Alsops first major project in Asia, a dramatic redevelopment of the river front district of Clarke Quay in Singapore, is succeeding in drawing tourists and locals back to the historic waterfront. Developed by Capitaland, the SGD 88 million (approx. £30.6m) mixed-use scheme, designed to increase commercial and leisure activities, gives the riverfront area a new identity and re-positions Clarke Quay as a vibrant and attractive destination. Crucial to the success of the project has been the architect/engineers ingenious manipulation of the sites micro climate through the design of a distinctive and sophisticated shading/cooling system that provides the Quayside with tremendous visual interest and environmental benefit.
Following a steady decline since its heyday servicing bustling trade on the Singapore river, and an unsuccessful conventional gentrification of the heritage site in the 1980s, Alsop was appointed in 2002 with a brief to rejuvenate the prominent three hectare diamond shaped site. For Alsop the challenge was to provide a new lease of life not just by developing an attractive re-design of the streetscape and waterfront but also to address the perennial climate problem - and to find ways to mitigate against the Singapore ambient temperature and heavy rainfall without resorting to the traditional scenario of creating an internal air conditioned mall. The first phase of the waterfront revival, which was completed in March 2006, has effected a total transformation of the areas ambience, activity and appearance through the redevelopment of three main areas; the riverfront, the streets and River Valley Road.
A dramatic 4-fold increase in foot traffic and a major hike in rental values for the revitalised Clarke Quay has provided the strongest endorsement of Capitalands selection of Alsop for this bespoke retail development.
Speaking of the project Will Alsop said: What is interesting is the addition of a single roof acting as a visual icon has succeeded in attracting people back to Clarke Quay as an essential leisure and pleasure area of Singapore. In addition to the visual impact, the canopy makes an enormous difference to the ambience at Clarke Quay it cools the streets, it keeps the rain off.
Characterised by a series of colonnaded shop houses used as poor quality restaurants and trinket shops fronting onto crowded pavements packed with persistent hawkers, the potentially attractive riverfront site had lost its appeal to tourist and locals. The Alsop scheme exploits the riverfronts traditional formal linear arrangement of terraced shop houses facing the Singapore river; but removes the poor quality restaurants, street stalls and cluttered walkways, and turns the space between the shop houses and the waterfront into a clear zone dedicated to pleasant strolling and observation.
A revival of the riverfront itself has been achieved through the creation of an elevated dining area that projects out over the river wall to maximise the waterfront experience, and create a level of separation and privacy for diners. This is dramatically effected by the installation of a series of elevated Lilypad dining platforms covered by distinctive bespoke sun and rain umbrellas, known Bluebells that animate the waters edge. Illuminated at night in a variety of colours The Bluebell umbrellas and their reflection in the Singapore River, are delightfully reminiscent of an array of traditional Chinese lanterns arranged to celebrate the Chinese mid-autumn festival.
Formerly the hot, humid or wet domain of tacky shopping outlets and hawkers stalls, the streetscape has been ingeniously transformed by the design team into a pleasant climate-moderated environment of landscaped arcades. Elegant canopies, providing environmentally friendly shading and cooling, which protect visitors against the extremes of the Singaporean climate and maintain the temperature at 28 deg Celsius, cover the four internal streets and central courtyard. Known as the Angels, the willowy umbrella-like structures comprise ETFE (Ethyl Tetra Fluro Ethylene) cushioned canopies, supported on steel fames. Cantilevering over the roofs of adjacent shop houses, the angels provide solar shading and rain protection. The frames of the Angels support large Whale tail slow speed fans that provide a low level artificial breeze in the streets. Tree planting in the streets provides further shading and solar absorbance and the installation of a feature fountain in the centre of the restaurant-lined courtyard affords further visual and cooled environmental benefit. In addition animation is added at street level by increasing window display area through the introduction of new all glass window vitrines to the facades of the street shop houses.
River Valley Road
The development of a new urban entertainment block containing Ministry of Sound and Crazy Horse along River Valley Road away from the river, which creates a new, dynamic and stronger presence for Clarke Quay from River Valley Road, and from Fort Canning beyond.
Although this is Alsops first project in Asia, the powerful regenerative impact in economic social and cultural terms that typifies Clarke Quay, has been ably demonstrated by other earlier Alsop projects around the world including the Hotel du Departement Marseilles, Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre, Peckham Library, Ontario College of Art & Design and the catalytic impact of the studios buildings has long been acknowledged as one of the Alsops most unique credentials. This project is an integral part of Alsops expansion into the Asia. The practice now has offices in Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing to serve a growing workload in the region.
Local Architect: RSP Architects
Concept Engineer: AtelierOne
Environmental Engineer: ARUP
Specialist contractor: B+O Hightex
Issued by: Stratton & Reekie
On behalf of: SMC Alsop