AR Awards for Emerging

Honourable mention




December 2006
In societies perceived to be super modern, conservation may not seem to have been a particular priority in the past. Recent Colonial relics, however, are now being conserved, and as such retained facades are becoming increasingly common components of new developments in Singapore. While there is a recognition that the city should be intensified with denser massing and more vibrant mixes of use, architects are increasingly asked to create hybrid compositions that merge traditional and contemporary forms. As an example of this condition, WOHA's sophisticated mixed-use development impressed the judges with its head on clarity, which arranges a range of uses, scales and materials with highly accomplished finesse. As such it deserves detailed scrutiny in both plan and section.
The retained facade was propped during construction to contain three levels of reconfigured space. Toward the rear of the site, within a pre-determined controlled volume, these spaces extend across the plot from street to street and rise to six storeys. Taking the traditional shophouse type as its inspiration, the new building arranges different functions one above the next. On the ground floor are four self-contained units, providing space for two restaurants and two shops, while the first floor is divided into six office suites, two of which extend right across the deep plan; above this are four levels of apartments.
On the second floor, where the front and rear blocks remain conjoined, the plan incorporates a reinterpretation of the traditional shophouse lightwell in the form of 18 pocket courtyards that separate front from back. These tiny external spaces are configured in a zip-like configuration, with each adjacent courtyard alternating in orientation. As such each of the 10 second-floor apartments has access to its own external private space, bringing light to the back of the plan and maintaining capacity for cross ventilation. Courtyards four, six, 13 and 15 also serve to ventilate shared lobbies.
As the rear block extends higher, the third and fourth floors provide eight two-bed dual aspect apartments, while the fifth retreats within the pitch of the roof to contain two penthouses, with roof terraces that provide spectacular city views.
The architects have taken this commercial development far beyond the merit of mere competence. By working with, rather than against, pre-existing urban conditions and conservation restrictions, the architects have succeeded in creating a new type in its own right: a strong urban form, with a dense cross-sectional organisation. R. G.

WOHA Architects, Singapore
Patrick Bingham-Hall, 1
Albert Lim, 2
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