Saturday, December 1, 2007

Marina South Residential District

IT’S been a hazy vision up to now but the first stunning proposals for the Marina South Residential District, unveiled yesterday, indicate that a design revolution is brewing on Singapore’s waterfront.

The four proposals - picked from a design competition that attracted 30 entries from India to Australia - promise an intoxicating cocktail of architectural flamboyance and ecological innovation in what has been touted as Singapore’s future No. 1 residential hot spot.

It is the first time a design competition has been held as part of the planning process for a residential district here.

And the ideas thrown up have not been seen here before: They include elevated condominiums, terraced buildings resembling cascading gardens, and ‘floating’ housing blocks with Amsterdam-style canals.

The winners, who each get $10,000, include local architecture firm Surbana, Hong Kong’s Compass Studio and national serviceman Khoo Teik Rong, an architecture graduate from Melbourne’s RMIT University.

The designs remain just suggestions at this stage and may not be part of the final plan, but they serve as a striking starting point for the ambitious project.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will now compile a final plan for the 60ha site, which will be developed over 15 to 20 years and will have up to 11,000 homes.

The competition, organised by the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) and the URA, asked entrants to unscramble what amounted to a Rubik’s cube of design challenges.

At the basic level, 11,000 housing units had to be incorporated with commercial, hotel and community facilities on a prime site near the upcoming Gardens at Marina South and Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

But proposals had to show how high-density living could be achieved while retaining the ambience of a waterfront garden.

The judges also looked for environmental sustainability and a sense of community, while calling for designs that would allow Marina South to showcase the City in a Garden vision.

Mr Khoo, 23, drew on inspiration from a visit to Amsterdam and opted for canals to run through the site to make the area more intimate.

‘I didn’t want a site that would have only large-scale buildings,’ he said.

The Surbana team had a ‘green and blue’ strategy. Green in the form of plants on the roofs of low-rise buildings, which would be terraced to give the appearance of gardens sloping to the marina.

Blue covered their housing idea - 30- to 50-storey-high blocks placed on shallow pools, making them appear to float on water.

Compass Studio, meanwhile, used hills as its inspiration - it wanted high-rise buildings to resemble hills that meet the lower plains. It also proposed a low-rise eco-village.

The fourth winner was SKPS-Project, a group of five architects, mostly from Singapore. They proposed lifting residential blocks 30m above the ground and planting trees underneath.

Reacting to the designs, Mr Mink Tan of Mink Architects said they were visually evocative, with ‘a mix of everything’. ‘If done successfully, this can be a…shining example of Asian urban living.’

Ex-SIA president John Ting of AIM & Associates was encouraged by the designs, but said more refinement was needed. He suggested the land can be split into smaller parcels and various architects let loose: ‘Then we can learn how to work the land better.’

Property developers and consultants were more hardheaded, telling The Straits Times that it was too early to judge if the designs were commercially viable.

The 30 entries are on display at City Hall until Dec 8.

Source : Straits Times - 1 Dec 2007

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