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DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE
LOUVRE ABU DHABI ATELIERS JEAN NOUVEL
S I N G A P O R E
M A L A Y S I A
R M 1 8
TIMOTHY OULTON STUDIO
ROSEWOOD PHNOM PENH BAR STUDIO
EAVES HOUSE FORMWERKZ ARCHITECTS
BACK TO THE FUTURE FOSTER + PARTNERS UPDATING HONG KONG’S VINTAGE ICONS
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/ WORDS NICOLE CHAN
TIME TO SHOP A range of new stores have opened, offering countless ideas for every design project
mc2 A new curtains and blinds gallery has opened in Singapore. Spanning 4,200ft2, mc2 is promising to change the shopping experience for this home furnishing. In addition to the largest showcase of premium blinds from Hunter Douglas, it also carries ALTEXSecureZIP blinds which are designed and manufactured in Singapore. ALTEX’s SecureZip is specially designed for balconies and patios, which means it protects your home from tropical storms and the scorching equatorial heat. In addition, it gives total privacy and converts the area into extra indoor space. Look out too for Toso, Japan’s premium blinds brand that was established in 1949. mc2 displays the latest collections and offers you the chance to explore its wide range of motorised curtain tracks, venetian blinds, roman shades and more.
After a hiatus of seven years, the newly refurbished BoConcept Malaysia has reopened its showroom. With furniture and storage styles ranging from eclectic and minimalist to cultured and exuberant, there is something for every taste and preference. Check out its new Rome Outdoor Living Collection with lounge sofa and matching coffee tables. Designer Henrik Pedersen has created a range steeped in elegance and simplicity. Sink into its taut and voluminous seat cushions and you’ll never want to get up again.
The Stellar Works Collection is a perfect mix of comfort and luxury, highlighted through their range of lounge chairs, barstools and other furniture. Committed to craftsmanship, it makes use of old-world and luxurious textures to complement Asian aesthetic.
In collaboration with Singapore Design Week and renowned Asian brand Stellar Works, furniture retailer P5 Studio has launched its new 4,000ft2 brick-and-mortar studio. On display is a wide, carefully-curated collection of home design products by global design practices such as Yabu Pushelberg and Neri&Hu. But look out too for three main collections that will contribute to any abode’s aesthetic.
The Blink Collection showcases elegant yet whimsical pieces. Its minimalist manner ensures that its furniture will fit into interiors or exteriors of any style.
The Wohlert Collection features modern pieces such as the Piano Chair and the Antler Chair from the 1950s. Revitalised for today, they are a nod to the Danish designer’s less-is-more ethos.
Grohe SPA Grohe has opened a two-level showroom along Scotts Road in Singapore. Inside, expect to find the latest technologies and products that will change the way you use your kitchen and bathroom. Do not miss DreamSpray technology in their ‘live’ water area, and Minta Touch in the ‘live’ kitchen. The former is found at the heart of every Grohe shower, ensuring equal water distribution through the individual nozzles and your spray pattern of choice at the click of a button. The latter is a design where the sink’s tap can be controlled with just your arm. In addition, the store has adapted and made use of technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)to enhance the consumer’s shopping experience. View and experience your choices in real-time using the VR headset. At the same time, RFID allows you to get information about each product immediately via your mobile device. 25
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/ PHOTOGRAPHY HARBOUR CITY AND CATCHON & CO. / IMAGES FOSTER + PARTNERS
/ WORDS REBECCA LO
BACK TO THE FUTURE A pair of vintage Hong Kong icons has been injected with 21st century updates by Foster + Partners to engage the community
he city of Hong Kong has no shortage of architectural gems. So when there is a need to tinker with some of them, the challenge is significant, to say the least. In the past six months, two modern classic icons have been reinvigorated for the 21st century – both courtesy of Foster + Partners. In November 2017, Ocean Terminal Extension was unveiled as a new section to the shopping mall of the same name. Two months later, the former Murray Building softopened as The Murray hotel. One could say it was time for a refresh. Both buildings date back to the 1960s, which were exciting times for Hong Kong. The city was quickly transforming from a colonial backwater into a thriving metropolis. Along with intermittent population swells as mainland Chinese made their way across the border, the city was becoming a popular destination for tourists eager to savour its unique east-meetswest attractions. The Wharf Holdings, established in 1886 by Sir Paul Chater (originally as The Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company), already had a stronghold on the urban area of south Kowloon, operating dockside warehouses before diversifying into properties and telecommunications. With the numerous visitors disembarking at the district of Tsim Sha Tsui, Wharf Holdings felt it had to 27
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Luke Fox, head of studio and senior executive partner with Foster + Partners
develop a property there too. It commissioned the city’s first and largest contemporary shopping mall, Ocean Terminal, designed by Eric Cumine Associates and unveiled in 1966. Meanwhile, on the other side of Victoria Harbour, English architect and civil servant Ron Phillips designed a contemporary office tower that was the tallest government building when it opened in 1969. Murray Building’s 45-degree angled windows won awards for sustainable solar shading. Its modern, unmistakable arches on the ground level gave the structure an elegant lightness, making it an immediate landmark on Cotton Tree Drive. Fast forward half a century, and these two modern classics have been updated. Ocean Terminal Extension, at the end of Ocean Terminal, is a multipurpose venue featuring several terraces intended for free public enjoyment. Murray Building was decommissioned
in 2011 after the opening of the Central Government Complex at Tamar, and sold to Wharf Holdings via public tender. The developer then had the office tower converted into The Murray, its Niccolo Hotel brand’s flagship property. Soft launched in December 2017, The Murray’s signature rooftop restaurant and bar Poinjay and Chinese restaurant Guo Fu Lou will open later this year.
SEAMLESS CONNECTION Lo Wing Cheung, former assistant architect with Eric Cumine Associates, recalls that Ocean Terminal opened at the right time for Hong Kong. “The area was where transatlantic ocean liners and eventually cruise ships would dock,” Lo remembers. “Star Ferry had long been there. Wharf Holdings wanted to capture tourists in town and built a pier to accommodate the increasingly larger ships. Cumine and Wharf
Holdings were in discussions for over a year on where to best site and orientate the terminal. “The structure is primarily a pier, with a shopping mall built on top. It was purposely designed without any windows and intentionally inward-facing like a casino, for people to spend time indoors shopping and dining. “The building had to accommodate ocean liner passengers via water access, as well as provide vehicular and pedestrian access, all within a very tight plot and all with separate, well-signed exits. No expense was spared on its fit out – Ocean Terminal had to set a standard. State-of-the art technology and materials such as stone were used.” Mindful of the history of the building, Luke Fox, head of studio and senior executive
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The profile of westfacing Ocean Terminal Extension in Tsim Sha Tsui is defined by wrap-around terraces fitted with glass balustrades. The bottom level of Ocean Terminal Extension is reserved for cruise liners, serving as a passenger terminal for travellers from around the world.
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An open-air, timberclad, stepped viewing deck leading from the fourth to fifth level allows the public to enjoy sunset and view of Lantau Island on clear days.
Japanese restaurant Ana Ten is a level three F&B tenant in Ocean Terminal Extension and features generous al fresco terrace seating.
OCEAN TERMINAL EXTENSION LOCATION COMPLETION DATE AREA NUMBER OF FLOORS CLIENT/OWNER ARCHITECTURE FIRM COLLABORATING ARCHITECT STRUCTURAL ENGINEER MECHANICAL & ELECTRICAL ENGINEER QUANTITY SURVEYOR FAÇADE CONSULTANT INTERIOR DESIGNER EXTERNAL LIGHTING DESIGNER INTERNAL LIGHTING DESIGNER LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT TRAFFIC CONSULTANT ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT
TSIM SHA TSUI, HONG KONG 2017 AROUND 100,000 SQUARE FEET 5 HARBOUR CITY ESTATES LIMITED FOSTER + PARTNERS RONALD LU & PARTNERS OVE ARUP & PARTNERS HONG KONG LIMITED J ROGER PRESTON LIMITED RIDER LEVETT BUCKNALL INHABITS LIVING ENGINEERING ARK ASSOCIATED LIMITED RC ATELIER LTD SPECTRUM DESIGN AND ASSOCIATES (ASIA) LWK LANDSCAPE MVA HONG KONG LIMITED RAMBOLL ENVIRON HONG KONG LIMITED
Located on the second level, Peking duck restaurant Xihe Ya Yuan’s dark timber flooring contrasts with floor-to-ceiling glass leading to a terrace and Victoria Harbour beyond.
Situated in Central, The Murray’s majestic four-storey-high arches partially conceals the car ramp. One of Hong Kong’s treasured Old and Valuable Trees grace the porte-cochère.
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/ WORDS LUO JINGMEI
SPARKING COLLISIONS Private members’ club 1880 is a case study on how to seamlessly integrate a multitude of functions to become a conduit for connections and conversations.
ith its multifarious dazzling elements and juxtaposition of industrial and lush materials, 1880 could easily be mistaken as a hip music club. In fact, it is somewhat that, but so much more. One of Singapore’s newest private members’ clubs, 1880 is named after the decade that Robertson Quay was established, 36
and where it is also located, and designed to spark conversation at every turn. Facilitating this was boutique designer Timothy Oulton Studio, which created a concept that has given the club a distinct identity and invites human interaction throughout the 22,000ft2 area. “We wanted to ensure that there were both places to be seen and intimate corners
Intricate details such as a facade of teapots clad the base of the bar counter at the Members’ Lounge.
/ PHOTOGRAPHY 1880
to hide away in; it is about making people feel comfortable in the club, but also special, that they belong to a space like no other,” says the Studio’s eponymous owner. This is not without reason. Entrepreneur Marc Nicholson, who founded the club, wants to bring together a diverse community of members who connect not with their financial status or ancestry, but with their creativity, care for society and entrepreneurial spirit. With Oulton’s help, 1880 is the platform where all that takes place. “WE WANTED TO ENSURE THAT THERE WERE BOTH PLACES TO BE SEEN AND INTIMATE CORNERS TO HIDE AWAY IN; IT IS ABOUT MAKING PEOPLE FEEL COMFORTABLE IN THE CLUB, BUT ALSO SPECIAL, THAT THEY BELONG TO A SPACE LIKE NO OTHER.” The abundant use of authentic, natural materials such as marble and reclaimed timber provide the textural base, guided by the concept of collisions that is found in elements melding old and new, east and west, darkness and light. “The whole club is infused with contrasts. This reflects the founder’s intention to upend the traditional old style members’ club and
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A metallic screen reflects light and also filters light into Leonie’s, the all-daydining restaurant
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create somewhere that would ‘encourage collisions’ – unlikely connections, unplanned conversations,” Oulton elaborates. “Everything has been designed to activate and energise the senses at every turn…we wanted to create an experience that felt as though you were being transported into the world of 1880…like Alice in the Looking Glass.” The results are spectacular – physically and emotionally. A complex list of functional requirements is glossed with curious, engaging spatial encounters that make you want to turn to the person next to you and go “did you notice…”. The first of such is the main entrance: a fantastical tunnel containing the escalators from the second storey up into the club. Mirrored triangles reflecting light create a kaleidoscopic experience. 38
From here, members enter The Gallery – a corridor connecting all the other spaces lined with the steady rhythm of timber strips. Underfoot is a carpet of geometric marble flooring and overhead, the shimmer of brass cladding reflects light from 13 hooped, iron chandeliers. Anchoring this long space is a 1.5-tonne, 2.5-million-year-old rose quartz crystal from Madagascar, functioning as a reception table that radiates a calm energy. A six-metre-long sinewy sofa clad in brown leather breaks the linearity of the corridor and invites pause, while a Cabinet of Curiosities housing antique collectibles such as archaeological artefacts from Oulton’s private collection provides a domestic touch for the home away from home for global nomads. Parallel to the The Gallery is The Double. Marked by rotating leather banquettes facing the lobby in the day and turned inwards at night, the casual café transforms into a bar
The domed ceiling and design details of the wine cellar provide drama.
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Timber, brass, marble and leather make for a masculine palette in The Double and The Gallery, a parallel space.
At The Double, banquette seating facing the corridor can be used for holding conversations or solo work.
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/ WORDS PRAISE POH
PIECING OF A JIGSAW
The second phase of Saigon Centre in Ho Chi Minh City is unveiled to be sensitive to the fabric of its surroundings.
/ PHOTOGRAPHY KEPPEL LAND
he skyline of Ho Chi Minh City has
a new addition. Known as Saigon Centre Tower Two, it is the fourth tallest building, with a soaring height of 193.7m. The skyscraper was finished in 2017, some 11 years after Tower One was completed. Attached to it is a seven-storey retail podium. Internationally renowned New Yorkbased architecture firm NBBJ is responsible for this second phase of Saigon Centre, which itself is developed by Keppel Land and is the Singaporean company’s first commercial project in the city. Looking at the entire two-hectare development, it is surprising to learn that Tower One was designed by a different firm – Melbourne-based Denton Corker Marshall. Timothy Johnson, FAIA, a partner at NBBJ, explains that since the concept for Phase One was “fairly neutral”, it provided him and his team the freedom to creatively design Phase Two around it. “The idea from the beginning was to integrate the [existing] podium and replace its cladding so that both Phase One and Two would looked contiguous. We also proposed recladding Tower One [though that has yet to take place],” he shares.
HEART OF THE CITY This unity is important especially when it is revealed that Saigon Centre is located in District 1, the most central and expensive urban area in Ho Chi Minh City. 45
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The mixed-used development stands as a testament to the city’s growing influence and appeal to a global audience, as evinced from the rapid real estate development it is currently undergoing. Besides the construction of a new metro system, a dramatic number of highrise buildings are also being built to cater to the increasing demand for office, retail and hotel space. Completed in 1996, the mixed-use Tower One comprises a three-storey retail podium,
11 floors of Grade-A office space, and 89 luxury serviced apartments. With a towering height of 106m, the sleek, modern glass skyscraper was formerly the tallest building in Vietnam, and has since established itself as the preferred shopping destination, and business and residential address for prestigious clients. In a way, the first phase of Saigon Centre marked the start of high-rise structural development in Ho Chi Minh City, and paved the way for taller, more contemporary skyscrapers in the area. Naturally, following the success of Phase One, Phase Two was unveiled in a groundbreaking ceremony in November 2011 and was completed late last year. It comprises a 55,000m2 podium, and a 42-storey glass-clad Tower Two that offers 44,000m2 of Grade A office space, and 195 luxury serviced apartments.
Saigon Centre is Keppel Land’s first commercial project in the city.
The glass facade of the retail podium reflects the surroundings by day, and reveals its interiors by night, forming a strong connection to the city.
SEAMLESS BLEND OF NEW AND OLD With more and more high-rise buildings punctuating the skyline of Ho Chi Minh City, the need to achieve a delicate balance of juxtaposing modern-day skyscrapers beside Vietnam’s plethora of wonderful Frenchcolonial buildings and oriental structures becomes an interesting challenge. Inspired by the diversity and vibrancy of 47
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/ WORDS LOW SHI PING
ARABIAN FRAME OF MIND The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a museum that draws inspiration from its location in the Middle East.
f you are hoping to see elements of the Parisian Louvre in its sister property in Abu Dhabi, you will be sorely disappointed. Indeed, there are neither Renaissance or Baroque elements, nor are there glass pyramids. Rather – and fortunately – the Louvre Abu Dhabi has a distinctive identity of its own. Contemporary in style and evoking a strong sense of place closely tied to its home in the capital of the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East, the museum is designed by Pritzker prize winner Jean Nouvel. It opened in November 2017 and has since become a must-stop on the itinerary of every visitor to the city. Yet, it does not alienate the residents of Abu Dhabi either. This “sanctuary for the most precious works of art”, as described by Nouvel, is bordered by promenades to parade along, connecting it to the sea and city. Gardens too line the way, framing bookstores and eateries for public consumption. “Its architecture makes it a place of convergence and correlation between the immense sky, the sea-horizon and the territory of the desert,” says the Frenchman. 53
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2 But there is also convergence with local culture and identity, most apparent first in the massive dome that covers the complex; and second, the collage of 55 individual buildings under the cupola that make up the museum and mimic an Arabian medina. WHETHER SUN OR MOONLIGHT, THEY EACH SHINE THROUGH THE DOME ONTO THE PLAZA BENEATH, CREATING A “RAIN OF LIGHT” EFFECT. Nouvel sums it up succinctly in his architectural statement, “It wishes to belong to a country, to its history, to its geography without becoming a flat translation, the pleonasm that results in boredom and convention.” The dome is the most noticeable feature of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, rising up to 40m at its highest point. 180m in diameter, it is composed of 7,850 stars distributed across eight layers of cladding. Four columns hold up
this structure, situated 110m apart from each other. This is necessary since it weighs 7,500 tonnes – almost as heavy as the Eiffel Tower. From the top, it resembles an intricate lace motif, the result of a highly studied geometric design. This pattern is replicated in different sizes and angles in the eight layers. Whether sun or moonlight, they each shine through the dome onto the plaza beneath, creating a “rain of light” effect. The inspiration: the leaves of the palm trees of Abu Dhabi. “It wishes to create a welcoming world serenely combining light and shadow, reflection and calm,” says Nouvel. Beneath the dome sprawls an Arabian “city”, an archipelago of low-lying, angular and connected buildings in the sea, of which 26 are the galleries. Their facades are comprised of 3,900 panels of ultra-high-performance fibre concrete. Traditional design perfectly marries modern construction techniques. The galleries of the museum are specially designed by Nouvel too. Cavernous rooms
A visit to the museum concludes with the visitor emerging onto a plaza beneath the dome, where its intricacies can be admired.
55 individual buildings like these ones make up the museum.
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comfortably accommodate artworks of varying sizes. The flooring is paved with stone modules framed in bronze. The types of stone used correspond to the period of the items on display. On the walls, a special system allows for ease of artwork rotation. Any extra equipment is easily concealed within special slots in the wall.Â The display cases are constructed by glass engineers Meyvaert from Ghent, Belgium. State-of-the-art materials were used in their design to allow for a quick change in the pieces. Through the clever use of glass on lateral windows and the ceiling, and zenithal lighting, 56
filtered day light is achieved in the galleries. Nouvel has mirrors capture the sunlight and reflect it into the spaces, so the artworks can be admired under the most natural of conditions. As befitting the environmental requirements of a museum, a system was developed by the design team to prevent the temperature from deviating by more than one degree from the 21 deg C or five percent humidity range. This ensures the artworks and visitors have a stable state to exist in. Other environmentally-friendly features include the dome itself, which shields the
Aerial view of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
An Arabian â&#x20AC;&#x153;cityâ&#x20AC;? of low-lying, angular and connected buildings on the sea.
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/ WORDS SASHA GONZALES
CLASSIC MEETS CONTEMPORARY The new Rosewood Phnom Penh acknowledges the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s growing outlook as a modern metropolis, while embracing its traditional character and colonial heritage.
ake your way around the new Rosewood Phnom Penh, in the heart of the Cambodian capital’s business district, and the first thing that strikes you is how it effortlessly combines elements of past and present.
CREATING [A] SENSE OF PLACE BY DRAWING FROM PHNOM PENH’S HERITAGE WAS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO REINTERPRET THE DESTINATION THROUGH THE CONTEMPORARY LENS OF A GLOBAL TRAVELLER. From its art pieces to its fabric panels and even its carpeting, the luxury hotel draws together threads of history, nature and culture in a design that sits at the nexus of international and local, contemporary and traditional.
INSPIRATION: “PROUDLY LOCAL” Stewart Robertson, designer and director of the Melbourne-based design company BAR Studio, oversaw the Rosewood Phnom
Penh project. His aim was to embrace the essence and character of Phnom Penh, while acknowledging its outlook as a modern metropolis. To get a sense of the history of the place, Robertson and his team explored the city and spent time in the National Museum of Cambodia. They then envisioned a space that sits at the meeting point of colonial heritage and the urban present. The design blend of past and present was subtly incorporated throughout all the interiors of the project. “The inspiration was proudly local,” says Robertson. “This is best observed in some of the art pieces, like the ancient Cambodian animal gods and temple guardians that have been recreated as modern sculptures, and the art pieces whose classic timber carving frames have been reinterpreted for the 21st century.” Other decorative elements take a cue from Cambodian craft. For instance, the fabric panels were inspired by the country’s centuries-old ikat method of textile patterning. The custom carpet also references traditional 71
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The sculptures, which were recreated for the 21st century, draw inspiration from ancient Cambodian animal gods and temple guardians.
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Natural and traditional materials are a common feature throughout the property.
The interior captures the essence of the country with a blend of Khmer architectural aspects, the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s French colonial heritage and Cambodian craft techniques.
ikat dyeing, and local artisanal prints feature as art pieces.
Stewart Robertson, designer and director of the Melbourne-based design company BAR Studio.
DESIGN HIGHLIGHTS The Rosewood Phnom Penh is located in the iconic 39-storey Vattanac Capital Tower, the city’s first true skyscraper. Robertson’s brief from Rosewood Hotels & Resorts was to create a distinct experience within the building. “We were tasked with creating an urban sanctuary, a calming oasis and a retreat from city life,” he explains. “We really thought about the guest experience and how the guests
would feel in each of the spaces, based on our philosophy of evoking residential-style comfort, while still providing a sense of where you are. “Creating this sense of place by drawing from Phnom Penh’s heritage was the perfect opportunity for us to reinterpret the destination through the contemporary lens of a global traveller.” In setting the tone of an urban sanctuary, Robertson looked at creating a unique arrival experience to soften the transition from the bustling city. Upon entering the property, guests are guided through a series of rammed-earth 73
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/ WORDS LUO JINGMEI
This house by Formwerkz Architects demonstrates how a simple architectural idea that has endured through the ages is more than relevant in the design of a modern home.
rom the main gate, all that is visible of this house is its sizable pitched roof. The edge almost touches the boundary wall, like a sleepy eyelid on the brink of a nap, concealing everything that is underneath it. It is fair to wonder what this bungalow is hiding from but speak to its designer Formwerkz Architects and the short answer is â&#x20AC;&#x153;the weatherâ&#x20AC;?. Eschewing complicated architectural gestures and opting for a modest composition that borrows an enduring idea of long eaves, it chose to go down this route to achieve a house that works in tandem with the tropical climate. Its previous iteration had been built for a family that had stayed in the same plot for the past decade, and wished for a change away from poorly connected spaces and interiors suffering from excessive heat gain and glare. The latter was because of compliance to site coverage and setback controls in this Good Class Bungalow (GCB) area that resulted in a massing with the longest frontage slightly facing the western sun. As its moniker suggests, the Eaves House is
/ PHOTOGRAPHY FABIAN ONG
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defined by a low-hanging roof along the house’s length that resolves several issues in one fell swoop. It caps the double-volume living spaces lining up along the long frontage on the first storey, overlooked by the corridor leading to the bedrooms on the second floor. FORMWERKZ ARCHITECTS HAS NOT ONLY MODERNISED THE PITCHED ROOF IN THE EAVES HOUSE, BUT ALSO CELEBRATED IT – NO SURPRISE THERE GIVEN IT IS KNOWN FOR PROJECTS THAT JUXTAPOSE CHARACTERISTICALLY FORMAL QUALITIES WITH THE INCORPORATION OF NATURE. From traditional Balinese huts and attaproof Malay houses, to the more ornate forms capping religious buildings, the pitched roof is a defining architectural element in many tropical Asian cultures. It is a time-tested example of form meeting function, where the sloped profile drains water 80
effectively and provides shade from the equatorial region’s harsh sunlight and heavy rains, allowing a house to work effectively without added effort. “The sloping roof [also] unifies the key spaces at different floors and the outdoors. The line of the roof eave becomes a visual reference for the interior spaces, as well as a line that frames the exterior views like a picture window,” describes Alan Tay, who is the project’s lead architect and one of Formwerkz’s four partners. Full-height glass offers views out to the garden, letting in copious amounts of natural light minus the direct glare. At the same time, the eave stretches far out over the timber decking between the living room and garden, forming a deep verandah, hence extending the indoor communal spaces outwards. It also means more privacy is accorded to the occupants at the street level. At the top of the roof within the interior, a slit opening above glass windows allows
The large roof not only defines the exterior but also the interior of the house by uniting the relationship between the garden, first storey and second storey.
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/ WORDS LOW SHI PING / IMAGE MASSIMO SESTINI
“I AM AN ANIMAL” Italo Rota’s statements and ideas are as bold as they are true.
ON A PROJECT’S LONGEVITY:
Lord Hanuman Hindu Temple, Dolvi, Mumbai, India
Cavalli Club, Dubai, UAE
t is rare for an architect to proclaim that he is not interested in real estate, and even more unusual to say that he has stopped creating new buildings altogether. But say them Italo Rota did, and not without reason. Rota is an Italian designer and architect who has labels like “radical”, “progressive” and “unconventional” attached to his name. His eponymous studio is equally comfortable conceptualising furniture as it is creating master plans. Among his more notable projects include boutiques, clubs and even the home of fashion designer Roberto Cavalli in cities such as Moscow, Dubai and Beirut, the collection of Boscolo hotels in Milan, Rome and Bari, and the Medal Plaza in Piazza Castello for the 2005 Winter Olympics in Turin. The Milanese visited Singapore in March to speak as part of Italian Design Day, an event presented by the Italian Embassy in Singapore in partnership with the Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design and Media. Before that, d+a caught up with the 65-year-old, who was dressed as colourfully as a bird of paradise, to find out exactly how unorthodox he is.
ON BEING UNCONVENTIONAL:
“That is the story of my life. My work is around emotion and the narrative. I have no wish to build anymore buildings – our cities are already too cluttered. I believe in changing the urban landscape and its atmosphere with new technology and techniques.”
“In the past, when I had a new client who commissioned me to design a building, I asked them to put aside a fund to demolish the building when it is no longer of use. This was to prevent redundancy in the world. In fact, I appealed to them to dismantle the building and reuse the materials in other ways when the time comes. They responded quite positively, because they understood that in architecture, it is important not to build a bad future for the user.” ON LIVING IN A DIGITAL AGE:
“It is important to disconnect once in awhile and rebuild our energy. We need to be comfortable with ourselves. I have seen how many people lose themselves when confronted with no Internet connection. I don’t agree with it. This is why I’ve designed a Hindu temple in India of Lord Hanuman that once you past the entrance is a Faraday Cage.” ON MANAGING GOOD IDEAS:
“First, verify if it exists. Secondly, transfer the idea and the energy that you have to a team, preferably a multi-disciplinary one. Thirdly, decide if it is to be conceived by humans or robots. Understand that marketing drives design and is a big force shaping projects at the moment. This is a reality that designers have to deal with today.” ON ADVICE TO DEVELOPERS:
“Accept that things change constantly. Avoid wasting resources. Architecture should be seen as something that is more than functional; it is symbolic. It needs to represent something. Architecture is more than a building composed of different materials.”
“Sustainability should be a normal human attitude. In reality, as humans, we are no different from a cat or a dog or a fish. I am an animal. The bigger problem is how we are adapting to climate change. This is something that we need to understand and accommodate.”
“It is a strange city. I see it as the mother of Dubai. The landscape is beautiful but the pieces are disjointed – almost like a collage. But why not? A collage is a type of foundation that you can build the city on.” 111
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/ WORDS LOW SHI PING
TIME TO TURN IT DOWN This is a new column that focuses on best practices the design industry should adopt. We kick it off by highlighting the importance of noise insulation in restaurants.
f you had an anxiety disorder, dining at this newly-opened Chinese seafood restaurant in the heart of Singapore’s downtown would have triggered a panic attack. With its concrete walls, ceiling and floor, a full-house of diners, grumpy babies shrieking at the top of their lungs, and a few tables of riotous, alcohol-imbibing friends, the noise was deafening. I was at the restaurant celebrating my birthday with my extended family. But the mood at the table was anything but joyous. Not that I could blame them, even I was feeling distressed by the fact that I could not even hear myself speak, much less my dinner companions. I should have held this gathering at
a rock concert – it would have been no different. Before I prematurely ended the dinner, I offered some feedback to the restaurant manager. Her response? “We’ve only been open for a month.”
THE ROLE OF DESIGN But that’s not the point, is it? Whoever conceptualised the interior design should have advised the eatery that bare walls were going to be the first ingredient towards a recipe for disaster. Instead, with a little bit more money spent, the owners could have had sound-absorbing products creatively integrated into the design – and there are no shortages of these solutions.
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The benefits are manifold: • It enhances the ambience, giving patrons a good experience and encourages them to return. • It reduces errors when orders are being taken. • Service staff get to work in a pleasant environment. Of course, if the concept of the restaurant calls for a raucous ambience and loud music – like steakhouses and grills tend towards – then by all means, please turn up the volume. But at the end of the day, the onus is on designers to advice and persuade the owners to use design to minimise noise in a restaurant – something which should be incorporated into the plan before construction starts.
USEFUL TECHNIQUES It is important to choose materials that will absorb sound so it will not echo in a space. These can range from partitions to hanging baffles, acoustic wall panels, soft wallcoverings, carpet and even furniture made from fabric. Another method is sound proofing, where materials and designs are used to contain the noise in an area. This is especially relevant when there is a bar in the restaurant, an open concept kitchen, or a busy street frontage. Walls and flooring can also be installed
with soundproofing systems that are effective against noise penetration. One viable material is mass loaded vinyl, which acts as a dense mass that prevents sound waves from passing through it. If all these sound like a sterile factory in the making, it is not. For instance, there are companies like Lazerpaner. It can work with audio professionals (or not) to create panels for acoustic control. Their designs can be customised to complement the interior style of the restaurant, allowing sound to be absorbed and echoes eliminated. Another is GreenTurf, which specialises in making artificial turf and plants that mimic natural foliage. Its creative director Gertrude Wong points out how these go a long way in improving the dining experience. “By incorporating plants tastefully, restaurants can immediately put diners in a better mood due to the human tendency to seek connections with nature. We refer to this as biophilia. The very sight of plants (or some studies say the colour green) relaxes people,” says Wong. “GreenTurf’s artificial vertical gardens are installed in a way that has many small voids. These pockets of air help to absorb noise of low frequency coming from kitchen machinery or even the air conditioner. “Coupled with melamine foam systems as the vertical garden backing, we can make our vertical gardens absorb noise from a wide spectrum of noise from machinery humdrum to chatter from diners.” She recommends covering a wall, pillars or the ceiling with artificial plants as a focal point. Alternatively, have them in planters as space dividers, or use them to dress up light fixtures for a lush tropical feel. Of course, there is the inevitable argument that these measures will drive up costs. But really, in the long run, it is a small price to pay if it means happy diners who will turn into loyal customers. Now will someone please tell this to the Chinese seafood restaurant?
/ AVANT-GARDE /
A NEW STONE AGE / WORDS NICOLE CHAN / IMAGES MM GALLERI
Many renowned landmarks and sculptures – from the breathtaking Taj Mahal, to Michelangelo’s David – are made from marble. It involved a multitude of craftsmen chipping away at the unwieldy stone by hand, sometimes for years, to “release” its hidden potential. All that though, is now a thing of the past. In a world first, Indonesian furniture maker MM Galleri has partnered with Singaporean building enterprise Sharikat National to create marble-bending technology. This groundbreaking development is poised to open up a myriad of new and versatile possibilities in marble application in the space of architecture, lifestyle and interior design.
At the same time, it reduces the use of the stone by up to 95 per cent, promoting a culture of ecologically sustainable quarrying in the long run. Advanced equipment manned by expert craftsmen can now cut marble to extremely thin dimensions, then bend it to clad the surfaces of any shape or framework formed by metal or wood. The outcome of this technology is now on display at the first bended marble showroom (picture) launched by MM Galleri and Sharikat National. Also on show is the world’s first furniture collection made from it – think curvaceous tables, chairs, benches and even a bathtub. Clearly, a new Stone Age is upon us.