An important project in terms of urban redevelopment designed as a vertical garden
Singapore has a new biophilic skyscraper – a kind of garden city that rises 51 floors and 920 feet (280 m) into the sky that represents a pioneering example of vertical urban development. Named CapitaSpring and designed by CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and BIG Bjarke Ingels Group, the building creates a graceful, dynamic interplay of lines from its base to the rooftop to make way for external spaces for lush greenery. Located in the heart of the city’s financial district, but in an area previously occupied by a car park and hawker market, the building is of real importance in terms of urban redevelopment. But it’s also intended to act as a prototype for the multifunctional buildings of the future in the way it combines premium offices, foodservice areas, public spaces, and gardens. From the outset of the project, the goal was to create a comfortable environment with an inviting atmosphere for everyone who lives and works in its spaces within a flexible complex that can adapt to the needs of today’s workspaces, which are much more hybrid than in the past. From this perspective, CapitaSpring can be seen as a coming together of modern architecture and tropical flora, the avant-garde and the traditional. The dialogues thus created are developed to the point that these aspect are fused together – as can already be seen from the outside, with gardens and green balconies peeping out from behind the skyscraper’s façades. The effect is somewhat reminiscent of pulling back a series of curtains on both sides to reveal trees and shrubs behind them. Equally striking is the view from the inside to the outside of these openings, which, depending on the position and level, are reminiscent of an hourglass, a vase with a wide base, or even tears of light flowing from top to bottom.
This act of both physically and visually gifting a glimpse of nature to the community, along with a public space, also involves the base of the tower, with a new pedestrian zone and improved livability on Market Street. The street has, in fact, been transformed into a linear park, quite similar to a town square, that seamlessly transforms into a vertical garden.
Numerous glazed entrances at street level connect the indoors and outdoors, while the 59 foot (18 m) high lobby offers people a refuge from the Singapore sun. Reflecting the functional distinction drawn between the different areas of the building, separate lobbies are connected to this space to provide access to the parts of the building occupied by offices, homes, and public spaces.
“Our design seeks to continue Singapore’s pioneering vertical urbanism with the 280 meter (918 ft.) tall diverse neighborhood of places to work, live, and play, inside as well as outside. Due to the unique character of Singapore’s urbanism – both extremely dense and green – we decided to make the design a vertical exploration of tropical urbanism. At grade, the street is closed to form a new linear park and public plaza. A vertical park in the middle of the tower forms a spiraling promenade ascending among tropical tree trunks and canopies. On top, an urban forest feeds all the restaurants and cafes in the building, and allows visitors to enjoy the lushness of the summit. CapitaSpring is like a vision of a future in which city and countryside, culture and nature, can coexist, and urban landscapes can expand unrestricted into the vertical dimension.” – Bjarke Ingels, founding partner, BIG.
The second and third floors of the skyscraper are about local identity and traditions. It’s here that the iconic Market Street Hawker Center has been reproduced, with as many as 56 food stalls. Today as much as yesterday, this corner of the city is the lifeblood of Singapore’s culinary experience, while also playing an essential role in keeping the local culture alive and bringing the community together.
Going farther up the building, you then come to the residential levels, with services such as a swimming pool, whirlpool baths, a jogging track, a gym, a community kitchen, a residents lounge, and a barbecue area. The top 29 floors are dedicated to premium office spaces with panoramic views of the river and bay.
One of the most iconic parts of the building is the Green Oasis, a large area that mimics the plant hierarchy of a tropical forest, where the growth of plant leaves is directly proportional to the availability of light within the layers of vegetation. Shade-tolerant plants have the largest leaves and are found on the “rainforest floor.” Moving up towards the “rainforest canopy,” the trees have smaller leaves. Finally, offering views across the city, CapitaSpring’s rooftop garden is home to Singapore’s highest urban farm, operated by 1-Group. Currently, over 150 varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers are grown here to supply restaurants.
“When we first got invited to join the architectural competition, we saw a great opportunity to team up and join forces with BIG to achieve a uniquely bold result together. It has been enriching to combine our approach to design and innovation with BIG’s skill in architectural scale. As CapitaSpring is open to the public today, I am proud of how we enhanced the public spaces across the building, creating the best experience for all users, leveraging both technology and unprecedented integration with natural elements.” – Carlo Ratti, founding partner, CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and director, MIT Senseable City Lab
Architects: CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and BIG
Client: CapitaLand Development, CapitaLand Integrated Commercial Trust and Mitsubishi Estate
Size: 93.000 m2
Consultants: dotdotdot – Alessandro Masserdotti, Fabrizio Pignoloni, Gabriele Gambotto
Project Leader: Gorka Calzada Medina, Martino Hutz, Song He
Project Manager: Eric Li, Günther Weber
BIG Sustainability: Tore Banke, Anders Holden Deleuran
BIG Landscape: Dina Brændstrup, Kirsty Badenoch, Ulla Hornsyld
Photography by Finbarr Fallon, courtesy of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and BIG