Moulmein Rise Residential Tower, Singapore (awarded 2005–2007)
Singapore’s transition from a small colonial port to a prosperous trading independent city is reflected in the changing architectural and urban scene. After independence in 1960s, copying Western styles (meaningfully or not), like Bangkok and Hong Kong did, Singapore became known as a global city that ‘could be anywhere.’ However, during the 1990s the country’s desire to define its distinctive identity led to a revisiting of its roots and the creation of its own modernity. Consequently, the present architectural panorama successfully combines globalisation aspirations with traditional sensitivity (Ali, 2007).
United Overseas Land (UOL) Development Pte Ltd acquired a plot of 2,324 square metres on Moulmein Road, aiming for a prestigious building that provides modern amenities to the buyers. The building location is in a residential neighbourhood that encompasses a mix of mid- to high rises and single-family homes. The location allowed uninterrupted views of the surrounding spaces and the downtown area. The immediate adjacency to the south of the site is a conservation area, where building heights are restricted to four storeys. Further south, Moulmein Rise lies immediately outside the security zone of the president’s residence within which no buildings are allowed, offering an opportunity to enjoy an uninterrupted view to a national park (Johnston, 2007).
The site contains a profusion of greenery that creates a microclimate, which is cooler than the city centre. The site’s only disadvantage was its somewhat triangular configuration. For the best design solution, a small competition among four architectural firms was held, and WOHA Architects was selected in 1999 (Ali, 2007). In terms of climate, Singapore has a tropical one; hot, humid, and rainy. The project’s importance is due to the significance of the sector of developer-driven speculative housing in the Asian tropical regions, in general (Figure 4.3). In Singapore, there is a significant interest in traditional features such as bay windows, sunshades, and planters. Therefore, the extra space they take up is exempted from development tax while counted as saleable area. Moulmein Rise demonstrates lessons from history within the contemporary architectural context (WOHA Architects, 2007) and exemplifies the adaptation of commercial pressures into innovative environmental solutions.
The 28-storey building comprises forty-eight typical apartments and two penthouse apartments. Containing a gym, an underground garage, and a 50-metre lap pool in a tropical garden set over three cascading tiers, the design attempts to fulfil modern needs. The original brief asked for a lower building with a deeper plan, but architects Richard Hassell and Wong Mun Summ persuaded the client to adopt a smaller footprint within a higher- than-intended building (Johnston, 2007). The resulting structure has a slender three-dimensional look that allows better cross-ventilation and effective daylighting.
A modular system based on multiples of 300 millimetres regulates all the architectural dimensioning and details. The facade’s design is based on the spatial integration between interior and exterior through visual complexity, inspired by artist M.C. Escher’s tessellations, which were originally stimulated by the Islamic tiling of the Alhambra. Traditional techniques were used to control natural light and shading, arbitrarily stacking up planters in three different dispositions: overhangs (horizontal sunshades), screens, and monsoon windows. The concept of the monsoon windows was based on traditional longhouses of Borneo, where air is drawn into the living spaces from below (Johnston, 2007). The monsoon windows were simply horizontal openings with sliding aluminium panels incorporated into bay windows, which let the breeze in but not the rain. Three floor plate variations give strong variety to the facade. Each apartment has three open sides, giving uninterrupted views of the surroundings - the open parkland and Singapore’s downtown area beyond. This also creates the sense of a continuous flow of space, right from the entry to the far end of the apartment, with a window in the master bedroom. The windows are operable and open inwards, making them easy to clean. This was the first use of such windows in a Singapore high rise in recent years.
Figure 4.3 Moulmein Rise Residential Tower, Singapore, by WOHA Architects/ Wong Mun Summ, Richad Hassel Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Albert K. S. Lim (photographer)
Wadi Hanifa Wetlands, Saudi Arabia (awarded 2008–2010)
In the late 18th century, the first Saudi state strategically chose the west bank of Wadi Hanifa to locate its capital at Riyadh for its water and arable land. Subsequently, Riyadh (or Arriyadh), the new capital, developed to the east of Wadi Hanifa, which was used as a sustainable source of water and food for the city. For centuries, the Wadi Hanifa watershed system provided sustenance for communities along its length, where a balance prevailed between the wadi’s resources, natural processes, and human interventions. Beginning in the early 1970s, the increased demand for water and minerals to meet rapid growth led to the expansion of Arriyadh westward towards Wadi Hanifa and eventually to environmental degradation (Mosta- favi, 2011a). In response, in 1994 Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) launched a strategy and recognised that its proper implementation required a comprehensive coordinated development plan, as well as an effective management mechanism.
In 2001, the ADA commissioned the British firm Buro Happold and their Canadian partners Moriyama & Teshima to develop the 10-year Wadi Hanifa Comprehensive Development Plan (WHCDP), to restore its natural beauty and to rehabilitate and harness its water resources. The ADA recognised that the lack of planning controls would seriously undermine the restoration project, and an area known as the Wadi Hanifa Reserve was the place where the planning policies would be applied (Mostafavi, 2011a). Currently the ADA is looking at developing many of the sub-wadis to bring these into what is becoming more than the ‘Great Park of Riyadh.’ The plan was divided into two parts: the Wadi Hanifa Restoration Project for flood management and water quality and the Wadi Hanifa Development Program focused on public infrastructure and landscape (Figure 4.4). The works involved the removal of construction waste, along with inert and non-inert waste. There was also a restoration of the wadi channel as preparation for a 20-year flood plan.
The bio-remediation facility is one of the most impressive features of the project, incorporating a series of weirs, pools, aerating pumps, bio-remediation cells, artificial periphyton and benthic substrates, and riparian planting. Together contributing to the environmental quality, the elements of this design assimilate contaminants and further purify the water through natural organisms. The Wadi Hanifa Development Program, with strategic public and private sector projects, aimed at developing the environmental, cultural, recreational, and water resources. The programme’s methods include providing open spaces and parklands; investment opportunities for tourist, recreational, and leisure facilities; and innovative agricultural development that meets future capacity (Mostafavi, 2011a). To achieve these goals, a series of landscaping and other features have been introduced: palm trees, indigenous hardy species of flora, trails for public access, and lighting of certain features, such as rock escarpments. Also, new structures are to be added, such as an educational and visitor centre, kiosks and food and drink outlets, prayer areas, and iconic
Figure 4.4 Wadi Hanifa Wetlands Picnic Area, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Buro Hap- pold, Moriyama and Teshima, and Arriyadh Development Authority
Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Wael Samhouri (photographer) bridges (Salama, 2016). The project started with the overall implementation process by first meeting existing demands and then addressing future needs. The key steps involved restoring and protecting the environmental and cultural values of the wadi and upgrading its functionality, including cleaning the wadi bed of dumped material, reprofiling and regrading the channel, and improving the road network, utilities, and surface flow channels.