This is a guest blog by a former SHP Architecture co-op, Samuel Tibbs. As part of his studies he traveled abroad to study the design, culture and history of Southeast Asia during the fall semester of 2015.
I come from a fairly large immediate family, boasting ten in-house members. Growing up, our homes were never big enough, and the rooms were almost never empty. Early on in childhood, I developed a need to see the openness of nature to escape the joyous sirens that were my constant companions. I can recall staring through many a window, watching the colors change and the leaves dance as spring, summer and fall made their mark on the world. Winter always brought disappointment as much of the color faded away, replaced by shades of white and grey. Every year I would hope for the last dangling leaf or browning blade of grass to hold out until the cold season passed. At last, these too fell away, and in kind, I would bury my hands in the winter’s tears, and fend of the hordes of flanking siblings with a delicate ball of snow. I have never considered myself a botanist in practice or in hobby. Fortunately, that did not diminish my excitement at the chance to experience a land where winter can bring neither shiver nor snow.
As I traveled regions of Southeast Asia, I reveled in the exotic flora, and the vibrant colors of the tropical brush. On the Islands of the Philippines, or in the botanical gardens of Singapore, it was refreshing to see the colors of nature in so much clarity. There we many places where everywhere the eye could see, nature abounded. In Manila, within the University of the Philippines campus, grass and canopy form the border at every corner. In the evening hours, the brush densely bathes the campus in a dark, green shadow, asserting its dominance even as the moon shines above. And as the dawn breaks in the early morning hours, shadow is replaced by a long lingering mist that penetrates every inch of air. Because of this abundance, I often preferred to walk through campus towards nearby destinations, often singly, reminiscent of younger times. In Singapore the climate is less tropical, making the brush less dramatic.
Limited by the growth of structure throughout the city space, color is introduced carefully into the environment, and dramatically celebrated where possible. The Gardens by the Bay is an example of this celebration. Here the man-made Supertree Groves are surrounded by plant life of all kinds and enhance their vibrant luminescence. At night the Supertrees are lit in the shadow of the Marina Bay Towers, sending vivid rays across the skyline. Now, as seasons change, I think of the color and clarity that live on elsewhere, remembering that the shade of winter does not crumple every dangling leaf, or whither every blade of grass.