Quite a bit of fanfare recently surrounding the official opening of Gardens by the Bay, lauded as our Central Park, green lungs for our concrete jungle, etc etc.
Detractors wrote long articles like this one, placing the Garden in the ‘context of Empire and colonialism’ which sparked off some thoughts from me.
When I first heard of the project years ago, it immediately reminded me of the Eden Project that I had visited more than 10 years ago. It was so cool then that we made a special detour on our road trip to visit it. So I thought, wow cool! our very own Eden Project.
Happened that I was tangentially involved with it work-wise in 2008. Predominant mood towards it was one of anticipation. Super-trees eh? *What on earth?!*
Now that it’s open, and I’ve read some reviews of visits, my first reaction was, oh another “tallest” man-made waterfall (reminded me of Jurong Birdpark’s claim to fame as enshrined in my chinese text book)? Hmm… fake “clouds” made of sprays of water at the ‘appropriate’ height to simulate the Cameron Highlands experience? Somehow it all seemed rather artificial.
But I wouldn’t go as far as to make the link as the article did, to say that it was a “vision of governmental mastery over nature” – a tad too conspirational, no? Even more so her claims of the “disturbing racial and cultural stereotypes” from the various ethnic “sections” of the Gardens. Gimme a break. Singapore is all about having four languages, four races featured in every video. Nitpicking on this is probably more of a reflection of her viewing the space with her own over-sensitive cultural lenses. But I’ve not walked that space, so perhaps I should reserve judgement till I do.
I guess overall, I feel that it IS commendable that we have zoned that area as such, when it could have been another Business Financial Centre. So let’s not begrudge the authorities that pat on the back.
It may not be every citizen’s idea of “green space” (esp those who are fighting tooth and nail over Bukit Brown – which frankly I don’t really get. Why didn’t they fight over Bishan and Simei and all the other converted cemetaries? Go start a Preserve Lim Chu Kang now before it’s too late folks!) but it is common garden space preserved for all.
Those who grumble about the conservatories being out of reach to the common citizen are really (no words to describe). For the record, the cleaning lady at my office told me there were free shuttles that she and her elderly friends took to visit the gardens, free of charge. So all that angst about the gardens being “locat(ed) in the expensive downtown area mean(s) that this space is a fundamentally discriminatory one” – please. Those who you think are being discriminated against are quite pleased to have a new garden to be shuttled to. Must say sometimes the people who claim to speak for the common man are too cloistered in their own wealthy enclaves, social if not physical.
My only beef with the Gardens is how it reflects our government’s spending priorities. Millions of bucks? (Not to mention $2,200 foldable bikes). Sure, if there is some economic /tourism potential to it. $300 a month for the elderly who could do with not picking cardboard off the streets or selling tissue paper? Of course not! Slipperly slope to welfarism!
Must money only be allocated where there is tangible return? For a country as developed and with coffers as plushly lined as ours, is it not a disgrace for us to have grandmothers and grandfathers cleaning after us at hawker centres and coffeeshops simply because the Work Ethic must be preserved at all cost? But that’s for another day. This post is about our new Garden, which I really should visit one day, perhaps half a year later, when the brouhaha has died down.