Singapore’s Striking Spectacle: Marina Bay Sands

A SkyPark® that is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall. The largest and longest public observation cantilever in the world. The world’s largest outdoor pool. It’s not hard to see why Singapore’s new Marina Bay Sands is groundbreaking, and before even opening, an icon.

One of the world’s most impressive pieces of architectural work partially opened April 27—with completion planned for June 2010—wowing many and transforming the area’s skyline. Nothing about this resort is understated. The vision came from Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, with the help of renowned architect Moshe Safdie.

The hotel comprises three towers that rise to house SkyPark, the world’s largest public cantilever that combines a public observatory, lush gardens, restaurants and an infinity-edged swimming pool. The resort’s casino is situated in the center of the project, and one of the few “atrium style” casinos in the world. Four levels of gaming and entertainment occupy one singular space.

Safdie envisioned the property as an integrated resort, a microcosm of a city. “The Marina Bay Sands is similarly organized about a contemporary equivalent of principal axes,” he said. “It is a place that is vibrant and dynamic, a place that transforms from hour to hour, from day to night—it is here that the imaginings of a global city become a reality.”

The casino was designed by Safdie Architects with Rockwell Group. Ed Bakos, principal at the Rockwell Group, explained that his firm was invited in 2007 to join the project team for this mega-resort. Impressed by Safdie’s master plan and vision, his team jumped on board to contribute to this ambitious project.

“The casino is the jewel piece in Marina Bay waterfront—what we considered to be the most prestigious urban development in Singapore,” Bakos said. “We felt the casino deserved to be elevated as a cultural landmark and an iconic place in the context of the city.”

Safdie expanded: “To further enhance the framework of seamless urban connections, each of the principal axes powerfully extends into the surrounding city fabric. The grand arcade flows into the Bayfront Promenade to the south and across the new pedestrian bridge to Marina Centre to the north. The Bayfront Promenade provides a continuous pedestrian connection around the Marina Bay waterfront with links to future attractions. The east/west view corridors physically and visually connect the Marina Bay waterfront with the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Gardens-by-the-Bay.”

The property’s iconic SkyPark spans 2 1/2 acres and provides unequalled 360-degree views of the city, the bay and the sea. “The Hotel Sky Park celebrates the Garden City theme that has been the underpinning of Singapore’s urban design strategy, admired around the world,” Safdie said. “Here, the objective of porosity and permeability mandated by the URA takes on a powerful symbolic gesture of welcome toward the sea. Seen from the ships anchored at sea, the two great urban windows created by the towers and hotel SkyPark frame the views toward downtown.”

Next door, the ArtScience Museum’s exuberant forms and lotus shape suggest the unique offerings of the museum within. “The architecture is evocative, expressive of the museum’s setting and its underlying theme of earth, water and sky,” Safdie noted.

In the museum, galleries open to dramatic views of the city, and are endowed with daylight—fully controllable for flexible exhibits—while skylights punctuate through the promontory, bringing light to the galleries at the lower levels. “The dish-like roof surface of the museum acts as a water collector, draining toward the center where a natural fountain is formed,” Safdie explained. “During the day, each of the petals in the dish-like roof is a fountain. When it rains, all water falling on the roof collects into a waterfall cascading through the museum atrium into the pool below.”

Inside, Marina Bay Sands’ casino floor is a collective environment crowned by an undulating ceiling that floats beneath the arched roof structure. The centerpiece is an immense freeform chandelier suspended 100 feet above the floor and is comprised of 132,000 Swarovski crystals and 16,500 LEDs. The chandelier serves as the main focal point and orientation device within the grand scale of the casino. “It took six months of prototyping and mock-ups to bring to perfection,” Safdie said.

The casino design was a close collaboration between the Safdie and Rockwell teams. For inspiration, the group took cues from the grandeur and stylistic purity of the early grand casinos. In fact, they hoped the casino would become the modern Monte Carlo of Singapore.

And for cultural context, all they had to do was look at their surroundings. “Singapore has a unique character in successfully combining Asian cultures with a modern Western sensibility,” Bakos commented. “The country’s rich floral landscape and its maritime setting also inspired the design of the free flowing and sculptural shapes and motifs deployed throughout the interior spaces.”

Rockwell Group stressed the importance they placed on design, incorporating with the architecture created by Safdie. “In the main casino atrium, the ceiling ribs, the waving balustrade panels, the ribbon-like trellises over the gaming tables, the decorative screen motifs and the carpet pattern all gel together to produce a strong cohesive space,” Bakos explained.

Even the casino gambling floor is lush with detail and beauty. A series of private gaming rooms reflects either a red, blue or green palette—the trademark colors of Marina Bay Sands, Bakos explained. Each color scheme has a custom hand-tufted wool and silk carpet to go along with it, as well as custom wall fabrics and finishes. “Most of the rooms are elliptical in shape, with niches carved ito the walls for custom artwork and cabinetry. The corridors are wrapped in rosewood, with custom Tai Ping broad loom carpets,” he said.

One of the most difficult tasks in constructing Marina Bay Sands was SkyPark’s assembly. The steel structures began being lifted in October 2009. Over 7,000 tons of steel were pre-assembled into 14 individual pieces at ground level. Each piece is hoisted 200 meters, with each lift taking 24 hours.

But there is no doubt that all the work is worth it. Marina Bay Sands is magnificent, stunning, striking and so much more. And it doesn’t stop outside. The delights carry on inside, with celebrity chefs and great dining, exciting stores in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands®, and entertainment options—including The Lion King musical in late 2010. One thing’s for sure: This is one resort you do not want to miss.

Design Architect: Safdie Architects
Casino Design: Safdie Architects with Rockwell Group
Executive Architect: Aedas, Pte, Ltd.
MEP Engineers (Design): R.G. Vanderweil LLP
MEP Engineers (Production): Parsons Brinkerhoff
Structural Engineers: Arup
Landscape Architect (Design): Peter Walker & Partners
Landscape Architect (Production): Peridian International Inc.
Lighting Consultants: Project Lighting Design
Water Features: Howard Fields Associates
Hotel/Convention Interior Design: Hirsch Bedner Associates
Theater Consultants: Fisher Dachs Associates
Graphics: Pentagram