The Welcoming Hand of Singapore
A confluence of art, science, culture, and technology—what every building wishes to be! The Artscience Museum is a beautiful culmination of the efforts and ideas of world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. Acclaimed as the ‘Welcoming hand of Singapore’, this lotus-shaped interactive museum is a part of the Marina Bay Sands Resort project, in the Downtown Core of Central Singapore. First opened to the public in early 2011, it is the world’s first ‘Artscience Museum’.
A bridge between the ethereal and the empirical
‘From the inside out, every element in the design of the Artscience museum reinforces the institution’s philosophy of creating a bridge between the arts and sciences. The building combines the aesthetic and functional, the visual and the technological, and for me, really represents the forward-looking spirit of Singapore.’ – Moshe Safdie
The design of the museum is conceptualized in two parts: the flowerlike superstructure made of ten petals seemingly afloat in a giant lily pond, and the base, embedded beneath the same waterbody.
The museum is composed of twenty-one galleries spread over 3 stories, across 6,000 square meters of floor space. The ten upper galleries vary in shape and height, making the discovery of each new space an exciting experience. Double-height vertical spaces transition seamlessly into long horizontal rooms, each cleverly illuminated by sunlight filtering in through the skylights above as well as the central atrium. The galleries also have picture windows that frame expansive views of the breathtaking waterfront.
The tip of each ‘petal’ is capped with a skylight to let in abundant natural light. This feature is a sustainable way to illuminate the curved walls and gallery spaces within. When required by the nature of the exhibit, the galleries can be transformed into black boxes with the help of integrated lighting technology.
The geometry of a flower
The precise curves of the petals were generated by intersecting spheroids of varying radii. They rise from the pond in varying heights, with the tallest reaching 60 m into the sky above.
Each doubly curved surface is sheathed in a fiber-reinforced polymer skin to achieve a seamless finish. This is a material typically used in the construction of boats and yachts. The jointless gleaming white surfaces lend lightness to the structure that reinforces the concept of a floating lotus. The vertical side panels of the petals are cladded in bead-blasted stainless steel panels.
The gently curving concave roof collects rainwater which drains through an oculus, forming a central waterfall. The water then feeds an indoor pond at the base of the atrium.
The intricate lattice structure that supports the entire museum was designed by Arup. The oculus is framed by a basket-like diagrid of ten columns that anchor and resolve the asymmetrical forces generated across the entire framework. The sculptural quality of the columns and the lack of bulky columns further emphasize the seeming weightlessness of the ‘floating’ masterpiece.
A breath of fresh air
The Artscience Museum has been awarded a LEED Gold Certification in the ‘Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance’ rating system. It is the first of its kind in Asia to receive this honor. The museum excels in areas of water, energy and waste management, as well as sustainable purchasing.
The rainwater harvesting mechanism that is seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the building is a major contributor to this accolade. The water collected by this method is used to feed an indoor pool as well as for other landscaping requirements.
The use of skylights largely minimizes the need for artificial lighting. This strategy pays off in terms of energy management, allowing for a highly reduced consumption of power. The museum is indeed an exemplary intersection of sculpture and sustainability.
Interaction, information, immersion
The Artscience Museum hosts an impressive array of international touring exhibits that fuse art and science to tell stories in a deeply immersive experience. The Museum has collaborated with eminent institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian. It also plays host to the works of renowned designers such as Herman Miller and artists such as Eric Valli. Another prominent display at the Artscience Museum was the DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition, a glimpse into the world of animation curated by production giant DreamWorks.
Future World is a permanent exhibit sprawled over 1500 square meters at the Museum. It is an interactive landscape spanning multiple rooms, showcasing the wonder and magic of the universe through AR/VR experiences. Interactive installations evolve with the presence and participation of onlookers, making each experience truly a unique one.
The Artscience museum is truly the first of its kind. While there are many separate instances of interactive museums/exhibits such as The Story of the Forest at the National Museum of Singapore, or traditional art and science museums, this institution truly strives to display a fusion that is the best of the tangible and intangible, telling stories of people and places across time and space.