Staging a Floating City in Singapore

Annual National Day events feature elaborate creations and celebrations.
2 May, 2017
Every year, Singapore celebrates the history of its beginnings in 1965, following its separation from Malaysia.
This year's celebration will return to the Marina Bay Floating Platform, since the steel platform is approaching the end of its 10-year design life. Generally, though, the National Day parade and shows are shifting back to National Stadium after its expansion and renovation as the Singapore Sports Hub.

The stadium is where the forward-thinking Singapore's floating city, a futuristic model built entirely of aluminium, was introduced as one of the most advanced theatrical props of its kind last year. Kenny Wong, the technical director for last year's show, suspended an entire Singapore skyline as an aerial prop attached to the retractable roof and above the massive stage – a feat made possible by the lightweight metal.
Images: Kenny Wong
The model city included beloved landmarks like the Changi tower, the Esplanade and Gardens by the Bay. At the same time, a creative team added conceptual buildings of the future to the floating city. All told, it took nine months to design the 15 clusters of buildings that appeared in the aluminium model. Wong's team then spent two to three months building and wrapping them in functional fabric screens.

"A large prop is not just a large prop," Wong said of the skyline models and related show props, some of which weighed up to 340 kilograms when assembled. That's because the massive aluminium creations also served as 3D projection surfaces, with lights, textures and images washing across their surfaces.
The sky-city models of Singapore were equipped with 250 markers that were monitored continuously by 30 infrared cameras. Those cameras fed data to computers that calculated their motion in real time, and allowed some 66 projectors to track the moving targets with the visual displays and the lighting changes.

Some 150 crew members worked on the final phase of rigging and preparing the props for the show.

The model building clusters were loaded onto carts that needed to be pushed into position before the act, and then were attached to the aerial system, all of which was supported by the 80-meter-high roof dome. As 420 performers took the stage below the floating city – swirling in different colored skirts to replicate artwork made by local citizens – the choreography was just as intense for the show managers.
Images: Kenny Wong
All of the hoist movements on the aerial system ran on preset timings, so they had to attach the aerial props in time so that none of them would be missed in the sequencing of the emerging city. Crew members also had to keep clear of three separate trap doors, which opened to reveal other aluminium building clusters as they rose up to take their place in the aerial skyline display. It's not something they wanted to get wrong. "You won't have another chance, and you will spoil the show," said Yap Te Rong, a show manager responsible for making sure that the aerial city sequence was delivered with precision.

Their work paid off, with the hoped-for results of a spectacular show that delighted guests in the 55,000-seat stadium. Wong said the feat was arguably the most technical show that digitally savvy Singapore had ever done for the National Day Parade – setting a new benchmark for this year's show in August.
Banner image: chensiyuan/Wikipedia