In the Chinese zodiac, there is a wood horse, a fire horse, and horses for earth, metal and water, but there is no flower horse—at least not until the 2014 Rose Parade, when Singpoli and Paradiso Parade Floats brought two flying steeds down Colorado Blvd.
Singpoli is a Pasadena-based corporation that began as a construction company and now includes architecture, design, development, investment, construction, brokerage, asset management and finance with a focus on transpacific business. Their commitment to connecting Asian and American cultures is reflected in the theme chosen for their first Rose Parade float, “Connecting Cultures, Delivering Dreams.”
The 2014 entry, designed by Charles Meier, won the Extraordinaire Trophy for Most Spectacular Float (Including Floats That Do Not Retract To 55'). It depicted two Tianma, legendary winged celestial horses of China, taking flight from the deck of the float.
“Singpoli was about to move forward with a completely different design,” Meier told us. About a day before the design was to be presented to the Tournament of Roses for approval, “they called and said they wanted to change but didn’t know what they wanted.” Meier suggested Tianma and they snapped it up.
“They liked it for two reasons: 2014 is the year of the horse, and Singpoli is committed to connections between the East and West, being a link in the real estate industry between Asia and North America,” Meier said. “They liked that in Tianma, Westerners could see Pegasus.”
The wings, spanning 22 feet, were animated to simulate flying. Paradiso obtained a variance from the Tournament to allow them to go beyond the regulation 18 feet maximum. The Tianma’s snowy coats were realized in coconut flakes and dendrobium orchid florets.
According to legend, Tianma were the swiftest and most beautiful of horses. They became the favorite mounts of the emperor and the Chinese court, and are especially associated with the Han Dynasty and Emperor Han Wudi.
Also present on the float were a cluster of red and gold buildings, created with carnations and strawflowers and a 31-foot-high central white pagoda surrounded by doves on the wing, with Chinese cranes for longevity and lotus blossoms for purity and perfection nestled in the lush garden.
Flowering included tens of thousands of scarlet roses, sprays of hundreds of anthurium, ginger, protea, calathea and heliconia, and orchids (dendrobium, cattleya, mokara, phalaenopsis, vanda) cascading from flowering trees.
“Singpoli knew off the bat it wanted something gorgeous,” Meier said. “It’s a wonderful way for Singpoli to introduce itself not only to the United States, but to the world.”
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