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A Canopy of Man-Made Solar-Powered Supertrees Flourishes in Singapore

Singapore's Gardens by the Bay project is pushing the boundary of what an urban park can be.

A national park filled with electrified, man-made trees sounds like a paradox. But Singapore’s latest landscaping project, a 250-acre site called Gardens by the Bay, mixes nature and mechanics with an "artificial forest" full of glowing trees, globally-sourced plants, heritage vegetation, and a conservatory built around a 35-meter mountain complete with the world's tallest indoor waterfall. The project is pushing the boundary of what an urban park can be.

On June 29, 2012, Singapore’s National Parks Board opened a section of this project, called Bay South Garden, to the public, welcoming visitors to 18 just-installed "Supertrees," climbing to 50 meters in height.

"Many countries now do tree-planting and call themselves garden cities," CEO of Gardens by the Bay, Dr. Kiat Tan explained in a 2011 speech. "To retain our edge and continue to improve our living environment, we have been transforming Singapore into a City in a Garden."

The man-made canopy, much like its natural counterparts, will serve as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories, collect rainwater, and provide shade to park tourists. Eleven of the Supertrees are adorned with photovoltaic cells that will harvest solar energy to light up the trees in the evening, providing energy and lighting, to conservatories throughout the park, and serving as air and temperature regulators.

The massive structures are also vertical gardens, dressed in a living bouquet of climbing flowers, ferns, and bromeliads from around the world. Come evening, these trees will regale the park with light and sound shows. Visitors can look on from a new "Skyway" bridge connecting two 25-meter trees.

The project was commissioned by the National Parks Board to redevelop Singapore’s south side Marina Bay area and designed by UK architectural firm Grant Associates. Once completed, the Gardens by the Bay hopes to become an eco-attraction that showcases not only a collection of plants from around the world, but also the innovative uses of green technology.

Photos from Gardens by the Bay

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