Despite being the world’s third most important financial centre, Singapore’s Central Business District (CBD) is relatively small. Half of Singapore’s offices are housed in an area encompassing the Downtown Core, Marina Bay, Museum, Newton River Valley, Orchard and Rochor.
Over the past 20 years, the CBD has grown exponentially with the expansion of Marina Bay. Immense and wide-ranging in scope, the project required careful planning to get everything just right. In fact, it took four decades of planning, development and land reclamation to extend the island’s CBD with an offering more fitting to the changing global economy.
Today, Singapore comes in fourth behind only London, New York, and Hong Kong in terms of the number of financial services firms with offices there.
Live, work, play
Key to the vision from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) was to move away from the traditional CBD with its specialised function that leads to a dead zone after working hours. Instead, the URA wanted Marina Bay to offer an integrated lifestyle, where work and leisure intermingled seamlessly.
“Marina Bay is Singapore’s most ambitious and planned development project. The vision is to create a 24/7 live-work-play garden city by the bay,” Fun Siew Leng, the URA’s Chief Urban Designer told The Edge.
Anchor developments that bring this to life include the Marina Bay Financial Center (MBFC), a Government initiative to create a new downtown that functions as an international investment hub meet leisure and entertainment district. The three office towers of MBFC house many major MNCs and financial players, such as IBM, Société Générale and American Express as well as international law firms like Baker & MacKenzie and Clifford Chance, and of course, banks such as Barclays, Pictet, Standard Chartered, which occupies 500,000 sq ft of office space, and DBS Bank, which takes up over 600,000 sq ft.
Beyond workspaces, the 3.55-hectare mixed-used site also has two residential towers as well as retail attractions at the Marina Bay Link Mall.
Iconic structures have continued to sprout around this urban waterfront district, such as the Singapore Flyer observation wheel and the award-winning horticultural marvel, Gardens by the Bay. The most famous is the world-renowned, Marina Bay Sands, recently featured in a BBC documentary series. The integrated resort houses one of the world’s largest hotels, an 800,000 sq ft luxury mall with the world’s largest Louis Vuitton outlet, a museum, a theatre, countless F&B offerings, including celebrity chef restaurants, the world's largest floating stage and football stadium, and the world’s largest atrium casino. The three towers of Marina Bay Sands are crowned by a SkyPark featuring the longest elevated infinity pool in the world, the size of three Olympic swimming pools.
On top of all that, sporting and family-friendly activities, public art and cultural offerings, as well as largescale events - such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games, the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, iLight Marina Bay and the annual Marina Bay Singapore Countdown - keep Marina Bay a lively area that has also become a magnet for tourists and Singaporeans alike.
“National scale celebrations like National Day and New Year's Countdown are now associated with Marina Bay. Without exaggeration, this space has become special, truly a people's bay,” reflects Fun Siew Leng in an essay for The Birthday Book 20/20: Seeing Clearly, an anthology in commemoration of Singapore's 55th National Day.
To achieve a dynamic district able to attract the world’s best and brightest, functionality has been a core tenet. Everything works at Marina Bay, underscored by state-of-the-art infrastructure, from transport to telecommunications.
“One key aspect of Marina Bay is to make it accessible and convenient to move around,” says Andrew David Fassam, URA’s Senior Director (Strategic Projects) told The Edge.
All its attractions and amenities are within easy reach, accessible through a well-maintained, pedestrian-friendly network of landscaped public spaces, parks and walkways both above and underground, ensuring all-weather protection and connectivity between developments and one of the world’s best public transport networks. A dedicated MRT line - the Downtown line – connects to the larger island-wide system.
There is also a public waterfront promenade around the 48-hectare waterbody that links the complexes and public attractions in Marina Bay. The 3.5km-long loop has two pedestrian bridges that link together adjacent developments, attractions and event spaces. One end is Marina Barrage, a popular spot for kite-flying, which was created by connecting the promenade to the rooftop of a dam pump building.
The care is taken to ensure functionality extends to building heights and lighting systems. The skyline is created using a composition of low-rise buildings at the waterfront and skyscrapers in the background. This allows uninterrupted views to and of individual buildings, and the overall effect is of a ‘stepped-up’ skyline profile that has become synonymous with the city.
Meanwhile, the whole Downtown area - including the older sections of the city and the newer Marina Bay developments - is bathed in a three-dimensional nightscape courtesy of the Night Lighting Masterplan. National monuments are lit in warm tones and new buildings contrasted using cooler tones, which highlight their special features.
“For special occasions, these buildings burst forth with coloured lights, orchestrated as a celebratory backdrop to the festivities,” writes Fun Siew Leng.