Bedok Court : residential avant garde or ?

[Image : thanks to amorphity from here.]

Any endeavor on residential design in the post modern discourse of architecture inevitably begins with the perennial question of how to manifest the relationship between the living spaces of a dwelling unit and that of its environment. A dwelling cannot be seen in isolation to its own interior space containing insular functions but rather in relation to changes in environmental qualities of time, light and shadow, greenery, views and open spaces that in turn contribute to the overall qualities of the living space. This is especially so in a highrise, high density context where the conditions for relief are very much determined by the provision of voids within the building massing.

[Images of I:I Island Book by PLYSTUDIO]

Bedok Court is a residential condominium development in Singapore comprising of 3 linear medium to high-rise blocks arranged around a central space. It is an example of a residential development that provides generous relief spaces in the form of balconies and terraces as part of the private spaces of apartment units on a large scale. The floor plan is organised by single loaded vertical circulation cores with horizontal circulation in the form of corridors serving 280 apartment units. Each apartment has access to a double volume garden space, sometimes open to sky, from the entrance corridor side. Typically, the entrance of each apartment unit is from this garden space, bringing the notion of 'landed housing' upwards to a high-rise situation. The units are organised in clusters with vertical slits in between for added ventilation which appear as gaps to break the massing from the Living Room side.

[Images : PLYSTUDIO]

In Bedok Court, the relationship between the interior and exterior spaces are exemplified in a typological experiment of finding relieve in high density housing through the adaptation of the organisational arrangement and social network of public spaces of a malay cultural village (kampong), where "streets have been translated into vertically-stacked walkways and common corridors, and garden compounds into staggered private open terraces and courtyards." [extract from Singapore 1:1 (Island)]

[Images : PLYSTUDIO]

If you are familiar with designing in the Singaporean residential context, you will most definately be familiar with Gross Floor Area (GFA) computations. With the development and refinement of the GFA computation as a mechanism to control and measure the physical mass and built-up quality of developments invariably leads to the lack of developments such as Bedok Court in recent years. As circulation ways, large terraces, covered yet open spaces and other forms of relief spaces have come under the need to be accountable as GFA, local urban and physical fabric of residential buildings has also ceased to the embody the very qualities that characterised Bedok Court.

Are these relief spaces successful? Do they serve to enhance the quality of the interior units and contribute to the exterior building form through the proliferation of greenery? Do they allow the building to become more breathable by pulling apart, lengthening corridors, enlarging service and circulation cores, all at the expense of incurred GFA? Would commercial developers trade off the potential to sell say 5 to 10 more residential units translating to thousands of square footage and amounting to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars (when property prices peaked in 2007) in return for these external luxuries which, no doubt can be designed as saleable spaces, but run the risk of being well received by buyers?


Inside Singapore 1:1

[Image : URA]

We recently picked up a copy of the box set containing the 2 volumes Singapore 1:1 (City) and Singapore 1:1 (Island). Singapore 1:1 (City) is a catalogue of the exhibition of the same name which was held at the URA Center between Nov 2005 to Mar 2006. The exhibition "features a selection of significant architecture and urban design of the city built over the last 40 years". As a follow up, Singapore 1:1 (Island) brings together further architectural projects of merit across the same timeframe completed island-wide, outside of the city centre.

The result is a vast collection of information and knowledge that brings awareness to the buildings that shape our physical environment. Old buildings of significant interest are given a new lease of life in these 2 volumes which are graphically coded in red and green to reflect our national colour (red) and our national obsession (green).

Perhaps what got us excited most were not so much the photographs of the buildings themselves but rather the rare plans, sectional drawings and the odd sketch that accompanied them. For they capture the true modes of production and the fact that they never left the architectural office that produced them, meant that we, the general public could get inside them.

[Images : URA]


Punggol Waterway

In September this year we worked on the Punggol Waterway landscape masterplan competition for the design of a 4.2km length of waterway. The waterway will serve as an ecological lifeline of greenery and activities, cutting through several housing parcels providing a rich resource for public housing in Punggol, Singapore's 'Waterfront Town of the 21st century'. 3 months later today the HDB (Housing and Development Board) announced the long awaited results. Read about it here in the press release.

Here are the winning schemes :
[1st Prize]
[Merit Prize]
[Merit Prize]
[Images : HDB]

For our own entry, we were concerned and confronted with the immensity and over-whelming linearity of the 4.2km long waterway within its 10m width : how to create varied conditions that will promote and induce diverse occupation yet remain a largely continuous experience as a recreational and social space? We started by looking at ways in which to displace the defined conditions of planting, walkway and water of a conventional waterway. This led to an evolution of a form that was in direct relation with how a redefined waterfront promenade would perform. The nature of the proposal was more infrastructural, as a systemic propagation of sinusoidal forms that gradually organised movement, program and spatial qualities between adjacent waterway and land parcels.

Here's some images of our entry to share :

[Overall Boards]
[Aerial View]
[Promenade View]
[Undulating Promenade]
[Topographical variation and negotiation]
[Elevational experience]
[Images : PLYSTUDIO]

Do visit our website soon for the full description and images.



[Image : NUS]

Extract from Lecture Series header :

What is sustainability?

What are we sustaining?

Who is being sustained?

Can architecture be sustainable?

Probing into nature, density, tectonics, environment, growth, urbanism, and craft, architecture’s complex relationship with its ability to sustain is brought to bear. Four distinct lectures will open up, challenge, and enrich the way we think through sustainability, to challenge our assumptions of architecture and its seeming ability to change our environment.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) School of Architecture recently organised the 'Sustain/Ability' lecture series which aims to steer the discussion away from more feature-related notions of sustainability. Current industry practices of accrediting green and energy consciousness with a meritocratic system of rewards are given new insights towards developing more strategic and critical thought processes to redefine sustainability's long term goals i.e. the ability to sustain.
[Image : NUS]

The terminal lecture in the series was delivered by Winy Maas of MVRDV. Maas started the lecture by aptly positioning the notion of sustainability amid the gloomy backdrop of the looming economic crisis and global recession.

To Maas, sustainability starts with the first production of space, advocating density and spatial efficiencies at the forefront of any conceptual thought. Architects are seen as agents of space - our contribution is to rethink space as a viable tool to drive and to initiate economic, cultural and social agendas. He refers to MVRDV's book KM3, describing various formal strategies (stacking, bending, lifting etc) employed in their projects and manipulating parameters of form, coupled with comprehehsive research and information gathered through the collaborative efforts of research institutes like T?F (The Why Factory). MVRDV showed how generic design ideas can be applied to specific contexts globally and how projects are constantly moulded to suit new situations. Many of the projects involved the decision making of influential stakeholders, clients and politicians, and MVRDV describes these negotiations with as much ease as one might think of their formal experimentations.

On a larger note, he ended the lecture by strongly encouraging the audience and local community of architects, designers and other professionals to rise above the norm, to challenge the existing. As a prolific architect himself, perhaps his most significant contribution has been a redefination of the role of the architect, not as mere creators of buildings, but as active politicians of space and urban development, able to dream and construct new manifestos of change. Only then can architecture be sustainable, where the creation of a new role beckons an increasingly contentious global outlook.

Where are our own spacefighters?

On iSh

The recently completed J-Loft project has just been reviewed by iSh magazine. This time we are extremely excited as this is a critical review of the work as a complete, three-dimensional space. You can locate the article in the latest Issue 9.5 of iSh.

iSh, one of Singapore's foremost architectural, interiors and design publications prides itself as reporting "fragments from an urbanscape" combining news and features ranging from art to fashion to design from around the world. We are grateful to Kelley and Chris, and to J, our Client for allowing the work to be published.

[Images : PLYSTUDIO]