Transcript of a Presentation by the ARC Studio Architecture & Urbanism, URA Centre, 7 May 2002

The Layers

I’ll start of by describing our first – the most complex layer, which is the ground. Our first move was to lift the ground and through slicing and under this lifted surface we plugged all the services – waste collection, car-park and such. But if it were a flat ground then we would have missed the opportunity to use the ground to our advantage.

We saw the ground as behaving like a sand dune, rolling, peeling. These are images of lava flow. The ground basically has an internal room that determines its form. We did not set out with the form of a sand dune, but we set out with the resolution that we wanted private spaces. And by the time we tucked in the services below, we knew which layer had to be higher and which layer had to be lower. We worked on the ventilation requirement. So, the ground is a very precise reaction to the parameters imposed by the services and I’m going to show you the proposed programmatic device.

We saw how the ground interferes with the objects placed on it. So in this case, the rock garden and the rock. [shows a picture of manta ray] Also the ground is able to allow energy flow. In our case, light and air. In the manta ray’s case, the gills. So the ground peals out to form shelters and roof-decks.

This is the view of the RC and multi-purpose hall. From the Duxton Plain and the street, it connects at multi-levels into the basement car park and onto the new ground. The ground also dips. It also forms seats and gills. The plazas created become event spaces. The grass slopes to join back at strategic levels to the street. Here slope number one is the bus stop.

Slope number three – Duxton Plain. There are two slopes. This one is at the Raintree Court. These two trees are existing trees that we have kept and we have merged the levels. We have kept the existing level here, but we wanted to arrive at the new level here so we slope here and along the way we have activated this space with two cafes. There’s actually quite a lot of activity – sporting activities happening along Duxton Plain. There’s also F&B along Duxton, which has great potential here. This is along the new road junction and you can see the slopes here going to the different levels of the car park. [The text has been extensively cut here, as it would have been unclear without accompanying visuals. The editors.]

So this is a visualisation of the layers. Here, between the course, we have injected forested areas where you can engage in quieter activities and linear kinds of activities. Even thematic approaches can be taken up in organising the programmes.

So the bands move around the course and then loop into three pockets of bigger spaces separated by a big event plaza here. This one is activated by the childcare centre. We have put a playground next to the childcare centre. This becomes a historical court for the Jambu Ayer and the nutmeg trees. And this is a community hall and sports court; this also doubles up as a place for activities in case of bigger functions. We have made the connecting points at the lower ground here, so that these activities also have the chance to interfere in this manner.

And this is the tree-layer. Trees also become programmatic. We see two ways of viewing the trees because we line them linearly along the band. One, the trees can be seen creating distance along its axis and on tree-lined avenues and perpendicular when trees become screens creating a mass of trees. We have also clustered the trees around quieter nodes and made it very open in the event areas.

On top of that, we have added plug-ins. Now, in our minds the plug-in elements can actually change over time, right. So five years later, if the people managing the development feel that they don’t need so many kiosk stations they can remove them. If they want more, they can plug in some more so they can even change it entirely. So this is our reaction to open architecture.

The pavilions. Pavilions also double up as lighting and meeting points and also signage areas. And these are located at thirty-six metres apart. Actually we have laid out the grid and just planted the pavilions. Where it clashes with the buildings we’ll just remove them.

These are utility nodes. We thought these will occur twenty-four metres apart. Basically, you see this dollar sign here, we thought that you could actually put a dollar in and get a bit of water.

This is a fitness station. It actually doubles up as sculptures and children playgrounds. We actually used this one to illustrate that we thought that it could be all sorts of different and exciting new items. So these are placed twelve metres apart. This forms an exercise layer that links up with the bigger programmatic exercise programme that runs up the entire building. [Text has been cut because it would have been unclear without visuals. The editors.]

So the events, or the programme, start to develop in episodes or sequence. We start to talk about constellations of plug-in. Coupled with the ground level, now we begin to see a very complex relationship and the original rule we set was very simple; twenty-four metres apart, twelve metres apart. Basically we feel that it is a real powerful to way to make it a very active zone.

The last – but not the least – layer is the historical layer of the ground. This consists of the trees and the old blocks and two trees that were planted by the Senior Minister. The trees planted will be raised onto the new ground and given a court. The court will celebrate the trees. I think at the current location, when we walk there we don’t even know that these trees are of significance. But here we have decided to create a court. We thought that this would be an extreme sports court. Basically you do your BMX, skateboard stunts here. We have actually put a ream around this tree like a cone and applied that to all the existing trees. This is basically a sign that these are actually preserved trees and form part of the historical area. This is a rainforest court and it also doubles up to mark the entrance to the development of Duxton Plain. There are two cafes here.

And this is a quieter corner. We have actually preserved all these trees next to the shop’s backyard. That’s the plaque court. We have planted a plaque between the two blocks and given a court to the plaque. What we did was look at the old blocks and try to capture the sense of the scale and rhyme and the units of the old. We thought of light transforming the old building into light. So the result is actually the random collection of light points that seems to arise from the landscape. This is the visualisation of the historical park. These boxes – we thought of the old furniture, you know, like sofas, kitchen counter, WC bath - are now abstracted to become light boxes. The effect is like an ethereal landscape; both monument and art. So that completes the ground. The most complex element in our scheme.

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Last modified: 30 October 2002