Last week, England-based architecture firm Wilkinson Eyre Architects was announced as the recipients of the 2013 Royal Institute of British Architects’ Lubertkin Prize for their recent international project Cooling Conservatories, Gardens By the Bay in Singapore. This is the second consecutive year the firm has been awarded the prestigious RIBA prize for best new international building. Last year, they won the title for the Guangzhou International Finance Centre in China. Cooling Conservatories consists of two massive climate-controlled conservatories, among the largest in the world, whose design allow for a cool-dry growing environment, instead of the warm, humid climate of a typical greenhouse. Sustainably constructed with low-energy glass, the biome structures are carbon-positive—they off set more atmospheric carbon dioxide than they emit. RIBA commended the firm for the sustainability of design for these less-than-typical cool air conservatories. At the prize award ceremony on September 26, Institute President Stephen Hodder called the project “an impressive achievement,” in which Wilkinson Eyre Architects “pushed the boundaries not only environmentally but also structurally.” Located within the Gardens By the Bay tourist attraction, Cooling Conservatories allow visitors to experience world ecosystems most at risk from climate change. The greenhouses support a variety of flora and fauna environments and include a waterfall, mountain, and vertical gardens. Helical pathways lined with educational climate change exhibitions take tourists through the buildings in dynamic design.
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Yale University is under fire from its own faculty for a new collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS). Pelli Clarke Pelli is designing the campus of what will be a four-year liberal arts college based in Singapore. A recent Reuters article reported that the project has “stirred sharp criticism from faculty and human-rights advocates who say it is impossible to build an elite college dedicated to free inquiry in an authoritarian nation with heavy restrictions on public speech and assembly.” Degrees issued by the Singapore-based college, called Yale-NUS, won’t be Yale degrees and technically it’s not considered a Yale branch campus. Yet is Yale guilty of selling out its values—the school’s motto is lux et veritas, “light and truth”—to extend its brand? As Reuters reported, “Christopher Miller, a professor of French and African American studies, has dubbed the venture 'Frankenyale.'" The faculty began to voice their objections last spring, but may have been too slow on the draw—the new campus is well under construction and set to open this summer.
Several large-scale, eco-friendly projects at the intersection of landscape, architecture, and urbanism were honored at this year’s World Architecture Festival (WAF) in Singapore. Building of the Year was awarded to London-based Wilkinson Eyre’s Gardens by the Bay (above), designed in collaboration with landscape architects Grant Associates in 2003 for a competition to develop a reclaimed 250-acre site adjacent to a marina in downtown Singapore. Among the other top honorees were AECOM's Heart of Doha Masterplan, winning Future Project of the Year, and Atelier Dreiseitl's Kallang River Bishan Park, which took Landscape Project of the Year. Gardens by the Bay wraps luscious public gardens, Mediterranean flowers, event spaces, and a 100-foot high man-made waterfall under two steel-and-glass dome-like structures, the largest climate controlled greenhouses in the world. The whimsical scheme also includes eighteen 164-foot high “Supertree” structures holding thousands of exotic plant species and connected by a series of high-tech eco-bridges that collect and re-channel rainwater to cool themselves and the adjacent greenhouses. Gardens by the Bay was completed in 2012 and has been open to the public since June. WAF awarded Future Project of the Year to AECOM’s 77-acre Heart of Doha Masterplan in Qatar, designed as the gateway to Inner Doha and connecting the city with its waterfront as well as existing and proposed airports. Referred to by the architects as “the grid and the lattice,” AECOM superimposed an orthogonal grid onto Doha’s traditional Qatari street pattern to create a new urban structure that respects the Arab/Islamic vernacular, captures north-westerly breezes, and accommodates vehicular traffic. The Landscape of the Year award went to landscape architects Atelier Dreiseitl for their Kallang River Bishan Park in Singapore, a project that transforms an existing, underused park and river into an ecological public space. View all of this year's winners at the World Architecture Festival website. Click on a thumbnail below to launch a slideshow.
In an ongoing endeavor to blend public art, architecture, and urbanism by artists Siyuan and Hwee Chong, The Doors Project subversively projects a series of doors onto public spaces in Singapore, reflecting the struggles of the urban poor and underprivileged. But while commenting on despair, the real message is one of faith, hope and empowerment. “We wanted to make a statement about life, and jolt people to think,” the artists said in an interview at Yolo. “Instead of following the light at the end of the tunnel, why not carry our own lights, and create our own doors! It’s really about rolling up our sleeves, and creating the opportunities we want for ourselves.” Inspired by true stories of people they’ve met—from a boy mastering kung fu to protect his mother from his abusive father to an Indian worker desperately raising money for his son’s surgery—the installation provokes the viewer to re-imagine boundaries as thresholds, opacity as reflection, and life’s roadblocks as opportunities. “These people, despite much hoping and praying, are faced with countless roadblocks that take them nowhere,” they said. According to Siyuan and Hwee Chong, people should take a giant leap of faith, work hard at what they believe in most, and open their own “doors” in life. “It’s just more meaningful that way.” Expect more public installations from Siyuan and Hwee Chong in the near future. “’Doors is meant to be an ongoing project. There’s no end date to it. For as long as we keep collecting stories of hope and despair, we’ll keep projecting people’s ‘doors’ onto roadblocks.” Read the full interview with the artists at Yolo or check out The Doors Project's website for more.
Singapore's largest private property developer, the Far East Organisation, is the latest client of the Amsterdam-based architect UNStudio. The project in question is The Scotts Tower, a high-end residential building with the ambition to achieve "vertical city planning"--a concept perhaps inevitable in evermore crowded Asian cities. According to Ben van Berkel, UNStudio principal, the project is to "create neighborhoods in the sky; a vertical city where each zone has its own distinct identity." The anatomy of the 31-story and 231-unit Tower, totaling 18,500 square meters, is divided into four main residential clusters (in ascending order): City Loft (128 units, 16 floors), City View (80 units, some floors overlap with City Loft), Park View (20 units, five floors), and Sky Park (three penthouses, one floor). The idea is to incorporate a "variety of residence types and scales" into the vertical structure, along with green areas expressed by sky terraces ("the Sky Garden" featuring public spaces and swimming pools), penthouse roof gardens, and individual terraces; in fact, customization may go beyond merely choosing one cluster out of the four choices--each unit within a cluster gains individual identity by means of plan and scale (up to four bedrooms), distribution of the apartment within the cluster, and articulation of outdoor space (which yields different views, either natural landscape, cityscape, or both, if you choose the corner terraces), all on top of the possibility of configuring interior layouts according to each resident's lifestyles. The Scotts Tower, currently still under the design development phase, is to be erected in one of Singapore's prime downtown locations, with a proximity to a luxury shopping district and a panoramic view of the city and nearby parkland.