Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Moshi Safti

9 May 2013

We decided to go to the ArtScience Museum yesterday – this is a new building that has sparked some controversy in Singapore, despite the fact that this city is proud of the innovative and sometimes avant garde architecture for which it is known.  The museum is located in the bayfront area so the building is reflected in the water.  When we asked our hotel staff how to get to the museum, there was some discussion amongst them regarding which museum this was – the young man finally made sort of a spread-finger cupping motion with his hands and said “that one!” – and the two young women said, “oh, right!”  So that’s how the museum is known – two cupped hands with spread fingers.

Turns out the young man was absolutely right.  We arrived at the museum, and all I could think was that it looks like a flower unfolding, petal by petal – huge curved pieces of building swinging out into space, all attached at a central stem that anchors the swooping pieces into the ground.  The whole building is surrounded by a reflecting pool full of water lilies in creamy white, bright pink, and deep purple – reflecting not only the building but also reflecting the floral shape of the building in the flowers.  (Complete with koi, because, after all, this is Asia.)  

We went into the building, and decided not to pay for the two shows (one about the art of Legos, the other about mummies - not so interesting).  

Out of curiosity, I asked the woman who was the architect of this building.  She said, “Moshi Safti.”  I’m thinking quickly, “Moshi” sounds Japanese.  “Safti” sounds, well, somehow Hebrew – the town of Sfat; “grandmother” is “safta.”  So I looked at her and asked if he was Israeli?  And she nodded, smiled, and said yes!  (As if I were a bright student with the right answer.)  So I smiled and said, “Ah, Moshe Safti” (as if I knew exactly who he was).  I found it to be very funny that they changed his first name to a very Japanese pronunciation.  Moshe Safti!

Anyway, the building was designed to look like a lotus blossom – hence the water lilies in the reflecting pool.  Also, the same shape represents the hands of Buddha – so our concierge was absolutely right in symbolizing the shape by cupping his hands.

It was an interesting building, although up close I couldn’t get any photos of the entire thing – so I’m adding a photo of the museum brochure, so you can see the shape of the building as a whole.  Interesting, isn’t it?  Not the best use of space, I would imagine there are oddly shaped rooms and nooks and crannies that just fill odd spaces – but still a very innovative way of incorporating the Asian culture and religion into the design of a building.  (Good old Moshe Safti!) 

The location at one end of the bay gave us wonderful views of the city across the harbour, as well as a number of places that, well, are also architecturally innovative but, in my opinion, bordering on the absurd.  The bridge across the opening of the bay was very interesting, looking something like a cross between braided metal and DNA strands.  The ferris wheel beyond the bridge is really an observation site – each car holds up to 30 people and the wheel moves very slowly, so that riders have the best possible view in all directions.  And then there’s, well, basically a boat sitting on top of three buildings.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  It looks like Noah’s Ark rendered in mirrored glass and metal, come to rest atop these buildings after the flood.  Complete with trees on the boat, and scenic overlooks so people crazy enough to go there can see whatever there is to see.  Yeah, not me.  As if the height were not enough, the boat seriously does not look stable up there – it seems to be just resting precariously on those however-many-storey buildings.  

All of this is attached to some giant mall (although here they’re called shopping centers) that of course is an interesting building in itself. And this is also connected to the casino, which covers almost as much space as the mall - although the mall goes underground, of course.  And yes, we played a little bit at the casino.  I didn't do too well - Richard did much better.

But one of the more unique features of this upscale and ultra-modern mall was the fountain - although I hesitate to use that to describe it.  It was more like, well, to put it bluntly - it was more like being underneath a giant toilet that was flushing.  Constantly.  And without a pipe to carry the water out - this toilet was flushing into a giant pool of water.  With everyone taking photos.  It was just the funniest "fountain" I've ever seen - great conceptually, but in actuality it truly was more like a toilet flushing that anything else!

The pool of water connected to a canal, complete with occasional bridges, and of course little boats so that shoppers could ride along the canal if they got too tired.  Or something like that.

Just another fun day exploring Singapore!

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