Popular picks: Singapore’s top three icons

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1. Marina Bay Sands

Given the impact it has had on Singapore’s skyline, it is no surprise that the triple-towered Marina Bay Sandscame out tops in the poll with 22 out of 30 votes for Singapore’s most iconic structure. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it is billed as the world’s most expensive standalone casino property at S$8 billion. It was designed by Moshe Safdie Architects and Aedas Singapore.

2. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay

Some affectionately call it the “Durian”. Love or hate theEsplanade’s spiky aluminium-clad roof, it is hard to deny that it is uniquely Singaporean. The building was designed by DP Architects of Singapore and the London-based Michael Wilford & Partners.

3. Raffles Hotel

Dating back to 1887, Raffles Hotel is both a monument and an institution to many around the world. One of Singapore’s most distinctive colonial-era buildings, it was built by the famous Armenian businessmen, the Sarkies brothers, and is regarded as the birthplace of the world-famous Singapore Sling cocktail. Designed by architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren, the main building of Raffles Hotel was completed in 1899. It survived the war and was declared a national monument in 1987.

Surprising favourites

1. Changi Airport air traffic control tower

1. Changi Airport air traffic control tower

To many Singaporeans, the 80m-high air traffic control tower in front of Singapore Changi Airport represents ‘home’ in a way that no other building does. “It is the first thing people see when they arrive in Singapore and last thing they see upon leaving it” says 22 year-old student Marcus Chua.

The airport project was spearheaded and led by the then-Chairman of the Port of Singapore Authority Howe Yoon Chong, and involved a massive land reclamation initiative on Singapore’s eastern tip. And it is on this reclaimed land that the landmark tower, once called “Airtropolis”, now sits. The tower began operations with the first flight in 1981 and has since become synonymous with the award-winning Changi Airport. Today, it handles communications with up to 900 flights a day.

2. Haw Par Villa

Even as they settled into their new home, Singapore’s early Chinese immigrants retained strong connections to their native country’s cultural and mythological traditions. Such sentiments saw their physical manifestation in Haw Par Villa, which many Singaporeans affectionately remember as the “Tiger Balm Gardens”.

It was built in 1937 by business magnate Aw Boon Haw, the ‘Tiger Balm King’, as part of a lavish abode for his younger brother, Aw Boon Par. The sprawling gardens surrounding the mansion were developed as an entertainment park to illustrate vignettes of Chinese mythology. “It captures the importance of spirituality during that era,” says 27 year-old architect Tan Toon Cheng. Today, the gardens remain, but the magnificent mansion that once stood atop this hill has since been destroyed, having been bombed by the Japanese in the 1940s.

Even so, the colourful Haw Par Villa continues to captivate. What lies within continues to intrigue — more than 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas based on famous Chinese historical personalities, mythology and folklore are distributed throughout the park. They include a man drowning in a pond of blood, a giant crab with a human head and more oddities. These figurines have been restored to their former glory with fresh coats of paint. One of the most talked-about exhibits is its interpretation of the Ten Courts of Hell. Housed in a 60 m-long trail built into the tail of a mythical dragon, it depicts in great detail the tortures that take place in Hell, with every stage representing each step of judgment before reincarnation.

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