wilkinson Eyre website