The 100ha Gardens by the Bay in Singapore took the top prize at this year’s World Architecture Festival with the accolade ‘World Building of the Year
Although officially the scheme rewarded was for the two cooled conservatories entered by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, the judges made it clear that the award should go to the entire design team for a piece of collaborative work. As well as Grant Associates, the other main players were structural engineer Atelier One and services engineer Atelier Ten.
The cooled conservatories are unusual in that they are trying to create an environment that is cooler and dryer than the tropical surroundings, the opposite of most conservatories. One conservatory has been designed as a cool Mediterranean environment and the other to simulate cloud forest, which it does dramatically with an artificial mountain complete with waterfall. Also very prominent in the gardens are the ‘supertrees’, dramatic steel and concrete construction which support climbing plants as well as photovoltaics. ‘We wanted something in the garden that had some scale and counterbalanced the two conservatories,’ Grant said. ‘We wanted to generate a sense of wonder, and it gave us the opportunity to transform the gardens at night.’ The trees host dramatic lighting, important since many visitors prefer to come to the gardens at night time, when the weather is cooler. The photovoltaics on the supertrees power the lighting.
Atelier Ten has come up with an environmental strategy that cools plants and people rather than entire spaces, and that is powered by biomass from the pruning of trees throughout the island.
Paul Finch, director of the World Architecture Festival, said at the awards ceremony, ‘Choosing a winner was a tough decision, but the winner is a scheme of the highest quality. The jury was insistent that the project should be recognised in the round and that all the design team should have recognition.’
Gardens by the Bay was also shortlisted in the landscape category at the World Architecture Festival, but another Singapore project won the accolade, Kallang River Bishan Park in the centre of the island, designed by Atelier Dreiseitl. The judges said, ‘This remarkable project fundamentally transforms the urban landscape of Singapore by rethinking the fundamentals of 1960s thinking, transforming a drainage canal into an eco- and people-friendly urban space.
‘The rustic poetic simplicity of its landscape strategy is large in scale with subtle local effects achieved through truly sustainable strategies.’
Grant Associates has recently opened its first overseas office in Singapore. ‘We are new to the game in the international world,’ said Grant, but the practice already has considerable work, including two university campuses and the Capital Theatre with American superstar architect Richard Meier.