An incoming PhD candidate to Northwestern’s Materials Science and Engineering program, ecstatic at the prospect of fiddling with polymers and biomaterials, I may fit the profile of a stereotypical “nerd.”  I’m also a 20-something girly-girl though, so when planning a trip to Singapore, I thought I’d go on shopping sprees and return with novel fashion items.  Instead, I did next to no shopping but found plenty of attractions, i.e. unique architectural achievements, that delighted the nerd in me.  
Helix Bridge in early morning. Please excuse the Singapore haze.
Helix Bridge at night. iPhone did a decent night shot, but the purple lights were brighter and prettier in real life.
           The minute I read about it on Trip Advisor, I knew I wanted to see the Helix Bridge.  Located on Singapore’s quintessential Marina Bay, this bridge winds in a double helix to imitate the structure of DNA.  From a purely aesthetic standpoint, it’s more impressive at night when it lights up in colors; however, nerds should definitely see it in daylight to admire the crazy spiral structures.  This 280-meter bridge is comprised of two spiraling structures that oppose and complement each other, and are held together by connecting struts (1,2).  It is the world’s first curved bridge, conceived by a collaboration between an Australian architectural firm and a Singaporean one (1,2).  Clearly the bridge was meticulously designed and engineered, but it may seem like a random mesh of metal when viewing it close up.  The double helix becomes obvious when the viewer is farther away; kind of like most engineering projects: Small-scale details that most people won’t understand add up to create the final product.  This concept can even be applied to life in general: Don’t get so fixated on a small portion that you miss out on the bigger picture.  As a side note, mechanical engineers might be able to analyze the forces holding up the helix.  
           If the Helix Bridge sounded cool, it’s not Singapore’s only nerdy bridge!  A part of the Southern Ridges trail, the Henderson Waves bridge connects Mount Faber Park with Telok Blangah Hill Park.  Trying to think of a brief description, the first thing that popped into my head was: A sine wave with an offset of +36.  It is Singapore’s highest pedestrian bridge at 36 meters above Henderson Road (3), but unfortunately I cannot find the appropriate measurements to give the amplitude and period of the sine wave.  That’s okay though, a sine wave isn’t entirely accurate anyway, because the bridge is a 3D structure that wraps around the platform where pedestrians walk.  According to this press release for Singapore’s President’s Design Award in 2009, the Henderson Waves is (4):

“…a folded three-dimensional surface-form cleverly created by a mathematical equation articulated as a continuous organic and structural form which bends, undulates and ascends in a singular movement. The structure is also functional, flowing, forming and reforming into access ramps, balustrades, benches and shelters for leisure walking and scenic viewing for the public” (4).

Indeed it is; the crests of the waves hold benches where pedestrians can relax.  It’s like sitting inside a wave!
           I promise this is the last bridge I rave about – the Alexandra Arch.  So when I was in high school and taking AP Calculus, the nerds loved to create pictures with parametric equations on TI-83 or TI-89 graphing calculators.  If you’re in your 20’s now you probably know what I’m talking about – no clue what advanced technology schools use these days.  Anyways, I feel like the Alexandra Arch is a picture I would have tried to create, although don’t ask me how because it’s been a while since I’ve done calculus – perhaps a parabola with some lines?  According to the official description from the National Parks Board of the Singapore government, Alexandra Arch is meant to look like an “open leaf” and be a “gateway to nature” (5).  I suppose my parabola description didn’t quite capture the point.  
           All the bridges are peculiar and unique, and represent phenomenal engineering feats that have been completed.  For a cool creation that is alive and therefore constantly changing, check out the Supertree Grove in Gardens by the Bay.  These man-made tree structures are up to 16-stories high, harvest solar energy with photovoltaic cells, and support a vertical garden of plants growing at their sides (6).  They’re almost like real trees – capturing the sun’s energy and supporting life – and were built with environmental sustainability in mind.  Environmental engineers who visit can check out the detailed descriptions of how these trees work.        
           In addition to quirky bridges and ecosystems on artificial trees, Singapore is also home to several unique architectural structures:  
The Esplanade. Only one half-spherical structure pictured.
Marina Bay Sands and ArtScience Museum
           I’ll admit they didn’t excite me as much as the bridges, because they don’t openly imitate a biological molecule or mathematical formula, but obviously a lot of science still went into their construction.  This is in no way a comprehensive list, just some cool buildings I saw walking around Marina Bay.  There’s the Esplanade, which is a performing arts venue built to look like two durian fruits or the eye of a fly (7).  There’s also Marina Bay Sands, which is three towers that support a ship-like structure across the top, that sits at 57 stories tall (8).  Right next to that is the ArtScience Museum, a building shaped like a lotus flower (8).
           With so many extraordinary architectural accomplishments, Singapore is sure to amuse any nerd.  Those studying or interested in architecture should find a gold mine; nerds in other fields will also appreciate the science and engineering showcase.  For anyone though, Singapore’s architecture will fascinate, enthrall, and provide unique photo opportunities.  

1.) Loh, Larry.  “DNA-inspired: World's first curved double helix bridge at Marina Bay.”  26 April 2010.  CNN Travel. Date accessed: 27 July 2012.  <>
2.) “The Helix Bridge.”  2013.  Your Singapore.  Date accessed: 27 July 2013.  <>
3.) “The Southern Ridges.”  15 May 2013.  National Parks Board, Singapore.  Date accessed: 27 July 2013.  <>
4.) “President’s Design Award 2009.” 2013.  Design Singapore.  Date accessed: 27 July 2013.  <>
5.) “Alexandra Arch.”  15 May 2013.  National Parks Board, Singapore.  Date accessed: 27 July 2013.  <>
6.) “Supertree Groves.”  Gardens by the Bay.  Date accessed: 27 July 2013.  <>
7.) “Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore.”  2013.  Your Singapore.  Date Accessed: 27 July 2013.  <>
8.) “Marina Bay Sands.”  2013.  Your Singapore.  Date accessed 27 July 2013.  <>

8/5/2013 04:43:19 pm

These structures look awesome, and I'm not into that sort of thing at all!!

8/6/2013 12:31:03 am

Hey Arianwen, thanks for reading! I think it can be refreshing to try new things we're normally not interested in. For me, I'm not into history at all, but I do like to see a historical site or two every now and then.


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