Argentinian architects B4FS shared with us their proposal in the Punggol Waterfront International Housing Design competition in Singapore, which was shortlisted and awarded a Merit Prize (second prize ex aequo).
The two-stage design competition was launched in December 2008 to generate fresh, innovative and new design ideas for high-rise public housing along the waterway. Participating firms were required to incorporate new sustainable development concepts and features to realise the theme “Green Living by the Waters”.
The first stage required participating firms to propose urban and new architectural concepts for the housing district. The top five firms were then short-listed for Stage Two, where they further developed their design concepts proposed in Stage One into a more thorough and implementable architectural design that included landscaping and other detailing.
More images and architect’s description after the break.
MASTER PLAN / URBAN DESIGN
The dramatic increase of world population has a clear manifestation in the urban environment, either by extending the endless urban sprawl or by increasing density in the existing urban areas.
Considering these two possibilities, the process of densification is, without any doubt, the most sustainable alternative of urban growth. This statement can be argued for in terms of land and water resources management, energy and food crops production, pollution control, climatic amelioration, and increased porosity of land cover.
The rationality of the densification process, at the regional scale, is even stronger in countries with reduced territories. However, such density creates serious problems and challenges at the urban scale. The overwhelming presence of construction gives cities a sense of supra-human space of unmanageable size, together with a dramatic reduction of the open recreational space, with examples of levels less than 5% in cities such as Tokyo.
The first objective of the proposed design is to extend the recreational space from the promenade into the area assigned to housing, leaving most of the ground floor unoccupied and free for sport, cultural, and social activities, all occupying a minimum indispensable area. The extension of the recreational space from the promenade, through the project, reaches the south side of the site, and incorporates a school, a church, and a sports activities area.
The project includes the landscape into its own logic, interlocking buildings and open spaces fluid and seamlessly in a continuity of fluxes of movements, activities and views that connect the surrounding city with the new park and the water.
The buildings propose a three directional structure composed of towers and bridges, articulated in a way that gives a sense of totality as well as allowing the readability of each part. The buildings surround a network of open 31m x 40m patios, connected to each other through big portals. These patios conform a chain of gardens lushly vegetated with native trees and bushes at ground level complemented with roof top gardens at higher levels.
The whole project is organized in two sectors in correspondence with the two parcels. The two areas are articulated with a boulevard that materializes the north/ south connection. The connection east/west from the Punggol Walk to the Punggol Way through the “patios” incorporates a pergola for pedestrian movement. This connection also includes a continuous service driveway shaped by a permeable floor for vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks, as well as for the refuse collection vehicles.
Both ground level and buildings terrace face down to the waterway. The building’s volumes vary, with maximum allowed heights at the external limit of the site, and descend as a cascade towards the waterway. This strategy provides the promenade’s public space with a sense of openness, complemented with views of the building’s roof gardens that terrace down to the river.
The terrace solution applied to the buildings is also incorporated to the design of the waterway promenade. The proposal includes one level of activities complementary to the housing program, such as child care centre, communal use spaces, etc., and a lower terrace at water level with boat houses, cafes, etc.
Every building incorporates an area designated for communal activities, in a contiguous space to the entrance hall, for celebrations, funerals, communal meetings, etc. Each area could be open or defined by a metal mesh screen that encloses the space allowing cross ventilation.
HOUSE DESIGN SCHEME
Each housing unit is related visually to both the system of courtyard gardens and the waterway’s linear park. This condition gives the apartment and its owners the sense of being part of a greater metropolitan landscape and at the same time, the fact of being strongly rooted to its own specific courtyard, with its local scale.
The unit’s design was based on the idea of flexibility considering the contemporary condition of dynamism and constant change. In order to obtain the maximum flexibility desired, the bearing structure of the building was located within the external skin. This exo-structure frees the interior plan of any element that could limit alternative interior organizations. Devoid of structural interior elements, each apartment is configured with movable partitions, whose positions could easily be altered. All the “wet” areas such as bathrooms and kitchen are then concentrated at specific point of the floor plan.
The proposal adequately articulates the public and the private, the buildings and the landscape, and the local with the metropolitan. This project is configured with a contemporary language, complex in its forms, but extremely rational in genesis and its technical solution, demonstrating that the high density required can be reached with a strong identity and a livable solution. It is a project for the future Singapore.