Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore, may have been well known for his paternalistic and sometimes uncompromising leadership style, but he had a lesser known role: chief gardener.
That's because Lee, who was prime minister from 1959-1990, was the architect behind the city-state's plan to become a garden city.
He introduced that idea in 1967 when he was prime minister. Its elements included roadside greenery, featured most prominently along the East Coast Parkway (ECP) highway, which connects the city-state's international airport to the city center, with colorful bursts of tropical flowering shrubs and imperiously-tall trees.
The Garden City vision included the creation of national and community parks and initiatives for tree-planting.
The effort began after Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965, leaving the small city-state, which lacks natural resources, searching for direction.
At "The Enduring Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew" panel discussion held last week to mark the one-year anniversary of Lee's death, Chan Heng Chee, chairman of Lee Kuan Yew Center for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, cited that as a defining moment for the Garden City vision.