What you need to know
Exploring Singapore's delicate dance between modernity and tradition through selected snapshots of its soaring skyscrapers.
What is Singapore?
Is it like New York City, where the high rises make you arch your neck backwards to see exactly how tall they stand? Is it an important center of economic and financial activity that without exception remains abuzz, day and night? Is it that archetypal technologically advanced city, built for the 21st century?
Or is it more like its Asian neighbors — like Bangkok or New Delhi, perhaps? A city where street food is of paramount importance and humble open-air restaurants remain open from dawn to the late-night hours? Where religion, practiced for centuries in ancient temples, continues to be a part of the national fabric? Where development is in constant overdrive, rendering itself a persistent threat to global climate change?
Is it a bit of both, or neither?
One way to understand Singapore is through or from its towering edifices. It is possible to understand the island-nation’s local and colonial cultural heritage, along with its modern character, by looking through and beyond its many skyscrapers.
The youth of the nation sets it apart from its Asian neighbors, as well as other advanced nations around the world. Because it has had the opportunity to see how older nations faltered in their quest for development, Singapore has been able to correct the course in some ways.
Its abundant green cover is a great example in how the nation planned in advance to deal with certain costs of development, such as the high level of CFC chemicals emitted by air-conditioners.
The conversion of temples into museums or heritage hotels is an innovative way for Singapore to move forward while staying in touch with the roots.
The existence of ancient temples with skyscrapers in the backdrop shows us that modernity need not be a contest between the two.
In Singapore, looking at the skyscrapers can tell the city’s entire story.
Editor: Nick Aspinwall