Istana Park



A tropical oasis in the heart of Orchard Road, the Istana Park was officially opened on 6 September 1996.1 It is bordered by Orchard Road, Penang Road, Penang Lane and Buyong Road. The 1.3-hectare Istana Park is a landmark situated opposite The Istana, Singapore’s presidential palace.2 The park was designed and built as an extension to the main entrance of The Istana.3 It has a number of unique features not found in other parks in Singapore.4 

History
Plans to turn the area fronting The Istana entrance into a lush landscaped park, marking the entrance to the Civic District, were first unveiled to the public on 20 February 1992. Lee Yiok Seng, then Senior Parliamentary Secretary (National Development), unveiled this plan when he opened a public exhibition at Marina Square. Teh Tien Yong, the architectural head of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), revealed that two design proposals were being considered. The preferred design was a layout which focused on a central core consisting of a water feature and planting beds. Teh explained that the main reason for building a park in front of The Istana was to give “more prominence” to its entrance.5


By November 1993, design plans for the park were finalised. Landscape architectural consultant firm, Ren Matsui Landscape Design, drew up the concept and design for the park, while the Public Works Department provided architectural and engineering design services. The park cost S$13 million and occupies an area the size of about 1.5 football fields.6 Palms and plants indigenous to the region were installed in the park, in order to blend in with the entrance to The Istana, which had undergone a S$1.7-million improvement project earlier.7

Work on the Istana Park was completed by late 1995. The park was officially opened on 6 September 1996 by National Development Minister Lim Hng Kiang.8 The park serves as a gateway to the Civic District, a historically significant area in the heart of the city, comprising important landmarks, civic, cultural and historical buildings, as well as public parks.9 The park was hence designed to evoke a feeling of formality and grandeur.10

Description
The Istana Park has several unique features. Its identifying landmark is the Festival Arch centrepiece.11 This is a 26-metre long, four-storey high concrete and stainless steel structure rising from a rectangular pool with slow, flowing water.12 The Arch was designed by design consultant, Ren Matsui.13 He conceived the idea for its structure by studying the gates of The Istana,14 from which banners and flags fly during national events.15 The Arch is symbolic of the park’s location as a gateway to the Civic District, as well as its proximity to The Istana.16

At the base of the Festival Arch is a rectangular pool.17 The pool is one-third the size of an Olympic pool with a water depth of 40 cm. It is called the “reflecting pool” as park users are able to see the reflection of the arch in the pool.18 Dwarf coconut palm trees are planted in specially designed plots within eight small Palm Pools. This makes the trees look like they are growing in the water, reinforcing the impression of a tropical oasis in the heart of Orchard Road.19

More than 151 species of plants are grown in the park. The plants are sourced from Malaysia, Indonesia and around the region. It includes some unusual flora, such as the Elephant Fern, with fronds that can grow up to 3 m long. Palm trees planted include Foxtail from Queensland, Australia, with leaves arranged in a circular plume and resembling a fox’s tail, Fishtail, Rhapis and Assai.20 Variegated Giant Reeds, a type of grass that has blades striped in different shades of green and yellow, are also grown.21 In addition, there are beds of colourful Heliconia and Anthurium, and assorted foliage plants.22 The eastern side of the park is a lush tropical garden with six different zones that showcase tropical plants. One of them is a water plant zone with its aquatic grasses and lilies.23

Lighting in the park was specially designed to illuminate the main features, especially the Arch and the greenery. Plants like the Yellow Flame trees and coconut palms are lit from the ground so that their branch patterns stand out at night.24 The park’s lighting design is also part of the URA’s Civic District Lighting Plan, which aims to give the district a distinct night identity.25 The park is lighted daily from 7 pm–7 am.26

The Istana Park is also a popular site for art and culture exhibitions, photography, and wedding receptions.27 In 2008, a studio-café called My Art Space opened, providing an avenue for members of the public to try their hand at painting or to just relax amidst the lush greenery of the park.28 Another addition to the Istana Park is the Istana Heritage Gallery. Opened on 7 October 2016 by President Tony Tan, the gallery is the size of three four-room Housing and Development Board flats, and showcases state gifts from world leaders. A brainchild of the President, the gallery is part of efforts to inform the public on the history and heritage of The Istana.29



Author

Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Pearce, S. (1993, November 13). Plans unveiled for $13m Istana Park in the cityThe Straits Times, p. 29; Tan, H. Y. (1996, September 7). Creative parks possible if people are more responsibleThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Istana park to be built as gateway to the Civil District. (1992, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Eugene, N. (2008, May 6). Singapore’s Palace. The Straits Times, p. 124. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Istana park to be built as gateway to the Civil District. (1992, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Tan, H. Y. (1996, September 7). Creative parks possible if people are more responsibleThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Pearce, S. (1993, November 13). Plans unveiled for $13m Istana Park in the cityThe Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Warren, W. (2000). Singapore: City of gardens. Hong Kong: Periplus Edition, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING q915.957 WAR-[TRA])
8. Tan, H. Y. (1996, September 7). Creative parks possible if people are more responsibleThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1; Eugene, N. (2008, May 6). Singapore’s Palace. The Straits Times, p. 124; Tan, H. Y. (1996, September 7). Creative parks possible if people are more responsibleThe Straits Times, p. 3; Tan, H. Y. (1997, January 24). City gets new sparkle with clever night lightsThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Pearce, S. (1993, November 13). Plans unveiled for $13m Istana Park in the cityThe Straits Times, p. 29; Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Parks. (2016, June 28). Istana Park. Retrieved 2017, February 3 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/istana-park
13. Warren, W. (2000). Singapore: City of gardens. Hong Kong: Periplus Edition, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING q915.957 WAR-[TRA])
14. Pearce, S. (1993, November 13). Plans unveiled for $13m Istana Park in the cityThe Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1; Tan, H. Y. (1996, September 7). Creative parks possible if people are more responsibleThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Pearce, S. (1993, November 13). Plans unveiled for $13m Istana Park in the cityThe Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Warren, W. (2000). Singapore: City of gardens. Hong Kong: Periplus Edition, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING q915.957 WAR-[TRA])
17. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tan, H. Y. (1996, September 7). Creative parks possible if people are more responsibleThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1; Pearce, S. (1993, November 13). Plans unveiled for $13m Istana Park in the cityThe Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Tan, H. Y. (1996, February 22). Unusual palms and colourful plants at new Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Warren, W. (2000). Singapore: City of gardens. Hong Kong: Periplus Edition, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING q915.957 WAR-[TRA])
21. Tan, H. Y. (1996, February 22). Unusual palms and colourful plants at new Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Warren, W. (2000). Singapore: City of gardens. Hong Kong: Periplus Edition, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING q915.957 WAR-[TRA])
23. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Tan, H. Y. (1995, June 3). Trees aglow and reflecting pool for Istana ParkThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Tan, H. Y. (1997, January 24). City gets new sparkle with clever night lightsThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. National Parks. (2016, June 28). Istana Park. Retrieved 2017, February 3 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/istana-park
27. Tan, H. Y. (1996, September 7). Creative parks possible if people are more responsibleThe Straits Times, p. 3; Orchard Rd head-turners (1997, April 18). The Straits Times, p. 44; Istana Park comes alive with art show. (1997, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 45; What’s up this week…and the weeks ahead: Charity. (2012, March 2). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. National Parks. (2016, June 28). Istana Park. Retrieved 2017, February 3 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/istana-park; Toh, K. (2014, March 7). Let’s jam with paint. The Straits Times, pp. 4—5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Zaccheus, M. (2016, October 8). President Tan launches Istana Heritage Gallery. The Straits Times; Lim, Y. L., & Toh, Y. C. (2016, February 14). Gallery to offer year-round glimpse of Istana’s treasures: Heritage gallery coming up opposite Istana’s main gate will display selected artefacts and state gifts. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/




Further resource

Istana Park comes alive with art show. (1997, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2004 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Parks--Singapore
Places of interest
Istana (Singapore)
Recreation>>Places of Interest
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure