Dragon playground, Ah Meng among local icons depicted in Orchid Extravaganza at Gardens by the Bay

The Dragon Playground spans 20m from head to tail, stands at 4m tall, and is decorated with orchid blooms, resembling a tunnel of orchids. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - For local fashion designer Yang Derong, the vintage dragon playgrounds once ubiquitous in the 1980s bring back fond childhood memories.

The iconic playground is his personal favourite out of the handful of Singapore icons that inspired this year's Orchid Extravaganza to celebrate National Day.

Mr Yang, 54, who is also art director for this year's National Day Parade, designed the floral display housed in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay.

Splashed in bold, vibrant colours, the display boasts familiar symbols of Singapore culture - such as orang utan Ah Meng, an ice kacang dessert bowl and a Housing Board block of flats - nestled among around 15,000 orchids of more than 80 varieties, including varieties of heritage orchids.

Orchid Extravaganza - Our SingaPop Edition is the brainchild of Mr Yang and local composer Dick Lee, who conceptualised the exhibits.

The display runs from Friday (July 26) to Sept 15 as part of the Gardens' National Day and Singapore Bicentennial celebrations.

Mr Yang said most of the Singapore Bicentennial celebrations so far have been about looking back on history, so they decided to give the display a "different spin".

Orchid Extravaganza - Our SingaPop Edition is the brainchild of local fashion designer Yang Derong and local composer Dick Lee, who conceptualised the exhibits. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

"Instead of talking about Sang Nila Utama, we talk about our heritage orchids, but under a whole dragon arch," he added.

"So it's still historical, but it's set in a contemporary environment, where Singaporeans 0 to 100 years old can relate."

Besides the floral display, visitors can also expect to see local folk tales, such as the legend of Bukit Merah come alive in performances at the outdoor gardens on two weekends - from Aug 2 to Aug 4 and from Aug 16 to Aug 18.

A two-day concert will also be held over the National Day weekend of Aug 10 and 11, where local acts such as Kit Chan, Rahimah Rahim and Kumar will take centre stage.

Admission to the performances and concert is free.

Garden Rhapsody, the nightly light and sound show at Supertree Grove, will also have a new theme for August, featuring 11 well-loved Singapore songs, such as Di Tanjung Katong and Home, performed and rearranged by local musicians.

For Mr Lee, 62, putting Singapore popular culture in the spotlight is his way of showcasing a different side of the country to the world.

He said: "We are known to be a modern, vibrant city. But I worry that all (the tourists) see is the metal and the glass. But then we do have a soul.

"Coming here (to the Flower Dome), you see a big glass structure as well. But if you go inside, maybe you will find a heart."

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