Monday, November 7, 2011

Coming Soon!

Coming soon will be an architectural extension with an interior fit-out for a penthouse unit in Shenzhen, China and a large scale office fit-out (in Shenzhen as well). Tender is out and we expect construction to start soon. It has been hard three months for the design team which hopefully will pay off with a clean and qualitative construction. While other projects are in early stages of planning, we are excited and look forward to make our hands dirty ourselves again.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Louise Low, Juliana Kei, Betty Kum, Sandy Lee, Olgierd Nitka, Jackey Yp

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Radical Mix @ Swissnex

We were recently invited to give a talk at the Swissnex in San Francisco as part of the opening of the Travel Exhibition "3 Positions". Introducing the Radical Mix studio, we gave a brief introduction to the evolution of the challenges of the contemporary city and compared the conceptual modernist approach with the spontaneous and impulsive growth of the asian cities:

Vertical Urbanism - A Brief History

To understand where we are, we need to know where we come from. I will begin by revisiting the Plan Voisin by Le Corbusier, a century old, and the evolution of the model in the West and in Asia. The Modernist answer to the question of sustainability at that time.

In the West, vertical cities are envisioned in Order, with impeccable blocks meticulously aligned over a pristine site. Le Corbusier foresaw a shiny city, the vast population secured in airy towers, with Nature flourishing below. A neat rectilinear network of skyscrapers crosshatched with wide highways for automobiles, freeing the podium for manicured parks.

The story of Pruitt-Igoe:

Architect Minoru Yamasaki
Completed in 1956, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

2,870 apartments in 33 apartment buildings on 23 hectares.
Based on the principles defined by CIAM, blocks were raised up to 11 floors to save the grounds and ground floor space for communal activity. The buildings remained largely vacant for years, occupancy never rose above 60%. By the end of the 1960s Pruitt–Igoe was nearly abandoned and had deteriorated into a decaying, dangerous, crime-infested neighborhood

Demolition - 1972-1976

The story of Vele di Scampia (Sails of Scampia):

Architect Franz Di Salvo
Built 1962-1975, Scampia, Naples, Italy

The design with bridges, corridors and sky communal spaces represented the paradigm of a new approach to the social residence. The idea behind the project was to provide a huge housing settlements where hundreds of families can integrate and create a community.

The Sails of Scampia became a major centre for drug trafficking and illegal activities. The buildings are in a state of decay, while two buildings are still occupied by residents. The 2008 film Gomorrah of Matteo Garrone was partly filmed here.

The towering projects speak of a social division, of a life trapped in cages up in the air, overlooking the violence and the void of existence below, peering at the gathering storm of riot police and youths in the streets.

Whereas Asia resembles a Darwinian Architectural experiment in overdrive that bloomed a thousand species.

Le Corbusier did not foresee that the humanity stacked up in his immaculate cruciforests will burst from their fortresses into the free-flowing ground below, hungry for the liberation from the immobility of their vertical lives, luxuriating in the flux of the streets. The towers are scalar fields, the pent-up energy in them disperses by the millions into the podium and streets where fertile mercantile imagination found thousands of ways to capture their fleeting attention, if not their wallets, stomachs, hearts and minds.

The result of the inverse relation of the towers and the streets, the Ville Ombreuse, allows a bewildering number of shadier, tenacious, adventurous lifeforms to flourish and multiply in micro-economies and macroecologies.

As an urban rhizome, connected from its skybridges to the bowels of its subway, networked to near territorial infinity by intricate metro systems and trains, they weave a matrix upon which the prosperous metropolis thrives, by-passing some of the most spectacular nature of South China, mountains, sand and sea, leaving them pristine. Its staggering monumental density belies the fact that this is an unexpectedly sustainable model for millions.

Excluding Hong Kong's high consumption of imports, the actual domestic per capita footprint (17% of its total carbon footprint) generated as a result of this living model is among the lowest for developed countries, at 6.7 tonnes.

The city as a Rhizome:

X-Cities in Asia

What are X-Cities?

EXpedited - Accelerated

“One speaks of an art of tomorrow. This art will be, because humanity has changed its way of living and thinking. The program is new.”

The man has a point. Hong Kong is a vertiginous, postcard perfect conglomerate of diamond-cut towers - a Darwinian experiment in overdrive that bloomed a thousand architecture species.

This is clearest from the heights of Victoria Peak miles above the city. In the clarified air, the unfamiliar blast of ozonic oxygen induces hallucinatory headiness. Below, the traffic of humans and machines resemble ants in a clockwork maze of proto structures - a wonderland of edifice unfolds where architecture periods are shuffled like the cards of a deck and then exponentially multiplied to apparent infinity. En masse, the result careens towards psychotropic chaos than Euclidian geometry, a fantastical, wild, impenetrable labyrinthian fractal garden both realistic and artificial, perfumed by acid.

It is also the spaces in between the buildings and the relationships between them that reconfigure the city. With organized complexity emerge urban webs and social intelligence.

The late 20C urban environments in hot, humid tropical Asia thrive as a result of these microclimatic consequences. Streets and alleys are cooled by the towering shadows, enough to encourage pedestrians to abandon the air-conditioned cocoons of the buildings and the chilled belly of the subway. In Hong Kong, the furrows between edifices, the “terrain vague” at the podium and street level, the voids of Ville Radieuse/Ombreuse hold promise of the possible, of transformation and expectations of human energy.

Parasitical connections, walkways and linkages copulate, fuse and fall in together until the point is reached when everything coalesces into a wanton web. Relationships intensify in parallel - the escalation of traffic attract free-wheeling commerce and nuclei of mercantilism spring up by the thousands.

It is also the spaces in between the buildings and the relationships between them that reconfigure the city. With organized complexity emerge urban webs and social intelligence.

Redemption - understanding that in the liquid torrents of the city, we are in perpetual motion, that we are headed somewhere, that there is a future unfolding, that transition is a state of freedom.

From above the rise and fall of the cityscape, one is struck by the deluge of abundance, of a million scintillating possibilities.

Emergence of Complex Cities at the Edge of Chaos.

Instant Megalopolis X-City - Ville Contemporaine.

Like the undergrowth of a rainforest, a lively, complex street culture thrives in astonishing configurations beneath the Asian Plan Voisin.

The development of mass transit systems freed the wide streets from cars and vehicular traffic, and the subway seamlessly connect one neighborhood to another.

Driven by commercial and economic impulses, the configurations take on the nature of the old neighborhood fabric, their DNA bears the imprimatur of their cultural and societal context despite the modernity of the constructions. The process hits a plateau, however, when the demand for a more ideal micro-climate leads to airconditioning and an envelope, and the podium mall materializes as a result. Designed by a centralized architectural authority, malls become increasingly a closed system that manifest entropy, a state of inert uniformity that metastasized throughout Asian cities.

From above the rise and fall of the cityscape, one is struck by the deluge of abundance, of a million scintillating possibilities.


Pent-Up Energy
Energy Vectors & Flux


Architecture-Urbanism Hybrids

Perhaps our best ideas are like birds, they remain caged until we choose liberty.

Ultimately, through the Transformation of the Design Process, we hope that the students undergo their own Transformation as Architects.

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Friday, September 30, 2011

Vitra or What is the Role of the Avant-Garde?

A few weeks of this summer we dedicated to a research trip in Europe on medieval construction methods (soon more on that), a rather peculiar interest, not at all relevant.

Yet as we were back to Europe already, we also didn't fail to visit some of the latest iconic and avant-garde buildings, the architecture world talks about. We headed to Basel and successively to Weil am Rhein, where Vitra has used its campus to invite well known architects to contribute to a 'themed production headquarter'.

It clearly demonstrates the state of the art of construction and innovation at its particular period in time: Frank Gehry's and Zaha Hadid's elemental dynamic shapes, Herzog de Meuron's integrated dependent structures. We were fully prepared for the avant-garde. And we found it. They look great on pictures, every time I revisit them (even now as I put it up on the blog). It appeared like a recipe of what avant-garde is: Be different, challenge everything, push beyond everything, everybody has ever thought of - and that on as many levels as possible. It has been a revelation on construction and formal strategy. These appeared well positioned in what you would expect from the leaders of the architectural discourse.

Yet being there was like a coitus interruptus - we felt like losers. Spaces failed to move. In fact, space didn't exist at all. We were irritated by the few lonely people, trying to sit on the bench that was a result of the squashed dependent A-frame structure. They felt as uncomfortable as the structure itself. Finally spaces wanted us to leave.
Not touched at all, rather annoyed, we headed back to Basel. We strolled through the old town and arrived finally at the Muenster - one in a zillion European churches. The typology offered what we expected - striking engineering and a well known typology. Yet the moment, that puzzled was when we took the turn towards the cloister courtyard. It was supposed to be an enclosed, internalized courtyard with covered arcades. Yet the architect engaged the view over the Rhine with large scale windows and therefore completely changed the meaning of the internalized patio as an introverted, privatized area of contemplation. It hit us completely unexpected, yet it was very powerful (yet not photogenic) and left us puzzled.

It was that moment, when I was rethinking role of the avant-garde? Must avant-garde reinvent the wheel over and over again, use new technologies and the dynamics of the contemporary social and economic developments to generate a dip into the unknown? Or does avant-garde mean to maintain a critical alignment within the cultural context, yet challenge specific conditions based on context and opportunity? Is avant-garde the achievement of the seduction of a photo/rendering or the obsessive memory of a rather banal challenge of a near cast-in-stone principle?

Obviously in our practice we are also torn between the sensation of the new (avant-garde!) as we are confronted with clients who want something new every time, and the cultural lineage (avant-garde?) which has been our professional's main question of who to serve.

Yet I have to admit, that this trip has puzzled me more than moving to Asia eleven years ago. And we are glad to maintain that struggle a little bit further.

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What makes a Mixed-Use Development?

We conducted this research in 2010, in order to understand the complexity of the most common contemporary typology: The Mixed-Use Development. The introduction of this typology with a podium-tower-configuration has radicalized and transformed the use of the city over the past fifty years. What we were interested in is what kind of programs make a successful development, how is the programmatic distribution influencing the typology and what kind of circulatory systems are used to activate such a complex and large scale development. The action field of our research was Hong Kong, where the urbanization has radicalized more than in other cities in terms of density, hybridization of program and innovation in typological mix.

Various developments have been analyzed based on the programmatic mix, the vertical distribution of program (Podium-Tower) and the vertical circulatory system. The result of this research is a compendium of mixed use typologies and their content:

The interesting aspect is, that the architecture of such mixed use complexes is rather irrelevant, as they develop an internalized microcosmos of architectural urbanism. Interior has replaced architecture as a form of cultural identity. Program has replaced space as a form of social identity.

As architects, a strong and blatant emphasis on economic and commercial activities of a development makes us feel hurt in our self esteem. The core knowledge of our discipline as the masters of space doesn't apply here. We feel threatened and ignored. Yet these developments create life in a much more powerful way than our understanding of space could ever give birth to. And indeed, we should feel threatened by the fact, that not the architect is the one who determines the vibrancy of the urban life, but the developer and the business consultant.

As those developments are extremely successful throughout the world in terms of generating life and urban activities within themselves, they are worth a deeper theoretical architectural investigation. What they can teach us is a lesson that we could apply back to the core city, a lesson on how to activate the city through the hybridization of architecture and urbanism.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Louise Low, Chak Pui Chuen, Chan Kam Fung, Chan Wai To, Cheung Wan Tao, Lai Lok Sung, Lau Ming Yan, Lee Lit Hei, Lloyd-Evans Jane Louise, Lui Kam Fung, Woo Yin Shan, Yan Kit Man, Yuen Suet Ying

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Friday, September 16, 2011

ICE around the globe

Heating up the office activities with two construction projects in China and a few planning projects in Vietnam, two architecture projects in Vietnam and Hong Kong, we are on top of it busy with academic and theoretic investigations as well. While we are all flying around the world, trying to sync our schedules, we want to share some interesting links on the latest developments of ice - ideas for contemporary environments:

Louise Low is currently hosting the event 'Urbanization around the World' in San Francisco as part of the exhibition '3 Positions in Architecture' (presentation coming soon), which is based on the Radical Mix in Hanoi Book and Exhibition series, which take place in Venice last year:

Thanks to the great works of Ludovic Balland, our Radical Mix book has been awarded at the Swiss Design Awards. It was a great collaboration and we are very pleased for Ludovic to be awarded such an important prize:

Claudia Wigger is teaching at Michigan Taubman College in continuation of contemporary typologies and the potentials of programmatic synergies as activators of urban life in downtown Detroit:

and Ulrich Kirchhoff is continuing his series ComplexCity at the EPFL, investigating the potentials of urban infrastructures as urban activators for Lausanne:

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ICE wins Asia Pacific Property Award 2011 for Best Mixed Use Architecture

Sometimes the strangest situations occur: I was sitting alone on a mountain top in Hong Kong, taking an afternoon off office, wondering if it was a wise idea to join this game of architecture business, where every young student has more design skill to offer than us, every MBA has more cunning and business mind, when I received a call that we won this year's Asia Pacific Property Award for the best mixed use architecture, beating heavy weights of the industry in that category.

We are not doing architecture for awards, but for the good of the user. In that sense, it doesn't actually mean that much, but this is still an encouragement to all of us for all the hard work and effort everybody has put into office and projects to make this place an exciting spot on the map to work in. We are very grateful for that opportunity to be named one of the best practices in Asia Pacific.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Louise Low, Claudia Wigger, Minh Le Van, Arthur Bel, Keith Chung, Hugo Ma, Tim Mao, Christopher Tan

Local Architect: Trinity

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Radical Mix in Hong Kong

Density in Hong Kong has accelerated the transformation of architectural typologies, which is nowhere else in the world to be found. The city has become an experimentation ground for high density vertical environments. It is the most important case study for the good and the bad of city of the future.

Mixed Use has always always an imminent parameter in the typological development of Hong Kong. Scale and configuration has changed over the years, but the general condition of a hybridization of a building has remained. And this is the biggest difference to the Western Modernism, which was more inclined to segregate and separate function.

The starting point for the Radical Mix is the traditional shophouse: the hybrid of living and working under the same roof. Other than the western townhouse, it has been a typology of complexity, incorporating gardens and patios to separate and integrate the various users in a micro urbanism, rather than in a building.

With the increased modernization and densification of the city, this model of the shophouse has not been questioned, but taken as a foundation for the Radical Mix. The explosive growth of Hong Kong after the second world war fell into a time, when modernist urban visions were discussed (again): The most successful impact on the urban development of the city in terms of typology and environmental issues must have been La Ville Radieuse and its vision for the high rise residence with free views, inside, but far away from the city.

La Ville Radieuse, le Corbusier's answer to the question of sustainability at that time, was criticized by urban theorists such as Gaston Bardet for being environmentally unsound in terms of urban microclimate and human comfort. Bardet, through his drawings of shadow casting, illustrated that the design and layout of the building blocks would, in fact, create lots of overshadowing zones which do not receive any sunlight for long periods in the winter time. With wind flow and cold winter temperatures, these overshadowing zones could bring about intolerable thermal conditions to pedestrians during the coldest months of the year.

What is unexpected is that these impossible conditions caused by the shadows created the opposite in tropical and sub-tropical Hong Kong where the millions of a new boom generation found in these shadow zones and wind ravines relief from searing heat, creating a milieu for public space and a new urbanism was born where there was barrenness before. The development of mass transit systems freed the wide streets from cars and vehicular traffic, and the subway seamlessly connect one neighborhood to another.

Like the undergrowth of a rainforest, a lively, complex street culture thrives in astonishing configurations beneath the Asian Plan Voisin, oblivious to the thoughts of the most celebrated architect of our time who would have surely approved. Driven by commercial and economic impulses, the configurations take on the nature of the old neighborhood fabric, their DNA bears the imprimatur of their cultural and societal context despite the modernity of the constructions.

The process hits a plateau, however, when the demand for a more ideal micro-climate leads to air-conditioning and an envelope, and the podium mall materializes as a result. Designed by a centralized architectural authority, malls become increasingly a closed system that manifest entropy, a state of inert uniformity that metastasized throughout Asian cities. Yet nowadays, the Radical Mix is a successful economic model, which impacts the city's life and environment far more than we would have ever expected. It's micro urbanism has developed a level of sophistication, which has lead to near autonomous and self sustainable conditions. The resulting form however, starts to counterproductive to the city fabric as a place for public and public life.

With increasing overheating of the city due to the heat island effect of the podium tower typology, an acceleration of road side pollution due to the street canyon effect, one is inclined to question, if the current status of the podium tower typology is counterproductive to the city. Hong Kong's temperature in urbanized areas have peaked last year due to the nocturnal heat radiation. Most affected were the areas with the highest concentration of mixed use podium tower buildings.

Those areas are also affected by increased road side pollution, and effect, which is worsened by the accelerated wind speed through the needle like towers, that acts as a cap for the pollutants from vehicles, containing them on the immediate pedestrian level. The resulting deterioration of the street as a positive public space, leads ironically as a countermeasure to a further increase in interior public spaces in form of podium tower mixed use developments.
Studies have shown the negative effects of a density, driven by the hyper podium tower typology. It is up to the developer and the architect to draw conclusions from there towards a more sustainable typology. The wellbeing of the city is in the interest of the architecture as well. Therefor it becomes our most important duty, to incorporate a more expansive view of Architecture, to refocus energy into the larger context of living, especially in the understanding of how others live and our implications on their kind of environment. To simultaneously create and be created by the forces of the context, architecture is no longer an object, but also a subject in the larger scheme of things: Architecture must perform, not just form within that realm.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Louise Low, Lai Lok Sung

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Thursday, March 10, 2011

West Kowloon Cultural District - Oops, he did it again!

It is official, that Foster won again the West Kowloon Cultural District - after the victory in the 2004 competition over hist competitors OMA and Rocco. While in 2004 it was the giant bris soleil, which wetted the eyes of the jury, now it is the the giant water front park.

The others won't be too sorry over the loss, I guess, as they walk away with a HKD 50 Million concept design fee each, a sum, unbelievable these days for a concept master plan only.

Although there lie seven years between the two competitions, nothing has changed much in terms of the content of that project: In 2004, hopes were high. The design brief for that competition was talking about a 'world-class' cultural center, the involvement of Centre Pompidou, Guggenheim and all big players in the cultural industry. Shortly after the announcement of the winning entry, both, Centre Pompidou and Guggenheim renounced their engagement, as it was culturally and commercially not feasible. The project was shelved. The government had to realize, that Hong Kong did not have any major art collection, nor any major art collectors, which would put the project on solid ground.

Hence, it took them another six years, to rethink the strategy. Eventually, they had to react to the cultural defeat in 2004. In the meantime, planning and construction for a major train station just next to the site is underway. The high speed train will connect Hong Kong with Guangzhou, Wuhan and other Chinese cities. It will be most likely the biggest singular arrival points for tourists, coming to Hong Kong. And they come with a lot of cash, which the city is trying to get out of them.

And here lies also the dilemma of the entire project: As the train stops in the middle of nowhere, the government was forced, to develop this land concurrently, not to let millions of visitors flood into barren land and get a bad start with the city. The idea of 'Hong Kong Culture welcomes you' was born: A shopping paradise for Bruce Lee action figures, dim sum restaurants, action movies and a beautiful view over the harbor. To upgrade the sentimental shopping mall, to fit into the self proclaimed image of 'Hong Kong - Asia's World City', western high culture should give a good alibi.

As culture did not succeed so well in 2004, the 2010 competition was putting emphasis on the 'people', trying to get support from the local community. It should be a place for people, for the Hong Kongers to enjoy and celebrate their hometown. For the same people, who have seen a steep rise in property prizes in recent years with an actual decrease in living area, yet a decline in income and salaries. They should enjoy the water front and a gigantic park in a fairly inaccessible part of a city, which lies in sub tropical climate with a heavy rainy season, typhoons from May to September, burning sun throughout most of the year. Usually people gather here closer to shelter and buildings, as the safety of a dry place can be a benefit here. And as (affordable) housing is still the main problem of the city, the need for culture is fairly insignificant, compared to that. Yet, what the city does lack is an urbanized waterfront, highly mixed use, programmatically dense and a larger portion of housing.

As the winning scheme puts this park at the waterfront, it certainly upgrades the value for the adjacent buildings, which we can imagine with very expensive flats, overlooking an empty park towards Hong Kong side. Yet, the scheme stays on the level of low density, which creates a rather smaller amount of built area. What a stunning view of course, and what a possible price tag attached...It is a scheme, which reveals the true intention of the project. To transform a disadvantaged site into a luxury property heaven. And for that, the scheme does it quite well.

I forgot to mention the aspect of culture: Shortly before announcement of the final results of the 2011 competition, the chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District resigned. Maybe him too, could not really find a good cultural reason for the project and gave up.

I personally think, the OMA entry is the best of the three projects. But it is also the most naive, trying to create an urban fabric, which in fact is really for the people, urban fragmentation, variety, scalar and programmatic change. Despite its naivety, it reminds me positively of a quote by Niemeyer, I read, when I started studying architecture. When Niemeyer was asked about his membership in the communist party, he said it is a duty for an architect to be communist, because his foremost responsibility is for the user, for the people. Unfortunately, naivety is a high value, most of the architects have lost in the last 20 years of accelerated property activities.

To conclude, I need to refer to developer client of ours, who had a brilliant idea at a conference, we attended about the West Kowloon Cultural District. He said, instead of giving the project to three firms to design only, the government should let ALL the architecture firms in Hong Kong, big or small, participate and design and build at least one building each.

We'll second that. And this would truly be a concept, worth HKD 50 Mil. And who knows, maybe we will see a third competition within the next few years and then, the winner hopefully is someone else.

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Singapore's Future - Revisited

With the Independence of Singapore in 1965, the future began with architecture.

In a short window of the euphoria of a new national identity, architecture became a vehicle, to live the dreams of the 'modern' future, forward looking and different from its traditional neighbors. Young Architects like Moshe Saftie and Paul Rudolph got a chance, to realize their visions on a larger scale. A lot of these buildings of the early time of the republic have been destroyed already and made way to a much more speculative and commercial architecture. Others will follow in due time and therefor will erase the most important built documents of the founding of a nation's future and they serve as interesting examples of a tropical modernism. Every time we go and visit Singapore, another building vanished. Ironically, Singapore erases with those decisions the architecture of its founding years, and officially only preserves the british colonial architecture history.

As one of the many anonymous buildings of a period, this hotel combines solutions for climatic constraints (in terms of large shading cantilevers) with the desire, to elevate the dogma of modernism into a more individualized need for form and ornament.

One of the highlights in Singapore is the Colonnade by Paul Rudolph. Still today, one of the most expensive residential estates, it took a unique approach, on how to ventilate a building within a tropical climate by increasing the porosity of its volume, creating more semi-outdoor areas and shaded surfaces. The building demonstrates, that the 'tropical modernism', other than the western one, is based more on climatic and environmental factors, than technological.

The Concourse by Paul Rudolph is an office complex, that is like all Rudolph's work in the Tropics, based on the climatic constraints. With windows, being responsible for nearly 80% of the heat gain and loss in a building, the project orientates the window away from sun exposure by tilting it to the ground.

The Mandarin Oriental and the Pan Pacific are fine examples of variations of 'bris soleil' buildings. Their orientation to sun and the maximization of shaded building surfaces drives the projects to introduce the concept: form follows constraint, form follows environment (versus the modernist dogma of form follows function).

Futura, designed by a local architect, stands symbolically (and mainly by its name) for the new era of Singapore. The cantilevered odd sunshades, crystalline window glass curving around the living rooms, precast construction elements, irregular floor plans, Futura is the characteristic for that time, yet will be taken down soon to give way for a more efficient development.

Moshe Saftie's first building in Singapore: Habitat I & II, as an adaptation of his Montreal project to the tropical context. Other than Rudolph, he still stays true to the modernist understanding of the volume, but introduces precise and deep cutouts, to create semi-outdoor balconies and terraces. Also, this building has been taken down a few years ago. Saftie himself has pleaded the government, to put the building on the heritage list. Although there was no official action taken to the pledge, he at least got as compensation the new Marina Sands commission.

William Lim studies in the 60ies at the AA in London. Upon hist return to Singapore, he was commissioned the first large scale mixed-use development ever: The Golden Mile. I guess Archigram must have been angry, that he could build, what they only draw. Not talking about style, the complex is highly fascinating in terms of circulation and use. The base is a shopping mall with a central atrium. Above, there is a long, four story office block, facing the adjacent street. It serves as the structural base for an A-frame, which supports a leaning terraced block with residential units, facing the river (behind the street). This A-frame situation gives way to an open, fully shaded, but also fully ventilated outdoor atrium, which contains public areas and an elevated sport ground. It seems, that this project is save for now. After a period of decline, it has seen a boost in popularity recently, with artists and architects moving in and upgrading the facilities.

There have been a few initiatives lately, to preserve the modern buildings of Singapore. Mainly dedicated architects, who have no financial muscles, were trying to emphasis on the importance of those (and many other) buildings.

Although we are not really into conversation ourselves, we have encountered by talking to the inhabitants, that most of them have a deep affiliation with those buildings. Particular sad was the visit to Habitat, half a year, before it finally vanished. Most residents were very angry about the coming loss and after visiting the flats, we did understand why: Spatial refinement and spatial atmosphere was extremely high; rarely to find anywhere else.

Unfortunately, we contacted the developer afterwards, to educate him about the value of the building, hoping, we could convince him to find alternative solutions to save Habitat. We were trying to convince him of creating an extension, which would integrate the old building (similar to OMA's Whitney Museum extension). He was glad to listen to our compassion - and offered us the facade design for the upcoming new project, which would replace Habitat as a standard, maximum efficiency, no soul development...

© 2011, ice - ideas for contemporary environments