8 Singapore structures with the perfect nicknames

With the help of Romeo Tan, we round up eight iconic architectures whose fitting nicknames have taken on a life of their own

Photos: Romeo Tan
Photos: Romeo Tan
23 Aug 2017

Photos: Romeo Tan

People love nicknames.

From personal belongings to cars, it might seem weird that one would wreck their brains to nickname things but seemingly, we all do it. Much like terms of endearment for our family or friends, coining special nicknames for things evokes a sense of familiarity or appreciation for many of us. Even Singapore’s distinctive buildings and landmarks are not spared.

Since we’re celebrating all things Singaporean this month, we decided to look into the fancy nicknames that have been bestowed upon some of these architectural landmarks – with the help of local actor, Romeo Tan, a hobbyist photographer, who helped shoot the photos in this gallery with his Mavic Pro drone and DSLR camera.

The self-taught photographer, who hopes to eventually publish a photo book containing a selection of his #romeophotologue (Instagram: @romeotan) pictures he’s taken over the years, has been honing his craft documenting his life and travels.

“I studied digital film and video production [in Polytechnic] and many assignments involved photography. That’s where it all started,” the 32-year-old and self-proclaimed gadget lover shared.

Read on to see eight of our city’s iconic structures through the eyes of Romeo Tan. 

1. The Esplanade aka the Durian
1. The Esplanade aka the Durian
23 Aug 2017

1. The Esplanade aka the Durian

Did you know that this iconic performing arts venue in the Marina Bay area was initially nicknamed the "Papaya" but later became known as the "Durian" due to its distinctive twin shells with spiked roofs architecture? In the early days after its official opening in 2002, the multi-million dollar building was once labelled “an ugly concrete blob” and “marshmallow blobs” and drew plenty of criticisms for its avant-garde structure. Today, the Esplanade is famed for hosting a diverse programme including concerts, local and international theatre productions as well as annual music festivals. 

2. Marina Bay Sands SkyPark aka Ship in the Sky
2. Marina Bay Sands SkyPark aka Ship in the Sky
23 Aug 2017

2. Marina Bay Sands SkyPark aka Ship in the Sky

Fondly referred to as the ship in the sky, Marina Bay Sands SkyPark is truly a masterpiece. Perched on the 57th floor and 200 metres above ground, the unmistakable ship-like platform that appears to be floating atop three 55-storey hotel towers is one of the most distinctive structures in our city’s skyline. Designed by architect extraordinaire Moshe Safdie, the 12,400 square metres platform is huge enough to park four and a half A380 Jumbo Jets and features a sky terrace with an infinity pool that’s longer than three Olympic-sized pools - which happens to be world’s largest elevated pool ever built.

Supposedly designed to include feng shui elements, the infinity pool is said to represent a lake on top of a mountain (i.e. the three hotel towers) and is believed to create balance and harmony with the building’s surroundings. Opened in 2010, the 5.7 billion integrated resort consisting of three hotel towers, casino, convention centre, retail shops and museum is reputed to be one of the world’s most expensive buildings.

3. ArtScience Museum aka Lotus flower
3. ArtScience Museum aka Lotus flower
23 Aug 2017

3. ArtScience Museum aka Lotus flower

Next to the ‘Ship in the Sky’ and part of the integrated resort of Marina Bay Sands sits another striking structure designed by Moshe Safdie. When seen from a distance, the ArtScience Museum resembles flower petals that are blooming upwards from the bay waters hence the nickname "Lotus Flower", although other associations have included “the welcoming hand of Singapore” and the less flattering “a bunch of bananas”.

Much like the remarkable traits of a lotus flower that’s been considered an embodiment of perfection and its seemingly unique quality that’s said to symbolise a new way of thinking and living, the ArtScience Museum, as its name suggest, fuses art and science and houses permanent and major international touring exhibitions that showcase the beauty of science and art combined. The lotus-inspired design is more than aesthetic. Surrounded by the Singapore River and a giant lily pond, the structure was designed to “float above the ground” with its ten “petals” of varying height and width drawing in the natural skylight to illuminate the interiors of the galleries spread over three storeys. 

4. The Interlace aka Tetris
4. The Interlace aka Tetris
23 Aug 2017

4. The Interlace aka Tetris

When travelling along Ayer Rajah Expressway, there is no way one can miss this unusual building that’s constructed in a zigzag manner. Made up of 31 identical apartment blocks, each standing at six storeys tall and hexagonally stacked to form what looks like a Tetris puzzle, The Interlace condominium along Alexandra Road is the first of its kind that’s built outside of the conventional vertical apartment design. Bold, contemporary and forward thinking, the 1,000-unit building designed by world-renowned German architect Ole Scheeren even garnered international attention when it won the top prize at 2015 World Architecture Festival, which is considered the Oscars of the architectural world.

5. The Duo aka Honeycomb towers
5. The Duo aka Honeycomb towers
23 Aug 2017

5. The Duo aka Honeycomb towers

Another bold and modern Ole Scheeren creation can be found in the Bugis precinct. Inspired by the honeycomb motif, the Duo has been lovingly referred to as the honeycomb towers and is expected to be completed this year. The striking twin towers named Duo Residences and Duo Tower located along Beach Road is a mixed development of residential apartments, offices, retail space and a hotel. More than an architectural beauty, the curved facade of the Duo’s design was apparently built to counter the negative feng shui energy caused by the sharp, blade-like edges of The Gateway buildings diagonally across the road. 

6. Parkview Square aka Gotham building
6. Parkview Square aka Gotham building
23 Aug 2017

6. Parkview Square aka Gotham building

Dubbed the Gotham building by many locals due to its dark, imposing design that resembles Gotham City in the Batman movies, Parkview Square’s beaux-arts architecture in the Bugis district is cooler than cool. An iconic Art Deco style building that has long stood out from the cookie cutter office buildings along North Bridge Road, the grandeur of the building is evidenced by the many art-filled walls and sculptures in the lavish lobby as well as statues of famous figures like Abraham Lincoln, Sun Yat-sen and Winston Churchill surrounding the open plaza. This Gotham building-lookalike is so opulent that it even has gargoyles donning the building’s exterior. Singapore’s very own “Gotham City” now also houses a museum that features contemporary artworks by international artists, and is open to the public.

7. Ngee Ann City aka Tombstone
7. Ngee Ann City aka Tombstone
23 Aug 2017

7. Ngee Ann City aka Tombstone

Of all the fancy nicknames assigned to Singapore’s iconic buildings, Ngee Ann City, unfortunately, has to live with an undesirable one: the Tombstone. Home to Takashimaya department store, which houses many designer boutiques, the nickname came about due to the building’s curved gravestone-like structure that includes the five flagpoles in the outdoor semi-circular courtyard that represent ‘joss sticks’ and the water fountain as ‘wine offering’.

There are even rumours that the popular shopping complex in the prime district of Orchard Road was designed to resemble a Chinese tombstone so as to appease the spirits as it was built on a former graveyard. Well, like we said, they are rumours so take it with a grain of salt.  

8. The Helix aka DNA bridge
8. The Helix aka DNA bridge
23 Aug 2017

8. The Helix aka DNA bridge

An iconic pedestrian bridge inspired by DNA structure – there are even letters representing the four (nitrogenous) bases of the double helix of DNA on the walkway - it is no surprise that The Helix is nicknamed the "DNA bridge". Designed and built with intertwining steel tubes, it symbolises “life and continuity, renewal and growth”.

The 280-metre long futuristic bridge, which runs across the Singapore River connecting Marina Centre to the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, has received plenty of international attention and was even named World’s Best Transport Building at the 2010 World Architecture Festival. Dubbed the world’s first curved “double helix” pedestrian bridge, it is able to support up to 16,000 people at a time thanks to its unique steel structure. Computer-controlled LED lightings that illuminate the DNA-like bridge at night add to the double helix structure effect. 

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