City lights, a wondrous sight
The blueprint for the city’s night lighting shapes up. Goh Chin Lian finds out how this was done
Straits Times 5 Sep 10;
Light up, Singapore, went the masterplan’s message.
And it has. The city’s skyline has never looked so dazzling at night.
On special occasions like last month’s Youth Olympic Games’ opening and closing ceremonies, and the National Day Parade, shimmery beams shot the light fantastic from the top of buildings across Marina Bay and into the clouds.
This month’s Formula One night race will also see buildings brightly lit for TV viewers here and around the world.
New buildings and structures designed to look good at night have also added a permanent sparkle to the bayfront skyline and nearby Central Business District (CBD).
They include the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, Marina Bay Financial Centre and The Helix bridge, with programmable lights accentuating its double-helix steel structure. Also shining is the row of buildings forming the Fullerton Heritage dining and hotel belt, such as the Customs House and Clifford Pier.
The four-year-old night lighting masterplan is shaping up, an Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) spokesman said.
She told The Sunday Times: ‘The masterplan has succeeded in enhancing the night-time image of the city and in guiding the lighting of buildings and public spaces to be tasteful and elegant.’
Tastefulness and elegance are the agency’s two guiding posts in approving lighting plans for the area, in contrast to some cities that may be more liberal in lighting up their buildings, she said.
Good lighting practices in the URA’s books boil down to not flooding a building with light, but using the beams and colours to create interest or emphasise architectural features while playing with light and shadow.
And while it cautions discretion in using coloured lights which tend to lose their wow factor over time, it suggests cool colours (like white and blue) for high-rise office buildings, and warmer hues (like red and yellow) for low-rise structures.
It has approved 40 night lighting proposals so far, with a few more being assessed.
Architects interviewed feel the masterplan has been realised in the Marina Bay area.
Ms Ong Swee Hong, a lecturer of environment design at Temasek Polytechnic, said: ‘We are now seeing a skyline that’s very well-defined by lights.’
Other areas covered by the 2006 masterplan are the Singapore River, Orchard Road and Bugis-Bras Basah.
Ms Ong noted Singapore’s increasing regard for lighting not only for safety and navigation, but also aesthetics. A turning point was the 1995 lighting plan for historic and institutional buildings in the civic district. Most of them, 105 in all, have been lit, the URA said.
They include the Fullerton Hotel, and the former City Hall and Supreme Court.
Singapore Institute of Architects president Ashvinkumar Kantilal lauded the coordinated approach taken early on to light up buildings fronting Marina Bay. Otherwise, a person hoping to appreciate the skyline would be bombarded with glare and blinking lights.
‘When you are looking at a water-edge promenade from a distance, your eyes get distracted if the lights flicker in the background,’ he said. ‘It’s difficult for the human eye to adapt to different levels and colours of lighting all at the same time.’
The amount of energy to light up a city is an environmental concern, but architect Chan Ee Mun, 35, thinks it is a matter of finding a balance.
‘It’s necessary to identify our city as we progress and to beautify the structures around us. It does bring a certain amount of excitement and joy,’ said Mr Chan, a senior associate at design and architecture firm Woha.
The URA guides building owners and developers to use energy-efficient lights like compact metal halide lamps, LEDsand electrodeless lamps.
Architect Aamer Taher, a Singapore Institute of Architects council member, thinks that popular districts like Little India and Geylang could be better lit too. ‘Seedy districts could take on a new life. Maybe Geylang should have more red lights,’ he quipped.
Parks can gain from better lighting design too so they can be used at night, suggested Ms Ong. ‘Our parks and public spaces are often badly illuminated, or perhaps, visually monotonous,’ she said.
The National Parks Board’s (NParks) lighting considerations include the theme of the park, maintenance costs and sensitivity to wildlife.
It said it has used creative lighting in Bedok Reservoir Park, one-north Park, as well as the Henderson Waves and Alexandra Arch bridges at the Southern Ridges.
To raise awareness of lighting design, Ms Ong will hold a lighting workshop next month at the Esplanade Park as part of Archifest, an annual architecture festival organised by the Singapore Institute of Architects.
Official financial support also fuelled the change that the masterplan provided for the skyline: Building owners in the CBD and Marina Bay areas received incentives to light up their buildings from the rooftop to the facade and sky gardens.
The incentives were additional gross floor area and cash grants capped at $500,000.
They have been given to 14 developments so far, including 78 Shenton Way and Maybank Singapore, the spokesman said.
Maybank spent about $3 million on LED lights that run on the outer edges of its 32-storey Battery Road building.
Out of several developments whose plans have been approved, the bank is the only one that has completed installing permanent lights that can be programmed for festive celebrations, the URA said.
While the lights for special occasions have wowed spectators, Mr Ashvinkumar warned against overkill, especially cannon lights that are so powerful they can be seen as far as Toa Payoh. ‘It should not be done all year around, or you’d feel Batman is going to appear any moment,’ he said.
Orchard Road: Funky or distracting?
Straits Times 5 Sep 10;
The lights are so much brighter there… so go downtown…
So goes a hit song of the Sixties.
Today, the downtown Orchard shopping belt, with malls like Ion Orchard and Orchard Central, are aglow come night-time.
These two malls especially stand out – with their towering facades of moving, coloured displays of flashy lights, images and digital art.
They are in sync with the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s lighting masterplan that calls for exciting shopfronts and vibrant facades.
Its spokesman told The Sunday Times the plan for Orchard Road ‘focuses on creating a revitalising and delightful shoppers’ experience’.
But glitzy facades will have their detractors. Architect Aamer Taher, 48, is one. The Singapore Institute of Architects council member felt both malls have overdone the lighting in their bid to attract shoppers.
‘It’s all right if we are in Disneyland but a city should be soothing and pleasant. It should be more a glow and not a glare.’
Both malls have defended their facades, saying they add vibrancy to the streets and create ambience for shoppers.
For instance, the LED wall on Ion Orchard’s curvy facade of glass and metal broadcast the National Day Parade and the Youth Olympic Games opening ceremony. Free popular movies are screened on the last Saturday of every month.
‘During Christmas last year, snowflakes patterns lit up the facade, while National Day saw the entire exterior enveloped in fireworks and the national red and white colours,’ a spokesman added.
Taking a contrary view to Mr Aamer’s is Singapore Institute of Architects president Ashvinkumar Kantilal, 49, who likes the facades.
‘They are funky and add character,’ he said.
The URA’s masterplan also provided for the lighting up of the streets and trees to create a sequential experience, its spokesman said.
New street lights were part of a $40 million makeover of Orchard Road completed early last year.
‘Rainbow connection’ at Singapore River
Straits Times 5 Sep 10;
The nightly kaleidoscope of lights at the Singapore River is being joined by snapshot-pretty lanterns.
These lanterns, depicting animal characters and Chinese legends, will illuminate the river for this month’s Mid-Autumn Festival.
The temporary festive decorations complement the permanent upgrade over the last two years to light up the riverside, a popular spot for diners and camera-toting tourists.
A 2006 masterplan had envisaged night lighting to infuse a warm and inviting ambience for the area.
There was indeed a rainbow connection of colours, when The Sunday Times dropped by last week.
Various bridges across the river were lit up. Hues of soft blue adorned Coleman Bridge, next to Clarke Quay. Beams of light were also cast on the waters below, while riverboats carrying tourists plied beneath the bridge.
Tiny rainbow-coloured lights lined the length of Elgin Bridge, on the way to Boat Quay.
Stops for the boats were also lit – a luminous purple and blue. Even an underpass connecting Clarke Quay to Boat Quay had lights that changed from purple to blue.
Ms Ong Swee Hong, a lecturer of environment design at Temasek Polytechnic, liked the night lighting in the Boat Quay and Clarke Quay areas. Saying it complemented the activities there well, she added that a fillip has been provided by new snazzy features, such as light emitting diodes.
Mr Romeo Millares Jr, 29, a staff member operating the Hippo river tour, remembers the bridges being left in darkness more than two years ago.
Said the Filipino, who has been in Singapore for five years: ‘The river now comes alive because of the lights. Tourists are now raring to take pictures here.’