In addition to the monorail, visitors to Sentosa could (and still can) opt to travel around the island by bus or by foot. A central axis was introduced in the late 1980s as the main pedestrian mall, and to complement the monorail system in easing wayfinding.
Wayfinding around Sentosa would have been a lot more confusing for walking visitors without the central axis
Constructed: 1987 to 1996
Status: Found? Lost?
The central axis began with a ferry ride from the World Trade Centre
There was no formal name for this axis. Instead, it was more of a planning strategy to allow for easy navigation around the various attractions. The axis ran north-south, from the Ferry Terminal to the beaches, passing by a number of notable attractions not directly served by the monorail, including Fantasy Island, Volcanoland, and the Enchanted Grove of Tembusu. Today, the northern half of the pedestrian mall falls within the grounds of Resorts World Sentosa, but the axis still remains.
The central axis, as seen from the top of the Merlion
The central event space at the Ferry Terminal
The axis begins upon arrival via ferry. An open floor plan on the central area of the ground floor meant that visitors could look through the building, down the axis towards the other side of Sentosa. However, this central space was constantly used for events, making the axis less visible. Visitors who choose not to take the monorail can walk through the building to the Fountain Gardens.
The Fountain Gardens, leading towards the Musical Fountain. Note that the Merlion was not built yet
The Fountain Gardens linked the Ferry Terminal building to the Musical Fountain, the key nighttime attraction of Sentosa. In the day, the Fountain Gardens was also the perfect photo-taking spot for visitors who wish to capture the iconic Ferry Terminal in the background.
View of the Ferry Terminal from the Fountain Gardens
From the Fountain Gardens, visitors could turn into the Fantasy Island or Cinemania on the left, or the Enchanted Grove of Tembusu on the right.
The Musical Fountain, with the Merlion and the colonnades in the background
The Musical Fountain was a key attraction of Sentosa that opened in 1982, after 10 years of construction. Throughout its 25 years of operation, five different shows were choreographed and presented. The shows were usually held in the evenings, although late afternoon shows without lighting effects were also held sometimes. Thus, for visitors not staying over on the island, the Musical Fountain show was usually the final attraction and the “climax” of their visit.
The plank seats at the Musical Fountain
It was likely that the Fountain Gardens was constructed to direct people towards the Musical Fountain, as it was located quite a distance away from the monorail stations. Thus, by 1987, the first half of the central axis was completed.
The Merlion, before and after the demolition of the monorail tracks
This 37m-tall Merlion is the largest among the Merlion statues recognised by the Singapore Tourism Board. Unlike its cousin at Merlion Park, this Merlion doesn’t actually “merlion” (spout water). Instead, its mouth is a viewing platform for visitors ascending the statue. Before the Sky Tower was completed, the Merlion statue was the main attraction to offer a bird’s eye, panoramic view of Sentosa.
When the Merlion was completed, it was incorporated into the Musical Fountain show, with laser beams shooting out of the Merlion’s eyes. Today, it remains as an imposing landmark of Sentosa.
The Merlion Walk
The Merlion Walk is Singapore’s very own miniature Park Guell, and connects the Merlion to the beach, completing the axis. This walkway features a series of pools and fountains covered with mosaic tiles. It is not known why Antoni Gaudi was chosen as a source of inspiration.
While we don’t have Gaudi’s salamander, we have our own set of mosaic animals
At the end of the walkway was an amphitheatre, but this was since replaced by a series of ramps leading down to the beach.
Today, the Merlion and the Merlion walk are the only two surviving features of the axis. The rest of it has been changed drastically, although the water element still remains. Smaller fountains mark the original path of the Fountain Gardens, while the old foundation of the Musical Fountain was used in the construction of the Lake of Dreams water feature within the Resorts World Sentosa.
The Lake of Dreams was born out of the structures of the old Musical Fountain
In the past, the axis marked out a clear intended path for visitors, starting from the Ferry Terminal and ending at the beach (the direction was, of course, reversed at night when visitors left the island). Today, however, the axis is no longer the main pedestrian mall for visitors, as the formal entrance of Sentosa has been offset to the Sentosa Boardwalk. The axis is now anchored by two sea-based performance locations on the two ends: the Crane Dance on the north, and the Songs of the Sea (now the Wings of Time) on the south. In other words, there is no clear starting point for the axis. In fact, the northern half of the axis is no longer visually apparent, as visitors are free to roam around RWS in all directions. The fountains that mark out the axis today were perhaps installed just as a formality, rather than to direct human flow.
Water fountains along the original Fountain Gardens
The water element continues to where the colonnades were
Furthermore, it is probably to Genting Singapore’s advantage to keep vistiors within the grounds of RWS, thus explaining the diminished prominence of the axis within RWS. While neoclassical colonnades (and subsequently the Merlion statue) were installed at the back of the old Musical Fountains to arouse visitors’ interest and attract them to venture beyond the Fountains, today’s RWS is visually cut off from the rest of Sentosa by the strategic locations of the hotel buildings.
The Merlion is barely visible from RWS
Perhaps the role of the axis is no longer relevant today, as the job of directing visitors from the main entrance to the beaches has since been taken over by the Sentosa Express, which runs almost parallel to it. With the bus network replacing the role of the rail network, and the new rail network replacing the role of the pedestrian network, we are now made to experience Sentosa in a very different manner.
File Last Updated: August 20, 2015