“The RIBA International Prize will be awarded to the most significant and inspirational building of the year. The winning building will demonstrate visionary, innovative thinking and excellence of execution, whilst making a distinct contribution to its users and to its physical context”, claims the Organisation. This is the first RIBA Award to be open to any qualified architect in the world.
PARKROYAL on Pickering
FROM THE ARCHITECT: Singapore-based WOHA Architects have long been advocates of the ultimate ‘green city’ – one that would be comprised of more vegetation than if it were left as wilderness – and the PARKROYAL on Pickering was designed as a hotel-as-garden that actually doubled the green-growing potential of its site.
Massive curvaceous sky-gardens, draped with tropical plants and supporting swathes of frangipani and palm trees, are cantilevered at every fourth level between the blocks of guest rooms. Greenery flourishes throughout the entire complex, and the trees and gardens of the hotel appears to merge with those of the adjoining park as one continuous sweep of urban parkland.
The PARKROYAL on Pickering occupies a long and narrow site on the western edge of the central business district, between Hong Lim Park and the HDB apartment blocks of Chinatown, and overlooks the historic shophouse district between the park and the Singapore River. The development could thus respond to many separate and disparate environments, it could provide public connections between those zones, and as the building would be extremely visible – from and across the parkland to the north – the architects could make a grand (and green) urban gesture.
Perched above the open-to-all-the-elements pool deck of a five-storey podium, a twelve-storey tower forms an E plan, so that all guest rooms look north to the park and/or into the sky gardens, whilst the services and the external connecting corridors were placed on the southern elevation. As the hotel is ‘self-shaded’ – by the projecting sky gardens and the adjacency of the three room-blocks – and shielded from early morning and afternoon sun by adjoining buildings, the rooms could be fully glazed (by low-emissivity glass) without external screening devices.
The podium is a remarkable piece of architectural theatre: it presents a monumental embellishment to the Singapore streetscape, and has thus immediately achieved something that no other recent building has even attempted. Referred to by WOHA as ‘topographical architecture’, the stratified undulating layers of pre-cast concrete wrap around, through and above the car park and the public areas of the hotel, as contour lines weaving through a modular grid of cylindrical columns. Cascades flow down from swimming pools and garden terraces on the podium roof, over the ‘eroded rock-forms’ of the striated mass and into crevices and ledges from which trees and vines can thrive.