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Conserved houses and nature playgarden at Gallop Extension of the Singapore Botanic Gardens open

13 Mar 2021

The National Parks Board (NParks) today opened more features at the 8-hectare Gallop Extension. These include two conserved buildings that have been refurbished into the Botanical Art Gallery and Forest Discovery Centre @ OCBC Arboretum, the COMO Adventure Grove, and additional trails, scenic lawn and landscaped areas and naturalised habitats. Gallop Extension includes a botanical art gallery featuring pieces that have rarely been on display, a play area inspired by nature, and an interpretive centre that showcases the forest ecosystems in Singapore. The Gallop Extension exemplifies Singapore’s transformation into a City in Nature by enabling visitors of all ages to unwind and play amidst nature, as well as appreciate nature-inspired art and gain an understanding of Singapore’s forests. This will enable us to nurture stewards who will ensure that Singapore remains liveable and sustainable for this generation and the next.  These new features complement the existing features – the OCBC Arboretum and the Mingxin Foundation Rambler’s Ridge – which were opened in October 2019. The extension, located along Gallop Road, is part of the Tyersall-Gallop Core of the Gardens. It strengthens the buffer for the Gardens’ UNESCO World Heritage Site from the surrounding urban development, and is a natural extension of the Gardens’ nature area – which covers the 6 hectares of primary rainforest and the 10-hectare Learning Forest. The Gallop Extension will enhance the Gardens’ heritage roles in research, conservation, education and recreation.

Features at the Gallop Houses

Gallop House No. 5 (Atbara), is the oldest surviving black-and-white bungalow, in Singapore, and was built in 1898. It houses the Forest Discovery Centre @ OCBC Arboretum which showcases the forest ecosystems in Singapore and highlights the importance of conserving them through a series of interpretive and interactive displays. Visitors can enjoy a birds’ eye view of Singapore’s diverse forests and the Gardens’ historical role in conserving them through a photographic installation of forest trees found in various local habitats. Interactive displays and videos highlight three distinctive forest habitats found in Singapore and showcases their unique flora and fauna. Visitors can also view rare footage of camera trap videos and hear recordings of bird calls found in each habitat.

Space is also set aside to facilitate community involvement in conservation. This space will serve as a launch-pad for various citizen science programmes under NParks’ Community in Nature initiative and OCBC Bank’s environmental initiatives, with seminar rooms and multi-use spaces.

Apart from serving as a platform for outreach, the Forest Discovery Centre @ OCBC Arboretum will also host the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Tropical Forest Ecology Research programme. While the Forest Discovery Centre will strengthen outreach and education on the value of our forests, the Tropical Forest Ecology Research programme will bring to bear expertise in the Singapore Botanic Gardens and institutes of higher learning to develop science-based interventions for the restoration of Singapore’s forests.

The opening of the Forest Discovery Centre @ OCBC Arboretum is held in conjunction with the International Day of Forests (IDOF), which falls on 21 March. The Centre highlights NParks’ efforts to safeguard our natural heritage, expand our natural capital and further restore nature into the urban fabric as we transform Singapore into a City in Nature. This is in line with this year’s IDOF theme – Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being.

The Forest Discovery Centre complements the OCBC Arboretum, which is a first-of-its-kind high-tech arboretum in Southeast Asia. Opened in October 2019, the arboretum plays an important role in the Gardens’ conservation work, housing and displaying the Gardens’ growing collection of rare dipterocarps. There are close to 700 dipterocarp species worldwide, and with the arboretum, the Gardens aims to grow and showcase over 200 species. As a repository of dipterocarps in the region, it will also aid in the Gardens’ understanding of the environmental preferences of different species of dipterocarps. In the face of climate change, such information will help NParks to better manage dipterocarps, both in an urban and a forested setting. It will also enhance NParks’ capabilities in restoring our tropical forests both in Singapore and the region.

The Botanical Art Gallery is housed within Gallop House No. 7 (Inverturret), which was built in 1906. The gallery highlights the vital role that art plays in the scientific documentation of plants in Singapore and the region, as well as how art can inspire renewed appreciation of the natural world around us. This will be Singapore’s first permanent display of botanical art, where visitors will be able to see a selection of the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ collection that includes more than 2,000 botanical paintings, as well as hundreds of sketches, line drawings and photographs. The display will also showcase various art forms, from original watercolours and ink drawings to prints and printing blocks.

To encourage deeper appreciation of Singapore’s natural heritage through the arts, the Botanical Art Gallery will host a Community Arts Residency. The residency will be supported by the National Arts Council (NAC) as part of the NAC’s Arts & Culture Nodes initiative, and a private donor. The Community Arts Residency aims to support practising artists in advancing the field of community arts in Singapore as well as to invite the community to express their stories and co-create with the artists in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. There will be an open call for proposals in the 2nd quarter of 2021, and more details will be shared when ready.

Learning about nature through play

The newest nature playgarden in Singapore, the COMO Adventure Grove, is inspired by the distinctive parts of trees found within the Gardens and is a modern interpretation of the timeless experience of climbing and playing in trees. Children can swing, slide and climb on structures resembling the aerial roots of the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina), scramble over the warty surface of a giant Cempedak (Artocarpus integer) or roll and hop around the pod and seeds of a Saga tree (Adenanthera pavonina). These adaptive components will help introduce children to nature through play. The COMO Adventure Grove is set within nature, where children can connect with nature through play and exploration. It will enable children to choose how and what to play with, thus developing a sense of adventure and discovery, and increasing their independence.

Other features at the Gallop Extension

Other than the OCBC Arboretum, another feature of the Gallop Extension was also opened to the public in 2019. At the Mingxin Foundation Rambler’s Ridge, visitors can ascend the ridge via a barrier-free path lined with trees such as the critically endangered Spike Oak (Lithocarpus elegans) and Braided Chestnut (Castanopsis inermis). Those looking for more of an adventure can then continue along the hiking trail and decend down the rocky steps to get back to the paths.

The HPL Canopy Link will be ready in 2022. This 200m-long barrier-free bridge will provide visitors seamless access to the Gallop Extension from the Learning Forest.

Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance, Mr Heng Swee Keat and Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration, Mr Desmond Lee, were present to officiate the opening of the features. To commemorate the opening of the Gallop Extension, there are specially organised online and on-site programmes and activities for the family, which include virtual tours, showcases, talks, demonstrations and craft activities.

Launch of “Tropical Plants in Focus – Botanical Illustration at the Singapore Botanic Gardens”

Tropical Plants in Focus outlines the development of botanical illustration in Singapore, particularly at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It showcases a selection of illustrations which can be viewed in person at the Botanical Art Gallery at the Singapore Botanic Gardens Gallop Extension.

This book is the first of its kind to trace the development of botanical illustration in Singapore, starting from well before the establishment of the Gardens, through its heyday in the late 19th century, and continuing into the present. The book includes a selection of the best and most representative artworks in the Gardens’ collections. It also highlights the importance and relevance of botanical illustration for botanical research.

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Last updated on 06 April 2021

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