Duxton Plain Public Housing International Architectural Design Competition: Adjudicators Comments on Winning and Merit Prize Entries

ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism, Singapore in collaboration with RSP Architects Planners & Engineers (Pte) Ltd, Singapore

This scheme was commended for its simple, yet urbanistically effective solution. The prominent distinctive building form provided a powerful urban silhouette that was pleasing to the eye and enhanced the existing skyline. At the same time, the urban windows formed between the blocks were well located. This helped to draw the Tanjong Pagar Community Club into the foreground as well as provide sufficient porosity to the development, allowing the city to be perceived in layers and reducing the impact of the high density environment.

Whilst a conventional approach was adopted for the design of the blocks and units, the site layout showed creativity, turning an irregular site into an advantage. It was one of the few schemes that gave every block unobstructed frontage and provided the majority of the units with good views. The sinuous arrangement of the blocks created a large open space or 'event space' that responded well to the site context.

Variety and options of choice were the strong concepts. The simple idea of linking the blocks together via elegant sky parks helped to frame the views through the development and created additional "ground" space giving residents more exciting social and recreational choices. These sky decks were cleverly designed to be a destination, rather than a mere connection. They showed promise of being enhanced further to become vital meeting places for the community.

The concentration of the recreational facilities and communal spaces in three locations provided a sustainable solution that brought the facilities closer to the residents giving more opportunities for social interaction. The express glass lifts and configuration of the sky parks enhanced the users experience providing varying commanding panoramic views across the city.

The design demonstrated detailed consideration on how different user groups could use the spaces created. The scheme creatively landscaped the car park deck as a communal garden, forming various spaces that were activated with facilities. This new ground level space integrated seamlessly with Duxton Plain Park. The scheme was commended for the detailed consideration given to how different types of trees could be used to provide varying degrees of screening and privacy to better define various activity areas.

Thought was given to the design of the units. The layout gave flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the occupants. Residents also had greater choices with a variety of unit floor plans that included balconies and planter boxes. The resultant facade was simple, yet elegant, providing sufficient texture, layering and scale at the unit level to give the blocks a 'residential character and avoid an overbearing sense of density.

The creation of a 'Historical Garden' with resin columns that turned into light-points at night to mark the foundations of the original Duxton Plain blocks was an interesting and novel way to capture the historical significance of the site.

However, the design of the sky park could be developed further, taking into consideration issues of shade and wind protection and better integration of the utility structures to achieve a more attractive roofscape. The placement of the blocks at the corner of Neil Road and Cantonment Road could be reviewed to better to the road junction. The siting of the block at the southern end of the site also needed to be adjusted to better respond to the adjacent developments. The blank end walls of all the blocks needed to be appropriately treated. The 2nd storey link across the entrance leading to the Tanjong Pagar Community Club should be reviewed to ensure a higher degree of visibility of the community club from Cantonment Road.

The scheme was simple, yet effective, incorporating new design ideas. It also addressed all the key practical issues such as efficiency, buildability and maintainability as well as privacy, safety and security. Overall, the design would provide a very livable and attractive environment for the residents.

BBBSA, Argentina in collaboration with RSP Architects Planners & Engineers (Pte) Ltd, Singapore

This scheme challenged the conventional approach taken for high-rise, high-density public housing in Singapore. It was one of the very few schemes that "reduced" the whole development into two super blocks, avoiding the sense of overbearing density. These two blocks made a strong statement, yet existed well against both the nearby high rise commercial buildings and low rise conserved shophouses. The simple and elegant façade treatment further helped to reduce the sense of density of the development and achieve a certain sense of "calmness" in the urban context.

The idea of grouping families to form "neighbourhoods in space", centred around internal sky courtyards at every seven storeys, was attractive and novel, and one of the strong points of the scheme. These landscaped courtyards, punctured by urban windows with views out towards the city, provided substantial spaces to encourage a sense of ownership and belonging and allow communal activities to take place.

The ground level courtyards were designed to be as porous as possible to relate to Duxton Plain Park. This was one of the few schemes where the Nutmeg and Jambu Ayer trees, as well as the majority of the other mature trees, were retained without transplantation, due to the very open and generous grounds created.

The proposal to capture the memory of the site by creating two reflecting pools over the original silhouette of the existing blocks and preserving part of one of them as a museum on public housing was commendable.

However, the design intention yielded a low number of units and resulted in a low net to gross floor area ratio with a large amount of circulation area and communal spaces. Given that the success of the scheme was dependent on the internal courtyards being well lit and outdoor in character, the environmental qualities, in terms of natural lighting and ventilation levels were not satisfactorily resolved. Although the scheme did not advance the core idea of the "artificial tree" as a 'bio climatic structure' or sufficiently address the issues of livability and environmental quality, the refreshing ideas put forward were enriching. The bold approach contributed to the discourse on the possibilities of creating sub communities within high-rise, high-density housing development.

WOHA Architects, Singapore

This scheme distinguished itself by its fresh, bold and novel attempt to challenge conventional notions of high-rise, high-density housing form. It was commended for its optimism in trying to create an environment for social interaction that could generate ample architectural as well as sociological interest. Central to the scheme was the idea of creating sub-communities in a very high-rise living environment. The creation of "sky villages", linked by shared "sky streets" and "sky parks", and the organisation of the dwelling units was a bold attempt to bring back a sense of street life and community spirit as well as create opportunities for residents to interact and bond.

The form and massing of the scheme attempted to make the development a landmark in the setting. It was one of the few schemes that provided a continuous low rise building edge. This helped provide a layering to the building form to reduce the impact of the towers along Cantonment Road. The idea of allowing buyers to select the façade to the unit from a range of options was interesting, allowing the individuality of the residents to be expressed in the resultant façade.

The lifting of the block to create a ground space with a carpet of recreational facilities helped to increase the porosity. At the same time, it synergistically integrated the development with Duxton Plain Park, drawing the greenery through the site. The introduction of "sky parks" and "sky streets" helped to bring more greenery closer to the homes.

However, the design intention resulted in a low net to gross floor area ratio with a large amount of circulation area and communal spaces. The livability, practical and functional considerations, in terms maintenance, safety and security, at the numerous communal "sky parks" were not successfully resolved. The privacy and views out from many of the internal dwelling units was also compromised and the scheme only cursorily addressed the historical significance of the site.

While the scheme was not sufficiently developed to address the concerns of livability, its fresh approach represented an effective contribution towards developing a new housing typology, possibly for lower density, private housing developments.

This text is reproduced with the kind permission of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

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Last Modified: 10 July, 2002