Who hacked off one end of the sky park? That’s the question that many people I know ask on seeing the nearly-completed Marina Bay Sands. As did I.
I had assumed it was symmetrical in design. Certainly the three tower blocks are arranged symmetrically, and the eye is thus led to expect that they would be topped off in a similar balanced way as well. The early pictures of the model seemed to suggest too that the sky park would be cantilevered out at both ends. Look at the shadowing in this 2006 rendering from Marina Bay Sands, for example:
But look closely again and you realise that it was truncated even then; the shadow was just exaggerated.
A google search came up with more pictures of the initial design, and it ‘s quite evident that it was never intended to be symmetrical. Look at this other artist’s impression:
Fine, so there was no mistake in the construction, but the thing still looks very odd. The question then becomes: Who approved this design?
Another question is: Was there a particular reason why it couldn’t equally stick out on the other side? I don’t know actually, but perhaps it had to do with the property boundary. On the ‘cut-off’ side, the hotel tower is adjacent to a side road called Sheares Link; perhaps it was not possible to build over it even if the skypark would be something like fifty floors above and cause no obstruction to traffic. Perhaps it was just a legal question.
While it looks odd, it’s not actually ugly. You could say it gives the entire complex a rakish flourish, though others might argue that with the rest of the complex so staid looking, the rakishness looks contrived. We shall see whether with time it grows on us.
To the eyes of those who don’t live here, it might never have a chance to grow in affection. First impressions count a lot more – that Singaporeans have possibly the worst aesthetic sense in the world. This building may indeed become famous as our city planners hope, but for the wrong reason!
As for me, my first impression, after being staggered a little, was that the sky park, with its pointed end and blunt end, looks like a giant surfboard beached atop the towers or held aloft by three men (with waves lapping at their feet?). But at the same time, I now understand too why some fengshui practitioners disliked the design back in 2006, saying it looked like a knife which would bring bad luck to Singapore.
Bad luck has certainly dogged Marina Bay Sands. First it struggled with ballooning construction costs, especially arising from a shortage of sand, which may have contributed to the delay in opening. Instead of being the first casino here to open, it lost its lead to Resorts World Sentosa.
Then, perhaps as a result of a desperate rush to complete some hotel rooms and the convention centre for a pre-booked conference of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association, it ended up with all sorts of mechanical and electrical breakdowns when it hosted the event. Instances of water leakage into hotel rooms of some delegates, intermittent power failure, sound system problems and incidents where some guests were locked within their rooms were among the complaints. The lawyers are now suing Marina Bay Sands, which has also countersued, I believe for non-payment.
Who says Singapore is good at getting things right?