Scanning the incredible skyline of Singapore’s Marina Bay, it’s hard to believe that less than 50 years ago the whole area was nothing but ocean. Yet it is exactly this extraordinary history that has allowed Marina Bay to become the cutting-edge place it is today. Reclaiming land from the sea, though a long and laborious process, allowed Singapore to achieve what few major cities can: massive expansion adjacent to the existing city centre. With an span of virgin land at their hands, the developers have created one of the most breathtaking man-made landscapes in the world; each building, each facet is perfectly designed for optimum views, whether they be from the bay itself or from one of the buildings surrounding it.
Designs for life
Located at the southern tip of Singapore, the Marina Bay area is a testament to forward planning, modern thinking and great design. Its multi-level skyline is organised so that no one building eclipses another, and so that each structure complements the next. This unique approach, the result of a planning process that stretches back as far as the 1960s, has created one of the most exciting places to visit in south-east Asia. Based around the idea of a constantly vibrant community, it offers a mixture of residential and office spaces, hotels and recreational amenities, all adhering to a luxurious and highly contemporary aesthetic. When it comes to shopping, you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere more ready to push the boundaries of the retail experience.
Standing proudly along the waterfront, a wonder of modern architectural creativity, is the stunning Marina Bay Sands, a complex which perfectly exemplifies the work/live/play philosophy of the area. Three giant hotel towers hold aloft its boat-like observation deck, a real contender for the most spectacular viewpoint in Singapore. The structure holds restaurants, accommodation and business areas, and at the base of all this lies The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. With fine jewellery at Bulgari and Chopard and catwalk fashion at Burberry and Prada, not to mention everything in between, the complex is a futuristic retail dream. Not content with being home to the most exclusive boutiques in the world, The Shoppes is also one of the most uniquely designed shopping centres you’ll ever visit.
At the centre of this claim to individuality is the Rain Oculus fountain. An enormous acrylic bowl held aloft by a 90-ton steel structure, the fountain was designed by international artist Ned Khan. From ground level it is visible as a swirling vortex of water; descend two levels to the waterfront dining area and you are greeted by gushing torrents emerging from the bowl’s base. To see the spectacle up close, you can take a ride on the Chinese-style sampan boats that travel along the Shoppes’ network of canals – indoor rivers that provide a novel form of transport for the intrepid visitor.
No visit to The Shoppes is complete without popping into Chanel, a stone’s throw from the Rain Oculus itself. Decked out in wall-to-wall monochrome, the boutique pays homage to the heritage of the great French fashion house. As if its looming façade weren’t enough to attract attention, the enticing window displays give passers-by a hint at the incredible offerings inside. From the latest catwalk clothes from creative director Karl Lagerfeld to the brand’s iconic fragrances and accessories, this is a Chanel lover’s fantasy.
Taking the idea of the concept store to the next level, Louis Vuitton’s Island Maison – the first of its kind in south-east Asia – is a truly unmissable retail adventure. Customers who enter via The Shoppes are whisked through an underground passage – which doubles as a Vuitton museum – to the brand’s show-stopping waterfront creation. Designed by architect Peter Marino, the space is a nautically inspired love letter to Louis Vuitton, incorporating art and cultural elements, historical references and, of course, the main attraction: more possible purchases than the eye can take in.
For post-spree refreshment, a visit to the TWG Tea Salon & Boutique, in which the classic and the contemporary sit comfortably side by side, is mandatory. As well as traditional treats and luxury teas, the salon offers a delectable range of tea-infused ice creams that thoroughly deserve their reputation. Put simply, they’re delicious. It’s also the perfect re-invigorating pit stop to prepare visitors for the remaining wonders of Marina Bay, the best insider’s tip for exploring which is: walk. From the beautiful tropical gardens along the waterfront, to the sculptural, DNA-inspired Helix footbridge, and the leafy pathways misted with water to cool the air, the Bay rewards the pedestrian at every turn.