This series is an exploration of our relationship to the skies, in Singapore. We are a land and water scarce country, but at least one thing we can have in common with larger countries is the ability to look up at a clear, clean sky. People often say that it is difficult to shoot landscapes or vistas in Singapore, and I hope that this series can show a different point of view.
Lights in the Sky
Lights in the Sky, 2012, All Rights Reserved.
Lamps are a distinct part of any modern society’s skyline – simply because lamps replace the Sun after dusk – allowing the continuation of activities which would otherwise have been impossible. In a way, lamps are our way of subverting nature’s cycle as well as a sign of progress.
Living in the Sky
Singapore is a land scarce country (only 697 km2), and with a population of 4.84 million. Singaporeans are very aware of the dearth of land here (just look at our housing prices), and in order to house our population we have to build upwards. Barring engineering constraints, I think that living in a high rise apartment is preferable to living underground (building downwards), simply because living in the skies at least gives a sense of space and freedom as compared to an underground facility. This preference of living in the skies is also reflected in the higher prices that apartments at higher levels command.
Crossing the Sky
Crossing the Sky, 2012, All Rights Reserved.
Before we had planes, we had to use bridges to cross, literally, the sky. Skyscrapers may allow us to live and inhabit the skies, but we only have movement in a vertical fashion. Bridges let us walk or drive way above the ground, where the birds live. Bridges are amazing feats of engineering, and are what we take for granted nowadays. But think for a moment about the difference between driving in a tunnel, and across an bridge or overpass – and I think you will get the idea.
Constructing in the Sky
Constructing in the Sky, 2012, All Rights Reserved.
Of course, bridges and skyscrapers and towers and overpasses need to be built before they can be used. To facilitate the construction of our ambitions to inhabit the skies, we use the crane. These are incredibly tall machines that are a familiar sight to anyone in Singapore (remember our obsession to build upwards), lifting and lowering concrete and other materials to feed our dreams. Some have joked that in recent years, cranes have become Singapore’s national ‘bird’.
Touching the Sky
Speaking of birds, they are the creatures that touch the sky, without need for cumbersome airplanes or other equipment. They exude a sense of freedom with the way they glide, flutter and cruise. Their presence may sometimes be unwanted, but I have no doubt that the world will be a lesser place if we never had birds to remind us to look to the skies for inspiration and freedom. Even our hobby of kite flying is designed like these birds, using their wings as a model to create kites that soar, and connect ourselves in a small way to the atmosphere above.
Growing to the Sky
Growing to the Sky, 2012, All Rights Reserved.
Trees are the tallest living things in the world, and there is no doubt that the tallest trees are the most majestic, with a sense of scale that can even dwarf some of our buildings. For these trees, the pressure to grow skyward is simply a way to get close to sunlight. In Singapore, we have a nickname called Garden City simply because of the greenery we have everywhere, along highways, parks and housing estates. So these sky loving flora are also an integral part of our identity.
Water, Land and Sky
Water, Land, and Sky, 2012, All Rights Reserved.
We are land creatures, who need water and air to live. Thus we need all three constituents of Land, Water and Sky (or air). We may live without land for months (on a ship), without water for maybe days, but with no atmosphere (or air), I think we’d be lucky to last precious few seconds. In Singapore, we have scarcity of land and water, but at least we do have our skies. And hopefully we will continue to keep it clean and uncluttered for generations to come.
Symbols of Worship in the Sky
Talking through the Sky
Talking through the Sky, 2012, All Rights Reserved.
Long before we used land lines to facilitate telephone communications, humans were taking to the atmosphere to send messages over long distances – with smoke signals (Native Americans) and also drum beats (African tribes). After using the medium of sight and sound through the air and skies, we now use the electromagnetic spectrum to communicate wirelessly, sending video, audio and data using antennae, receivers and satellite dishes. Of course, these tools have to reach up in the skies to transmit and receive the information.
The Sun and the Sky
The Sun and the Sky, 2012, All Rights Reserved.
The sky is where we see the sun, which is literally a provider of energy and thus life on earth. Of course, we now know that the sky is the atmosphere of our Earth, a tiny planet compared to the immense size of the Sun. Nevertheless, our bodily rhythm is tied to the rhythm of the skies, and the Sun. We go to rest when dusk falls, and rise when dawn begins. Even the effect of feeling sunshine on our bodies may stave off low moods as sufferers of long dark winters can profess to. Because we are near the equator in Singapore, like it or not, we do get our sunshine year round.