Part 2 - From Green site to Skyscraper City in the New Downtown
I picked the Marina Sands Integrated Resort (IR) because it is the most talked about landmark in the Marina Bay area today. Back in the 1960s, beside the General Post Office and Asia Insurance Building, the other popular place with visitors was Clifford Pier. Clifford Pier was the disembarkation/embarkation point for passengers whose maritime vessels were anchored outside the Outer Roads. At the same time, the small watercraft boats which cruised to the Southern Islands originated from Clifford Pier.
Watertours and East Wind operated the “Cruise to no Nowhere” in the 1980s. It was mainly popular with tourists. Then it was the turn of Mansfield Travel-Tradewinds which launched an up-market cruise. What Mansfield/Tradewinds did was not the first in the industry because Goodwood Park Hotel operated the Singapore Lady, a Mississippi river-boat cruise in the 1970s. Now all coastal cruises operate out of the Marina South Pier.
Photo 1: [Left] Boarding/Disembarkation point was at Clifford Pier. A sampan steers towards an ocean-going vessel anchored in the Outer Road (c1960). [Right] My family on-board the Singapore Princess cruise. The boat is moored at Clifford Pier (c1989).
I have been following the developments of IR from the day when it was announced in 2006 that the site was to be an integrated resort.
Photo 2: The vacant green site that would be up for bidding for the first casino and hotel integrated resort. On what is now Garden on the Bay, there was a famous El Moroccan styled entertainment complex called The Chameleon housed in that white building. There was even a fountain and at one time a park where kites were flown (c2002).
Then the excitement intensified with the flurry of construction activities for one of two integrated resorts in Singapore began. By 2009, motorists coming down the Sheares Bridge saw three “ancestral tablets” rising from the former Green site. Many (including local geomancers) had different perspectives on what the hotel towers resembled such as a deck of playing cards. To some this was not an iconic landmark and for the superstitious the conclusion was even worse. “Not to worry” said the wife of my golfing buddy, Dennis L. She was the geomancer appointed by the Las Vegas Sands, the owners of the integrated resort. She assured me everything from the timing of the building construction schedule to the smallest detail like the staff uniform was conforming to Feng Shui.
Photo 3: [Top] Hotel complex reaches the 55th floor. [Bottom] The 6 segments of the North cantilever which would form the SkyPark Observatory platform. The platform would extend 64 meters out of the building line.
So here I was in the late afternoons coming down to watch the contractors at work. I was either at the ECP side of the construction along the narrow pedestrian walk on the Sheares Bridge (for a close-up look of the construction ground activities at ground level) or on the Singapore Flyer for a vantage view. You could learn so much about the construction industry by talking to site supervisors, Bangla workers, civil engineers, observe how they put the glass panels in place and how pre-cast concrete was made on site. Before long one developed some basic top-line expertise on construction timelines.
Photo 4: Each segment of the North cantilever was meticulously lifted up against strong cross winds and the monsoon surge. The first segment was lifted on December 1, 2009 and the final jigsaw completed on Dec 27, 2009 (c2009).
When the SkyPark was built, some friends came down to watch, day or night to observe the hoisting of the steel beams. The temptation was so great that it finally became “Just Do It”. One of my friend’s friend entered the building premises which were at that time off-limits to the public for safety reason. He took the caged workmen elevator up for some breath-taking photo-shoots on the 55th floor. Not many of you are aware that it generated much uproar when his tightly kept secret was finally discovered by the owners a few days later. Luckily an amicable settlement was reached among all parties. For this reason, I am unable to share with you the rooftop views and work-in-progress.
Photo 5: [Top] On the SkyPark observatory platform a magicians entertains. Ku De Ta Restaurant is behind those umbrellas.
Level 33, The Pinnacle, Equinox, The Sail and One Altitude cannot be compared to SkyPark heart-beat. Now how many of you have been up to the Marina SkyPark? Do go and experience that top-of-the world feeling.