Location: 77 Bencoolen Street, Singapore
Area: 40.0 ft2
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Patrick Bingham-Hall
From the architect. A S$50 million investment spanning 40,000 sq ft across three distinct yet conjoined blocks in Bencoolen Street, Space Asia Hub is the latest addition to the design landscape of Singapore.
The first building on the Space plaza is an immaculate white bungalow, The Villa, which promises an experience for all senses - sight, sound by B&O systems, specially commissioned scent and food experiences. Poliform displays wardrobe systems, whilst Varenna by Poliform shows off live kitchen sets where Space will host a series of sit-down dinners for clients. On the top floor, Giorgetti expresses its artistic flair with plush sofas, bedding and sculptures, all portrayed as poetry in prologue, with item prices discreetly housed in wooden boxes made of pau ferro and American walnut.
The contemporary Glass Block building stands at the centre of the multiplex and its windows are a riot of colours led by the eye-catching chairs in candy shades by Kartell on the ground, to the outdoor collection by Moooi and B&B Italia on the landscaped balcony on the 4th level. The Glass Block is especially attractive at night with moooi’s suspended Raimond lights designed by Raimond Puts. Other collections housed here include Acerbis, Cassina, Flos, Flexform, Fritz Hansen, Louis Poulsen, Moooi, Vitra and more.
This archi-trio is completed by the Heritage House, a conservation shophouse with industrial-inspired interiors. There are two interesting lofts on the second floor, an area with natural skylight streaming in through wooden rafters. These retail elegant sofas and bedding sets by Flexform Mood and Maxalto. The most noteworthy area in Heritage House is B&B Italia/Maxalto’s Courtyard featuring an indoor three-storey high vertical landscaped wall. This space, at 7,000 sq ft, is the designer’s biggest international flagship showroom.
Background of Complex
This project for Space Furniture’s new Asia hub for furniture design is located along Bencoolen Street in the midst of the Arts and Entertainment District. Housed within a unique cluster of heritage buildings within a gazetted conservation area, it comprises two conserved buildings – a villa and a shophouse, flanking an infill unit. Through adaptive reuse and calibrated architectural intervention, this redevelopment proposal strives to create a contemporary retail showroom with expanded lifestyle facilities that retain the old-world charm of its heritage stature.
The design strategy aims to play up contrasts between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’. In the two conserved buildings, new free spanning roofs are rebuilt in timber, to reveal high volume, column-free showroom interiors true to their original form and architecture. Parts of the existing party wall are also taken down and new staircases introduced to open up, connect and mediate the different levels across the 3 developments as an integrated showroom. The improved visual porosity across the units reveal new volumes of varying scales and enhances the overall appreciation of the spatial richness inherent in the built forms.
The areas carved out of the conservation buildings are redistributed to create a 4th storey addition to the infill unit and an extension to the rear of the conserved villa. A new fully glazed ‘skin’, replacing the former solid façade, wraps around the infill unit and extends to the rear of the conserved villa. The new transparency of the curtain wall unveils new views that enhance the appreciation of the conserved buildings while injecting the development with a contemporary façade that reveal its interior activities.
The three units are given distinct interior expressions in response to their existing architecture.
Restored dark timber floors, carefully exposed brickwork and 2 free-spanning attics held up by exposed steel trusses lend a warehouse expression to the conserved 3- storey shophouse. The 2-storey conserved bungalow, the most intricate and ornate of the group, is conceived as an immaculate historic villa with white-stained timber floors, windows and ceilings in an all-white pristine interior. The large volumes and intricate timber works often associated with these villas are made evident on the upper floor. Contrasting against these heritage interiors is the contemporary infill unit, in which the existing low ceiling heights inspired an industrial expression with open ceilings, exposed ductwork and services, impeccably planned and laid out as a deliberate design gesture.
At the street level, an urban plaza lends itself as a vibrant urban node and forecourt that aims to draws attention to the restored buildings. The plaza is a woven tapestry of terracotta and pebblewash strips in varying hues reminiscent of traditional materials and regional ‘sarong’ textiles, giving the development a contemporary yet distinctive character that references its Asian location. These finishes flow into the interior of the glass curtain-walled infill unit, giving a perception of a large, continuous and inviting urban space that integrates the 3 distinct buildings, and provide generous spaces for events and activities.
Landscaping of Complex
Integrated landscape aims to enhance the appreciation of greenery from both inside and outside the development. Pockets of greenery are extended into the plaza and around the conserved bungalow with variegated planting edges that blur the boundary between the soft and hardscape. A courtyard with vertical greenery is a feature of the conserved shophouse. Two landscaped roof terraces crown the infill units at the front and rear, stepping back as a response to the controlled envelope and introducing visible rooftop activities that further animate this unique cluster of heritage buildings.