Singapore was envisioned as a “city in a garden” fifty years ago. Heatherwick Studio, a London-based architecture firm, was inspired by this concept, as well as the lush tropical backdrop of the area’s nineteenth-century buildings when they were hired to design an apartment complex, EDEN Singapore Apartments, in the historical Newton district. The studio decided to escape from the constricted steel and glass skyscrapers that are traditionally followed for apartment design in favor of a more natural ‘house in a garden’ – a place where the residents can feel linked to the city’s avenues while also enjoying the views, light, and privacy that come with living in apartments. They wanted the green streets of the city to appear to rise towards the sky from the earth.
EDEN Singapore Apartments has a spine-blade structure, with basic vertical linear slender windows forming the blade and large garden balconies in between. This design provides privacy for each of the 20 flats and has twenty units, one on each floor. The apartments are raised out of reach of a ground-level garden when stacked on top of each other, therefore the design team investigated ways to raise this greenery and weave it upwards through the building. The garden’s greenery is interwoven upwards and around the structure through a series of planted chandeliers that develop as they rise the stunning 18-meter-high lobby to become spacious private planted outside areas.
The emphasis on creating a garden for every unit is in response to the disconnect in Singapore between high-rise flats and the lush flora at street level. They were able to construct a spacious central living area on each floor by tearing apart the square block of a normal residential tower and relocating services to the outside. These balconies are interspersed to create a succession of double-height rooms filled with tropical plants from over twenty different types of flora. In addition to encircling each unit with greenery, the plants will grow to fall down the building, softening its aspect.
Studio tried to bring the materials to life by giving it tactility and texture not seen anywhere else in the world. They abstracted the natural curves of Singapore’s landscape to create a new topographical texture, then collaborated with fabricators to manufacture one-of-a-kind molds for each concrete panel. These panels, embossed with an outline of the structure and its immediate surroundings, reveal and highlight its location, giving the material superior physical and conceptual importance. The natural flaws of the organic materials have been embraced; for instance, the imprints in the 180 million-year-old Jura limestone have been revealed, saw marks in the handcrafted parquet have been left visible, and the balcony floor is coated with a textured herringbone-patterned slate.
EDEN represents a surreal way of urban life, with its combination of expressive material textures and crafted details, and Heatherwick Studio’s celebration of the area’s natural landscape. Over time, the building is designed to mature, becoming overrun by its lush planting – like a sapling that has taken root beneath the streets, pulling the landscape of Singapore up into the sky.
Architects: Heatherwick Studio
Project Leaders: Gabriel Sanchiz, Andrew Mcmullan
Area: 33425 ft²
Building Height: 20 Storeys
Landscape Designer: Coen Design International
Local Interiors: Ensemble
Interiors: Heatherwick Studio
Main Contractor: Unison
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: Squire Mech Pte Ltd
Client: Swire Properties, Celestial Fortune
Local Architects: RSP Architects, Planners & Engineers
Civil: RSP Structures
Structural Engineers: RSP Structures