I first visited Singapore back in 2012. Well, when I say visited, I had a layover in the airport for 12 hours. I was on my way to Australia to seek a way out of long term unemployment. My decision to move to Australia was slightly rushed and to be honest I didn't really know what I was doing. At first I was just going through the motions; packing, arriving at the airport, saying goodbye to my family and girlfriend. Arriving into Singapore was for me the moment of realisation, I awoke to what I was actually doing. It was a very exciting time. Now, almost exactly 6 years later, I was returning to where for me it had all began.
I had high expectations for Singapore, but little knowledge on what to actually expect, this is usually a recipe for disappointment. However after 3 days, I decided that I very much like this small country. The modern clean infrastructure, the blend of cultures, the large and impressive engineering projects. Singapore really felt like the apex of our civilisation and what we could achieve with vision and hard work (and of course, copious amounts of foreign investment).
One thing I noticed in particular that made Singapore special compared to other modern cities I have visited is the amount of green space. Rather than just paving over the entire area converting everything green to grey, Singapore incorporated green space into the modern city. This is mainly down to the work of Dr. Cheong Koon Hean, an award winning architect and urban planner who has been at the helm of the Singapore planning department for many years. She is a massive source of inspiration and I would love to write more about her and all things Civil Engineering in Singapore, but I will save that for a later post.
The amount of green space in Singapore makes you realise what a lot of cities are missing out on. For example, I do like my home city of Manchester, the culture and heritage are world class, but the lack of greenery is depressing. We did attempt a green space once, an area in the middle of the city known as Piccadilly Gardens, and it is rather pathetic. If you haven't had the misfortune of visiting Piccadilly Gardens it is basically a series of ugly concrete walls, a fountain full of broken glass and litter. The gardens were actually designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who based on his work, has an unhealthy obsession with concrete and the colour grey. I don't hate all his work, but Piccadilly gardens are to put it politely, a bit shit.
I did escape the city one day to visit Singapore's resort island of Sentosa. I skipped Universal Studios and headed straight to the beach. Sentosa actually has 3 main beaches, but they are all basically the same. Artificial, impeccably combed, they almost feel too perfect. Looking out to sea your attention is immediately drawn to the industrial island of Pulau Bukom, a huge blot on the horizon with it's tall chimneys churning out smoke, large ugly silos and countless number of oil tankers and cargo boats loitering in it's shores.
Standing on the shores of Sentosa looking out at this view really summarises not only Singapore, but us as a developed species and our struggle to balance both our desire to preserve nature and our hunger to consume it. Preservation is harder than consumption, but at least Singapore is trying which is more than what can be said about most countries. This is why I see Singapore as the future, it is an example of where we should be heading, if we get our act together.