Taking Parks to New Heights: The Singapore SkyPark

Sheldon Adelson, billionaire businessman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., had a dream, and it went well beyond the Las Vegas Sands. His dream took him out of the Nevada desert and into the bustling city of Singapore, halfway around the world. He wanted to build not only the largest casino in the world, but one whose architecture would stop people in their tracks. And that’s exactly what he did, because what was built was a masterpiece that includes one of the largest cantilevers in the world.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Sands SkyPark turned out to be even better than anyone could have imagined it would be. Well, okay, maybe except for Sheldon Adelson and Safdie Architects, who worked on the project. One look at the architecture of the building and it is clear to see that this was a task of monumental proportion! It is one that took a massive amount of resources, ingenuity, and teamwork. Together they pulled it off and gave the rest of the world something to talk about for years to come!

The Park in the Sky

Without a doubt, the most incredible feat of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is the Sands SkyPark, which is literally a massive park at the height of 200 meters, on top of three hotel towers covering 12,400 meters with a maximum width of 40 meters.

According to Moshe Safdie of Safdie Architects, the concept for the SkyPark came about through a space issue and consequential solution.  Once the footprint of the building was laid out on site, the complex still lacked the space required for recreational facilities like swimming pools, gardens and jogging paths. Hence Safdie’s the idea of lifting up the entire recreation zone by creating a three-acre SkyPark.

While initially the Skypark was planned to be limited to the footprint offered by the three towers put together, after consultations with a feng shui expert, the design team decided to cantilever 66.5 metres of the park off the north tower of the casino-resort complex.

To put the SkyPark in perspective, the gigantic deck could house three football fields. With an overall length of 340 meters, you could park 4 ½ A380 Jet Airplanes end to end atop the garden structure. The SkyPark took an enormous amount of skill to build and makes the hotel not only look unique, but provides a magnificent space that only a superbly skilled architect and construction crew could pull off.

The SkyPark masterpiece is decked out with lush landscaping that includes gardens, 250 trees, and 650 plants. The larger trees have stainless steel cable at the root balls, tied to precast blocks, to keep them in place. The SkyPark has an observation deck that can accommodate hundreds at a time, an executive club lounge, a Chocolate Bar, and highly acclaimed restaurants.

One of the main SkyPark attractions is the massive 150-meter swimming pool, which is the largest elevated outdoor swimming pool in the world. Swimmers enjoy a spectacular view of the city as they swim along the 150-meter long infinity edge. Combined, the 3 swimming pools contain 1.424 million liters of water and contain 254,000 tiles.

SkyPark Ingenuity

The most complex and challenging aspect of building the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was that of the SkyPark. Architects were faced with numerous challenges when they set out to design and build this magnificent structure. Perhaps their toughest obstacle was determining how to hoist the massive 7000-ton structure from the ground to its new elevation of 200 meters above the city. To accomplish this impressive task, the team employed a computer-controlled lifting device, which consisted of a series of strand jacks, which were mounted on giant temporary lifting gantries. The precision lifting system hoisted the heavy steel structure into place.

Strand jacks have been used in the past to hoist bridge structures into place, erect oilrigs, and construct power stations.  However, the SkyPark project was the first strand jack lift of this magnitude. The strand jack system incorporates a series of cables and hydraulic cylinders to raise the structure incrementally. The process is completed by expanding the hydraulic cylinders, clamping the load, releasing the trailing end, contracting the cylinders, and then clamping the trailing end prior to starting the process over again.

To ensure there were no issues with the lift, the entire structure was pre-assembled offsite to confirm the fit of the 14 individual mating components. The large bridge assembly and cantilever portion of the SkyPark were pre-assembled at the base of the Marina Bay Sands towers to eliminate as much “sky-high” assembly as possible. Each lift would take as long as 24 hours to complete from start to finish. The entire lifting process would take 3 months considering the time to hoist the entire structure, the hull cladding, an enormous swimming pool, the trees, and other building accessories.

The second hurdle with a project of this magnitude was dealing with the influence of the wind. When handling a large structure at these high elevations, the affect of the wind would be substantially magnified. To control the giant structure as it was hoisted, the construction team utilized a system of cables to reduce the swinging during the lifting process. The team would monitor the wind conditions and speed prior to the initiation of each lift.

Architects for the SkyPark development focused on the effect of the wind when designing the project. In consideration of guest comfort, the engineering team conducted a series of wind tunnel tests to ascertain the effect of wind pressure on the overall structure. The data collected from the tests led to a façade, which was designed in such a way that it would reduce the impact of the wind.

The SkyPark Hull cladding consists of composite aluminum paneling on Aluminum extrusions/runners. There are approximately 2 million pieces of various fixings, i.e., s/s rivets, screws, bolts and nuts in the SkyPark Hull cladding system, which has an area of 14,500 m2, and this equates to 9456 panels. The length of aluminum extrusions used is 62,500 meters (62km), and the estimated weight of the Hull cladding system is 350 tons.

To see the SkyPark is to have an appreciation for the amount of work and skill that went into successfully completing such a challenging project. Not only is it unique, but it is amazing. And the views are unforgettable, even from the hotel rooms, where people will get views of the city skyline, as well as the South China Sea. Quite possibly, this is a place that when people check in, they may not want to leave!

By the Numbers

The numbers involved in what it took to build the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Sands SkyPark are an accountants dream, coming in at a cool $5.7 billion. The massive, eye-stunning hotel is over 9 million square feet. So just what does that amount of space include? The question, in the case of this hotel, is what doesn’t it include!

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is made up of three sloping towers that have straight legs. The legs each connect at level 23 so that they form into a single building. There was a lot of thought that went into every details of how this building was going to be constructed, with the Tower 1 slope as steep as 26 degrees. Because of the complexities that went into the design of this hotel, it is considered to be one of the most complex hotels that have been built to date.

Each day after the hotel officially opened in June 2010, the visitor estimates were at about 25,000 per day. And not everyone that visits is pulling up a bed in one of the hotels 2,561 rooms. Many people who live right in Singapore are reported to visit regularly, paying a monthly fee for use of the SkyPark.

Within the hotel, visitors will find everything they need for a great time, regardless of what that may include. There are 55 floors, 18 different types of rooms, clubs, and a 4,000-seat theater. There is a variety of top-notch restaurants, shopping, entertainment outlets, and a casino. There are also 230 luxury suites, which come with their own butler service and give guests access to the VIP areas.

During the construction phase of the hotel, the crew set a record by building a new floor every four days, which is the fastest ever for such a large project in Singapore.

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