Countdown to a national icon
Every taxi driver navigating through Singapore’s Marina Bay area must surely have been asked: “What is that building?”. The correct answer is “the ArtScience Museum”, a unique national monument designed by architect Moshe Safdie.
Inspired by a lotus flower, the building has also been described as “the welcoming hands of Singapore”. Each of the ten petals – or fingers – is a gallery space, the tallest of which stands 60 metres high. Only visible from within (or directly above) the building is a curved roof with a hole in the centre or “rain oculus”, which collects and channels rainwater to a central pond.
The huge museum is in fact made up of three buildings: the lotus flower gallery spaces, a glassed entrance hall, and a lower-level comprising exhibition spaces.
Van Gogh’s sunflowers are literally all over the children, who are lying on the floor of a massive, angular exhibition space with 8-metre-high walls. The Dutch artist’s most famous masterpieces are projected onto every surface. Periods of intermittent darkness as the 3,000 images change add to the general excitement, and the music increases levels of adrenalin in young bodies.
Calls of “Let’s dance!” and “Let’s paint!” ring out as the kids create a sticker scene in the specially designed activity booklets provided for them.
For children and adults alike, the 30-minute rotating show is an up-close and personal encounter with the well-known painter, and one that continues to inspire long after the initial wow-factor has subsided.
As possibly the toughest audience of all, the children are enthralled by the music, lighting, sound effects and other technology used at the ArtScience Museum. All the exhibits are designed to be “entertaining and accessible to all”, says director Tom Zaller. “Museums don’t have to be boring.” And as we walk through this state-of-the-art building, it’s obvious that there is nothing stuffy or dusty about it.
“So this is the ocean,” cries one of the children as they enter the dimly lit Shipwrecked exhibition and hear the wishy-washy sounds of the sea. They are soon absorbed in a “detail detective” computer game, which tests their concentration skills in matching a close-up of the intricate patterns on a rare gold dish (part of the sunken ship’s loot) with the actual object.
“I want to win,” declares another during his fifth attempt to get all the answers correct.
Children who are engaged and entertained … there’s not much more a parent could ask for.
The ArtScience Museum is at 10 Bayfront Avenue. Tickets online from Sistic or from the Marina Bay Sands box offices. Open daily from 10am to 10pm; last admission at 9pm. Guided tours on weekends. Call +65 6688 8868. www.marinabaysands.com/artsciencemuseum