An Urban Forest
Architecture is not limited to the creative massing of concrete slabs alone. In an age where we are increasingly concerned about the sterility of the built environment, there is a call among designers and architects alike to make a more conscious effort to meld greenery into our urban fabric.
Straddling Robinson Road and Cecil Street, the new Singapore Business Federation (SBF) Centre is a testament of just such a design effort. At first glance, the landscaping of SBF appears typical of the urban fabric in our Central Business District (CBD) with its delicate foliage of Brazilian ironwood trees lined up in an open and welcoming gesture at its public concourse. However, a closer look reveals a landscaping design that goes beyond the superficial incorporation of greens in spaces typical of office buildings.
From its spatial zoning to its choice of materiality and placement of greenery, every aesthetic detail comes together to interpret the space as an “urban forest”. To realise this landscape design, we partnered closely with the architecture team on the project. Together, we drew inspiration from SBF’s original site context – the Robinson Green, a pocket-park in the heart of the CBD, allowing the design scheme to constantly blend architectural and spatial design with landscaping so as to create a built environment that alludes to a forest.
As the previous park provided a bypass linking Robinson Road with Cecil Street, an open public thoroughfare was a prerequisite for the development. Instead of entailing a long, cavernous passage through the building, we created an illuminated wall mural, comprising micro-perforated aluminium panels exhibiting a silhouetted rainforest scene. This lights up the entire length of the thoroughfare. Alluding to trunks of giant rainforest trees reaching up to the sky, these mural panels reach up to 10 metres high. The ceiling design of organically shaped, cut-out panels mimic the canopies of ancient trees hovering above with pools of dappled sunlight streaming through.
Enter the premise of SBF, escalators adjacent to the Ironwood tree grove lead up to the third storey. En-route, visitors can appreciate the crowns of these trees from a different perspective. Another tree grove of mixed species established on the roof terrace heralds the entrance to the first office level. The experience is likened to ascending a steep, hillside forest.
This experiential design is further carried on the ninth-storey roof terrace where the main recreational amenities are located. Here, a 20m lap pool stretches between two main vertical access lobbies and a lounge pavilion encircled by a bosque of forest trees form the main attraction. The poolside experience is orchestrated with a linear, naturalistic allée of trees along its length on one side, affording filtered views through to the cityscape beyond some privacy. On the other side, forest trees are juxtaposed between shear-wall columns and Teflon-roofed cabanas, thus creating a secret sanctuary in the woods.
The ‘urban forest’ interpretation was conceptualised for the landscape design as a replacement for the park, and effectively recreated an arboreal ambience for the exterior landscaped spaces of the development.
Integrated services provided for this project.