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Illuminated cities

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Recently returning from travelling and having visited a number of places around the world it’s clear that London can learn a lesson from the last country on my agenda: Singapore.

A prominent theme in all Singaporean architecture is nature, and this is evident from the moment you arrive. The recent addition of the Jewel (a US$1.26 billion mixed-use development that opened earlier this year) to Changi Airport, boasts the world’s tallest man-made waterfall and largest indoor hedge maze alongside many retail and dining spaces. The mesmerising architecture showcases design at every level, not only in the functionality of the space but the way architecture incorporates nature in the built environment, with thousands of plants creating an indoor forest. Although it seems unnecessary, the design itself is truly amazing to see and is a tourist attraction in its own right.

This extravagance continues outside the airport. At the heart of the Marina Bay Sands shopping mall is a man-made river where visitors can pay to be taken up and down on a gondola. In the evening, there are a number of family-friendly events, like the light show at Gardens by the Bay. The performance is completely free of charge and attracts many local families as well as tourists, who all gather to watch the huge trees as their lights dance so beautifully to music. I’m unsure whether it was the performance or the looming end of travelling, but it was enough to move me to tears.

But the recent Illuminated River project, which plans to light up 15 bridges along the River Thames in celebration of the capital’s diverse communities, is an exciting step in the right direction. The scale, that it is open to everyone and its aim of encouraging more people to use the space outside our buildings is unprecedented. We should be investing in more projects like this.