Photography. Architecture. Design. Parenthood. Triathlon. And everything else under the sun

Architecture

it’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a… Supertree

Partial view of a Supertree, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Partial view of a Supertree, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

The main feature of the Gardens by the Bay, a new National Park in Singapore, are the ‘Supertrees’ which are actually metal, tree-like constructs planted with climbing vines and assorted other plants. Eventually they will become totally overgrown and look more like the real thing. But right now they look like giant high-tech Christmas Trees with all their lights. The funny thing is, despite all the money spent, I like going to the hundred-year-old, original Botanic Gardens than this shiny new thing. As is the case with a lot of new Singapore architecture, these Gardens are still seeking for their character and soul, which can only come in time.


Bridges: Connecting People and Places, Part 2

Here are some bridges that I haven’t been to.  Some are as-of-yet unbuilt.  But I would like to see them all in person someday.

Alamillo Bridge, Seville by Santiago Calatrava

ALAMILLO BRIDGE, SEVILLE

Designed by Santiago Calatrava, my favorite bridge designer of all time. So beautiful and structurally honest. It’s like a modern cathedral of bridges and draws your eye up, up and up.

Infinity Bridge, River Tees, Stockton

INFINITY BRIDGE,  STOCKTON

A relatively small pedestrian bridge over the River Tees, one needs only to look at the reflection to understand its name.  The lighting plays a huge part and as such the bridge must be seen at night.

Infinity Loop Bridge, Shizimen, Zhuhai, China

INFINITY LOOP BRIDGE – ZHUHAI, CHINA by 10 Design & Buro Happold

As yet unbuilt, this competition winning design is for a 6-lane bridge that will serve as an impressive gateway to this new Business district in China.  If done right it will be breathtaking and photogenic and a monument to be proud of.

Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin, Ireland

SAMUEL BECKETT BRIDGE, DUBLIN, IRELAND

Also by Santiago Calatrava, the form is based on the traditiona Irish Harp. Even more amazing than its form is the fact that this bridge can rotate 90 degrees to let ships pass.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE – SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA

Built in 1933-37, this modern classic still looks great today.  Still one of the longest, most travelled and certainly the most photographed bridges in the world. I would like to walk and/or cycle across it someday.


eat, drink and be merry

Dessert buffet at ChinaHouse, George Town, Penang.

“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

“Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may diet.”
― Cathy Hopkins


sweet memories

Ice Cream tricycle, George Town, Penang, Malaysia.

I’m somebody old enough to remember when the sound of the ice cream man’s bell would bring neighborhood kids out running to the street.  Nowadays nobody can hear anything with their ears plugged in to their iPhones.


Gallery

Penang: Temples

A beautifully preserved melting pot of cultures, Penang is a city absolutely awash with temples of almost all major religions. Buddhist, Taoist, Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Anglican, Catholic, you name it and Penang has it. The capital city of George Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and with good reason. Walking along the streets in the early morning, one feels transported back to the turn of the last century, if not for the concessions to modernity like the cars and satellite dishes hanging out of every other home. The old and ever reliable bicycle is still the preferred and best way to get around the small city, which can be walked in its entirety in a day. However to properly take in the sites, it is best to give some time, maybe 2 or 3 days, to walk around slowly, savoring the city and its flavors, and taking in everything it has to offer. After all, time is on the city’s side. It has aged gracefully and more beautifully than any other city I’ve been.

There is at least one beautifully preserved temple / place of worship on every road in George Town. I have avoided the large monuments and instead have taken pictures of the small, intimate, often ancestral or family-constructed and maintained temples that have been preserved for, and by, the succeeding generations.

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Cheah Kongsi temple off Armenian Street

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On the way out of the Cheah Kongsi temple

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Sri Mahamariamman Temple off Lebuh Queen street

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The beautifully lacquered door of the Han Jiang ancestral temple

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I love the color scheme of this temple, its pretty unusual for a Chinese temple to not have red dominating the interior.

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Incredibly detailed granite carvings adorn the columns and the facade walls of this small old temple off Jalan Muntri

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The unassuming entrance alleyway of Cheah Kongsi temple, it is very easily missed as there are lots of other things to look at on Armenian street

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Another beautiful example of Chinese temple architecture.

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The Yap family temple off Cannon street – wondrous detailing on the granite columns and walls.


character comes with age

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Walking around the streets of Penang, Malaysia.


Bridges: Connecting People and Places, Part 1

In a few days I will be traveling to Malaysia to Penang Bridge International (Half) Marathon.  It’s a 21k run (there is a Full 42k too but my wife and friends only joined the Half) across the  13.5 km long Penang Bridge.

The Penang Bridge stretches 13.5 km long

Aside from its length, there’s nothing really particularly distinctive about this bridge.  But it did remind me of my long-standing fascination with bridges.  Ever since I was a kid, I would build bridges, starting with blocks, then on to Lego bricks, then got interested in designing bridges as a student of Architecture in the 90’s.  Bridges were fascinating because from the dawn of built structures, they have had only one function: to connect people and places from one point to another.  How it did exactly that was up to the bridge designer.  There were any number of structural complications possible in any type of bridge; and the structure was always ‘honest’ – simple, direct and to-the-point functional, unlike much of what passes today’s architecture.  More often than not, this simplicity made them beautiful.  Recent advances in materials technology has allowed bridge designers to make today’s modern bridges even more beautiful and breathtaking than their ancient counterparts.  Below are some of the bridges I’ve had the fortune to visit and admire; and some I would like to see and go across before I die.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence. Photo (c) Nico Bastone

PONTE VECCHIO, FLORENCE

Visited 2002 – Built in the 13th century to span the river Arno at its narrowest point, its structure uses stone spandrels that have aged beautifully.  The most interesting thing about it is the shops that are still built atop its length.  These used to be occupied by butchers and tanners but now used by jewellers, souvenir and art sellers.  One of Italy’s great romantic bridges.

Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), Venice

Visited 2002 – The shortest bridge in this list, this passes from the Rio di Palazzo in Venice over to the Doge’s Palace, which are both currently museums.  In 1602 when the bridge was built, this passage was used by for criminals on their way to the prisons.  It was imagined by Lord Byron (who gave the bridge its romantic name) that they would take their last view of beautiful Venice from here and sigh before they lost their freedom.  There is also a local legend which says that lovers will live happily ever after if they kiss on a gondola under the bridge at sunset.  Sounds like a story concocted by some enterprising gondoliers to me.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

SYDNEY HARBOR BRIDGE

Visited 1996 – Probably one of the most photographed bridges in the world due to its dominating location in proximity to the Sydney Opera House as well as being the center of Australia’s New Year celebrations each year.  I’d seen many pictures of it before seeing it for real in ’96 but nothing really prepares you for the scale of the thing; it looks small in pictures for some reason.  I would love to have the opportunity to run or cycle this bridge one day.  I think passing over a bridge on foot / bike and having an open view of the sky is really the only way to experience a bridge.

DNA Helix Bridge – a short, curving pedestrian footpath linking Marina Centre to the Marina South, Singapore. (c) Darren Soh

DNA HELIX BRIDGE, SINGAPORE

Visited quite often – I see this bridge almost everyday  as it is near my current workplace project.  Its a good example of how to overcomplicate something with a relatively simple purpose, but I do have to say it looks great at night, and is one of the most photogenic sites in Singapore.

The Barelang bridge is the largest and longest of the 6 bridges connecting the islands of Batam, Indonesia.

BARELANG BRIDGE – Indonesia

Visited 2011 – Last year I cycled Batam from end to end with a group of friends.  It was around 80km each way and during the ride the weather would change from sunny to downpour and back again. Riding up the Barelang Bridge with the awesome views on all sides was an awesome experience


ride one and you will know

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Mosque Street, 9:10am


look closer

Wat Arun, ‘The Temple of the Dawn’, Thailand, done in miniature in Lego bricks in Legoland, Malaysia.

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a place of peace

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Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple built in 1827 in the Dravidian style.

“What is Life?
Life is Love. Enjoy it.
Life is Beauty. Praise it.
Life is Spirit. Realise it.
Life is Song. Sing it.
Life is a Mystery. Unfold it.
Life is a Challenge. Meet it.
Life is a Goal. Achieve it.
Life is an Adventure. Dare it.
Life is a Sorrow. Overcome it.
Life is a Tragedy. Face it.
Life is a Game. Play it.
Life is a Duty. Perform it.
Life is an Opportunity. Take it.
Life is a Struggle. Fight it.
Life is a Journey. Complete it.
Life is a Puzzle. Solve it.
Life is a Promise. Fulfil it.”

― from Hindu Scriptures