Standing 31-storey tall on what was once Robinson Green, a pocket park in the heart of the Central Business District, the Singapore Business Federation Center (SBFC) straddles between Robinson Road and Cecil Street. As such, with the replacement of the park, an ‘urban forest’ allegory was conceptualized for the design as a whole to ‘recreate’ a park-like ambience for the landscaped spaces of the development. In this prime CBD locale of dense high-rise towers, chancing upon a park within this concrete jungle was a rarity. Once a public park, the subject site was an enclave of green respite for the urbanites. As one walked along the bustling street of Robinson Road, the relief of urban built-up by greenery was both a pleasant and welcoming reprieve. During lunch time, one would find someone reading under the shade of trees while enjoying a sandwich or a group of colleagues gathered under one of the pavilions sharing packed lunches. These nuances imbuing the character of this site were sought to be integrated into both the architectural and landscaped spaces, in an effort to reinstate environmental qualities back into this dense urban condition.
Historically, the site was a small but significant urban park that holds memories for many who used to frequent the area to chat or to enjoy the simple pleasure of passing time in the breeze, amidst the high-rise buildings and fast paced city crowds. It is thus critical that the architectural design approach recognises this space as an important social and memorable urban park. The design aims to not only replace the urban green lost, but also realise the full potential for the integration of contemporary urban lifestyle of city dwellers with the nurturing qualities of nature. This is manifested in a composed series of tiered garden terraces juxtaposed with the different programmes at different levels. This is achieved by stepping back the podium and tower to create a staggered effect – overlapping views between different levels and maximising the visibility of the natural settings within the development.
A series of gardens designed fronting, particularly Robinson Road is staggered vertically to allow a continuity of green spaces. The setting back of the building volume at this corner allows the creation of terraced gardens as an extenuation of the first storey public garden; and is a deliberate intervention to break down the imposing building mass to a more intimate scale. This assemblage of tiered gardens forms a vertical urban park which can be enjoyed by the community. In addition to providing a highly visible green component which enhances the streetscape, occupants from within the building podium are also able to overlook and appreciate these cascading gardens. The podium form is also shaped such that every medical suite is externally facing natural day lighting.
Aligning with the authority’s planning requirement for provision of a substantial covered public space at the first storey, a biophilic “urban-forest” notion is conceptualized – where a series of shade-loving trees complemented with a mural in the form of “tree-canopy” abstractions interwoven between the pockets of F&B outlets, outdoor refreshment areas and the seven-metre wide through-block link. The F&B units are designed as glass pavilions within this gardenesque setting for the enjoyment of the patrons.
Connection with Nature by being in nature, seeing nature and touching nature is proven to increase daily wellness. Through biophilic and wellness design, the sensory experience rejuvenates mental health, creates therapeutic experiences and lowers stress levels.
The urban forest wellness experience is created on the 9th floor. The main recreational deck is encircled by a bosque of forest trees. The pool-side experience is orchestrated with a linear, naturalistic allée of trees along its length on one side, affording filtered views through to the city-scape beyond and some privacy. To further carry the ‘Urban Forest’ allegory in the landscape design, the vertical core structure at one end of the pool became the ideal backdrop for a 15m tall ‘vertical green’ mural. Its visual appeal is doubly magnified when reflected on the pool and lends a magical quality to this roof-top amenity in the heart of the CBD.
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
Architect: DP Architects Pte Ltd
ESD Consultant: DP Sustainable Design Pte Ltd
Project location: Robinson Rd, Singapore
Design year: 2011
Year Built: 2016