Floating platform not the place for NS gallery

The Float @ Marina Bay was built as a temporary stage in 2007, but it has since become a popular venue for national and community events. Mindef and URA are now seeking public suggestions for facilities and activities for the new, permanent space tha
The Float @ Marina Bay was built as a temporary stage in 2007, but it has since become a popular venue for national and community events. Mindef and URA are now seeking public suggestions for facilities and activities for the new, permanent space that will replace the floating platform and be renamed NS Square.ST FILE PHOTO

It has been two years since the "NS Square" initiative was announced, and I still cannot see any seamless integration between a gallery dedicated to national service and the planned arts, cultural and sports programming at The Float@Marina Bay and its immediate surrounding areas (Wanted: Ideas for revamp of Marina Bay's floating platform, April 30).

I am also bemused that only the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of National Development are driving this project.

Are inputs from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth not integral to realising its goals as well?

While the decision to transform an underutilised Float into a vibrant space for arts, cultural and sporting activities all year round should further enliven the bay area, inserting an NS gallery into the mix and calling the whole deal NS Square is just odd.

What has NS got to do with the arts, culture and sports, other than the fact that both the military and the Home Team do dedicate some resources to such endeavours?

Decoupling NS Square from the proposed activities at the Float would stand both in better stead as focal points for this exercise.

The timely dedication to NS would dovetail poignantly with Esplanade Park - an area that is set within a precinct that has hosted numerous key national events in our short history, and that is already home to various memorials in honour of those who defended our island with their lives - or the upcoming Founders' Memorial at Gardens by the Bay East.

On the other hand, the revamped The Float@Marina Bay should simply be renamed the Floating Platform, and geared towards prime time as an open-air arena with a flexible seating configuration that can accommodate up to 40,000 spectators, including "box seats", set within a low-rise boutique mixed-use hospitality/events facility with a roof-top swimming pool that may be situated on two freshly constructed finger piers flanking the stage.

Such a "deconstructed", "modular", "open" and potentially "ground-breaking" multi-purpose outdoor stadium may just set off the experience of spectator sports, arts and culture in fresh directions, allowing the visual and sonic extravaganza of a concert or sporting event to reverberate across the district and illuminate the skyline.

It can be an edgy alternative to the indoor arena that Marina Bay Sands is planning as part of its expansion.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2019, with the headline 'Floating platform not the place for NS gallery'. Print Edition | Subscribe