You are here
Out of the box
APART from the signboard, there is nothing about Mahabodhi Monastery that resembles a Buddhist temple. No ornamental red roof or gold leaf-covered walls - just onyx tiles set against concrete walls. If anything, the monastery in Lorong Kilat looks more like an art museum.
The original monastery was built in 1963. The late Abbot, Grand Master Song Nian wanted to rebuild it, but passed away in 1997 before he could do so. The job then landed on Venerable Guo Jun who now heads the monastery.
Ven Guo Jun had a clear idea of how the monastery should look, and doesn't agree with comments that it now looks modern. "It is contemporary, and keeping with the times."
The S$16 million monastery, funded by public donations, was designed by Yap Mong Lin, founder of Multiply Architects. The design process took three years to refine, construction took two years, and the monastery finally reopened last July.
The untrained eye is immediately attracted to the stunning design, but look closely and there lots of Buddhist and Chinese elements built into it.
The facade of the building is inspired by the square patch patterns on a monastic robe. In the day, light passes through the translucent onyx tiles, and at night, they are illuminated, turning the monastery into a glowing lantern. The glow is a welcoming beacon to the community, in line with the Monastery's goal of establishing itself as a spiritual community centre. Ven Guo Jun admits he is a stickler for details, and together with Ms Yap, they personally selected each tile. "The grains in each tile had to be right," he says.
The five elements that make up the universe - metal, wood, water, fire and earth, have also been subtly worked into the design of the monastery. On the second floor, wood features largely on the floor and furniture, while fire is depicted in the choice of a red feature wall and red silk panels on the third floor.
The Monastery even has a rooftop garden, which attracts butterflies, and a mini waterfall inside it. In the basement are the abbot's quarters and a carpark. Ms Yap says the gross floor area for the old and new monastery are the same, but with better planning, the monastery can now welcome more people. Ms Yap, a Buddhist, says that her understanding of the religion is now deeper since taking on this project.
Ven Guo Jun says that when the plans for a contemporary monastery were first presented, "the younger followers liked it". But he faced resistance from the more conservative followers. "But we need to move ahead rather than be stuck in the past," he says.
The Monastery also welcomes non-followers, and has naturally attracted visitors who are curious about the building.
Asked if he thinks other monasteries or temples may follow suit with a contemporary design, Ven Guo Jun says: "Hopefully this will encourage them to be more forward thinking."
IN a conventional art gallery, the building it's in tends to be permanent, while it's the art on its walls that changes now and then. DECK, on the other hand, is an art space that can literally be pulled apart and transported to another place.
Located at 120A Prinsep Street, DECK is made entirely of refurbished containers - 19 of them to be exact, because of its very short lease. Says a spokesman for DECK's designer, LAUD Architects: "The lease of the land is just two years, so the building had to be quickly assembled in one arrangement and reassembled in another form to suit another site."
The architects were also working on a tight budget, and a short construction window. DECK is founded by 2902 Gallery, and its construction was fully funded by crowd sourcing. From the onset, LAUD decided that the construction process had to have a low carbon footprint, with minimal impact on the land, and as short a building time as possible.
"We developed the design based on the idea of turning shipping containers into 'containers for photographic art'," says its spokesman.
Gwen Lee, director and co-founder of 2902 says: "DECK is an independent art space with the mission to support and nurture the community of photography enthusiasts in Singapore and South-east Asia."
This modular site acts as a connector between art institutions - a platform for people to celebrate photography in city. The founders want to spread the idea that photography is for everybody, so professionals and amateurs are welcome to come together, mingle and be inspired.
DECK's first event was hosting the 4th edition of the biennial Singapore Photography International Festival (SIPF) last year, which was also founded by 2902. Since then, it has hosted other photography exhibitions including a current one by world-renowned Chinese photographer Lu Guang.
The way that the containers are stacked creates an intimate space on the compound, with ample room for outdoor activities. The party wall does double duty as a projection screen while visitors can mingle on an open terrace overlooking the compound. The building is intentionally set back from the site boundary on all sides, so people passing by can easily venture into the forecourt to walk around and explore.
Featuring two galleries, a resource library, activity space, artist studio and cafe, DECK is all about using creativity to overcome land scarcity in Singapore. "DECK is a timely addition and unique contribution to the fast-developing art gallery scene in Singapore," says LAUD Architects.
SkyTerrace @ Dawson
CALL it public housing that will totally change your mind about public housing. That's because SkyTerrace @ Dawson is designed by SCDA Architects - headed by golden boy of Singapore architecture Chan Soo Khian, whose name is associated more with luxury villas than the humble HDB flat.
Mr Chan was commissioned by HDB in 2008 to explore new possibilities in public housing design in Singapore. SCDA's response to this brief, then, was to come up with a design that embodies three key ideas: housing in a park, connectivity to surroundings and multi-generational living.
He then designed the precinct to have five residential 40 and 43 storey towers and a 4-storey linear car-park podium.
The residential blocks and carpark are connected by sky-bridges on every level - which means residents can carry their groceries from their car to their apartments under complete cover from rain and scorching sun. Mr Chan made his name in Singapore with numerous residential projects as well as condominiums such as The Marq at Paterson Road. He has built villas in Bali and he is also creating a buzz in New York with three apartment projects including Soori High Line. The New York Post recently named him as one of the 20 biggest power players in New York City real estate.
Unlike most HDB blocks which come in colourful facades, SkyTerrace @ Dawson is painted in black and grey with white outlines for each unit, which help to highlight the development's unique flat configurations.
Some of the flats are known as "paired units" - where a four- or five- room flat is connected to a studio apartment via stairs and an internal door. There are 65 such paired units, while the rest are three- to five-room flats.
SkyTerrace @ Dawson doesn't just stand out for its architectural design but for its attempt to seamlessly connect with the surrounding greenery. The project is bounded on the north by Margaret Drive which will be converted into an ecological corridor. The development is also along the Alexandra Canal Linear Park.
The green concept is further enhanced with lush landscaping on the ground that continues up the building facades in the form of green terracing, roof gardens and sky terraces that span between the towers.
Residents at SkyTerrace @ Dawson won't be able to say that they don't know their neighbours. All manner of active and passive recreational spaces have been incorporated into the design to maximise chances of people bumping into each other and encourage greater communal interaction. The fact that the facilities are built in a park-like setting means that even the most anti-social residents won't be able to resist enjoying their own Botanic Gardens right at their doorstep, and make friends in the process.
Ministry of Design
SAY 'office building' and most people will immediately associate it with typical glass-cladded structure. But not the folks at Ministry of Design (MOD) who had different ideas for 100 PP, an office building in Pasir Panjang.
Located in a light industrial area, 100PP exploits its sea-front view with a series of "stepped" balconies across the different floor levels. The balconies make the building look as if it's shifting away from the busy elevated highway in front of it.
The building was also shifted laterally to create a sense of depth with a series of dynamic blocks stacked one above the other rather than a static singular block. It also gives the building a unique profile against the skyline.
Rather than a plain exterior, the facade here comprises a number of different elements which the team bound together aesthetically: primarily the windows, balconies and air-conditioning ledges.
"We have intentionally blurred the definition of each element by layering a series of horizontal stripes throughout the facade," says Colin Seah, founder of MOD. The stripes generate visual movement horizontally across the building and also emphasize the shifting and stacked nature of the different volumes.
A palette of grey is employed to generate the variety of tones required for the horizontal banding. This horizontal striping is also applied consistently to the landscape and hardscape elements surrounding the building.
Inside the building, the bold use of feature lighting, materials and environmental graphics across the different floors, gives the space an industrial aesthetic look. There is also a roof top garden space overlooking the sea.
Even the building name as a cool ring to it. An abbreviation of its address 100 Pasir Panjang, the name 100PP is both informative and evocative of an energetic and contemporary environment. Symbolically, the number 100 alludes to perfection and completeness, says Mr Seah.
He adds: "100PP blurs the boundaries between predictable commercial space and gritty industrial space, creating instead a hybrid space, which offers an exciting alternative for the creative workplace."
WITH colourful fins on its façade, you can spot Connexion, the mixed-use complex at Farrer Park, virtually a mile away. Not to mention how huge the place is - comprising the five-star urban resort One Farrer Hotel and Spa, One Farrer Conference Centre, Farrer Park Hospital, Farrer Park Medical Centre and Owen Link, a retail and dining zone.
Tai Chooi Mee, the associate director of DP Architects who headed the design team, says the concept of the building centres around 'connectivity'', in both the internal amalgamation of various functions, and in its external response to its immediate surroundings.
"It started from a concept sketch of two simple lines, giving the building its shape while expressing the concept of 'connection'," says Ms Tai.
Given its location between the older heritage shophouses of Little India and newer urban residential developments beyond Race Course Road, the building is designed to instinctively link these two distinct urban fabrics.
The lower podium corresponds to the low-rise, dense shophouses while the slender tower that rises above the podium is harmonious with high-rise developments.
"We also paid attention to the historically rich Farrer Park district it is located in," says Ms Tai.
"For instance, the colourful sun-shading screens allude to the colour and vibrancy found in the neighbourhood."
The hospitality and healthcare sections function separately, each with its own highly specific operational needs. Yet the essence of the design is to allow for these two components to co-exist, while each retains its own unique identity.
This is expressed through thoughtful application of interior space concepts and design, to distinguish between the positioning of the hotel and the healthcare facilities.
From the first storey, there are distinctive entrances and drop-off points for the healthcare and hotel, separate lift lobbies and individual access for all the car park floors.
Mike Lim, director of DP Design which handled the interiors says: "The different approaches to interior design helps to convey to the visitor clearly which part of the building they are in."
One Farrer Hotel and Spa encompasses three hotels under a single hospitality umbrella: the Urban Hotel, Loft Apartments and Skyline Hotel & Sky Villas, as part of a strategic 'hotels within a hotel' to offer a differentiated range of five-star accommodation with 243 rooms, suites and villas in all. The challenge was to express the characteristic personalities of each hotel with a unique yet coherent, complementary design language. The Urban Hotel caters to business travellers and families with its comfortable contemporary style, while the Loft Apartments are conceptualised as 'walk up apartments'. The Skyline Hotel & Sky Villas aims to be 'a total environment' for in-house residents, spanning the entire city block with great views from its three levels.
The healthcare components consist of a complete specialist full service hospital and 189 medical clinics.
"Being a beacon in the Farrer Park district, Connexion is fast gaining recognition for its iconic design and as Asia's first integrated lifestyle hub," says Dr Richard Helfer, chairman of One Farrer.
DID the team at eco.id Architects look to the heavens for inspiration when it came to retrofitting the Catholic Centre at Waterloo Street?
Maybe not that high up. "We looked at the nature and character of the Catholic Church. Hymns and songs are expressions of joy for the community and we wanted to inject that spirit into the design of the building," says a spokesman.
"Having the organ pipe and Gregorian chant inspirations reflected in the aluminium tubes and undulating facade screen was a subtle approach to characterise the building resonates with the Church," he says.
The design intent of the Catholic community centre building is to give it a new architectural presence that is iconic and representative of its function as the Catholic Hub in the city. The façade design is a screen of tubes, inspired by pipe organs and wind chimes. The undulating lines are inspired by the score of the pentatonic scale that the Gregorian chant is based. As the long facade faces the sun in the west, the aluminium tubes act as an effective screening element.
The existing building structural shell was retained to meet the client's budget.
A new architectural building facade is created to unify all the different organisations under one roof. This intention seemed fitting for the project as the new facade symbolises a new identity as the Catholic Hub in the city. With the vision to create a true community centre, the design brief was formed and it required an integrated workplace for nine organisations, one storey dedicated to Apolstolic Nunciature consisting of consulate office and residential use, a café on the first floor as social space for public engagement, two storeys of multi-purpose function halls for training and seminar, and a library that is open to public.
The Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore is clearly happy with the results. "This project was very good value for their money. Eco.id was given a tight budget for the retrofit. The outcome of the building with aluminium tubes was not only unique and stunning, but more affordable than the initial proposal of a glass facade," says a spokesman.