The ParkRoyal Hotel Pickering in Singapore designed by WOHA is a new green space located next to the site in the center of the city’s business district, designed as a hotel and garden. In contrast to the surrounding cityscape, the ParkRoyal is a celebration of Singapore’s tropical ecosystem. WOHA says the project shows how a high-rise development in the city center can be replaced by greenery by making it architecturally striking, integrated, and sustainable.
DESIGN BRIEF AND CONCEPT
The ParkRoyal on Pickering’s relationship with nature is not only symbolic but pragmatic. Sustainable systems integrated throughout the hotel reduce its use of valuable resources and provide benefits ecologically. To reduce the building’s cooling requirements, it is oriented in the north-east with high-performance glazing, self-shading design, and use of natural ventilation. At the same time, its high perimeter-volume ratio reduces artificial lighting needs. Details in the interior are done in intricate geometric and fractal patterns. A spiral staircase itself reminiscent of the pervasive Fibonacci series is enclosed in a complex lattice of wood and metal. On the lobby entryway facade, thin slats of timber are layered to create a matrix resembling local vernacular woodwork. This technique is also used on the ceiling and upper third of the walls in the function rooms as well as at a smaller scale in the folding screens that divide seating areas from larger open spaces. The ParkRoyal creates a visual environment that is stimulating, but not stressful, through hierarchical patterns which are used in the building’s spatial structure. The building is divided into three zones: the ground floor – which contains the lobby, entryway, and parking. The top 12 floors comprise guest rooms with richly landscaped terraces with infinity pools. From the 5th floor up, soft organic forms are enfolded inside the E-plan tower every four stories. A multifaceted spatial structure is created in vertical zones through landscaping layers and a combination of geometric and biomorphic forms.
On the ground, the contours, precast concrete elements of modular radii create dramatic outdoor plazas and gardens which flow seamlessly into the interiors. The top of the contoured podium is a lush green terrace, with a combination of bonsai arrangements, housing the development’s recreational facilities with infinity edge pools opening up unobstructed views of the city. The landscaping also conceals openings to the above ground car parking while allowing in air and natural light.
The common spaces such as corridors, lobbies, and washrooms were designed as garden spaces with stepping stones, planting, and water features creating a mesmerizing ambiance with natural light and fresh air, instead of being 24-hour energy-gulping air-conditioned spaces. This design creates over 49,000 ft2 of green space, doubling the growing potential of the site. These spaces were screened from the weather and direct sun from tall overhangs with leafy foliage. These surfaces break through the glazed outer walls and continue through the reception spaces at ground level. Hanging vines, pools of water, and raw stone continue the natural theme while the walls and ceilings were lined with mirrors to reflect light through space.
The exterior walkways and the top of the podium accommodate a terrace for guests, complete with infinity-edge pools and pavilions shaped like colorful human-sized bird cages i.e., there are no horizontal railings, instead, the tall vertical bars are spaced a few inches apart providing dramatic views and experience to space. These spaces placed on the edge of cantilevered platforms overlooking the city offer a strong sense of risk and peril.
The landscapes are designed to be self-sustaining and rely minimally on precious resources. The planters on the lower floors are watered through rainwater collected and recycled by gravity supplemented by non-potable Newater, also used in other water features. The idea of lighting softscapes and power lamps through Photovoltaic cells arranged on the roof made these Singapore’s and perhaps the world’s first Zero Energy Sky Gardens. The extensive green space provides shade and insulation to the building, reducing the urban heat island effect through evapotranspiration. Thus, it improves local air quality through filtration of particulate matter, absorption of carbon dioxide, and emission of oxygen.
The lush landscapes or Sky Gardens are overlooked through guest rooms after every four-storey breaks down the scale of the building. By adding plant-covered balconies and terraces around the exterior, 15000 square meters of greenery was created around double the area of the site and give every guest a garden view from their room window. In selected guest rooms, the windows were lined up with plants to create a difference between indoor and outdoor. The visual connection with nature was established through the extensive use of indoor living plants. In the lobby, vines are interlaced with wood panel walls, and beds of flowering plants bloom. Exterior walkways that transverse the spaces between private guest rooms and communal areas are bordered by equatorial plants and water features.
The ParkRoyal on Pickering is an apparent fusion of nature and architecture and a subtle affirmation of environmentally sustainable urban design.