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Architecture firm WOHA is greening Singapore's urban core

Taking foliage to new heights

Tropical foliage is unlikely to be the first thing that springs to mind on a walk through central Singapore, an area abuzz with the cacophony of construction work. Yet amidst the chaos rises urban oasis PARKROYAL on Pickering, a high-end hotel dripping with ledges of eye-catching sky gardens. It’s one of the best-known projects by Singaporean architecture firm WOHA, whose commitment to sustainable and environmentally conscious architecture is taking Southeast Asia by storm.

The current exhibition "Garden City, Mega City" open until September 4th at the Skyscraper Museum in New York City, showcases a dozen project featuring WOHA’s commitment to city re-greening.

Founded in 1994 by Richard Hassell and Wong Mun Summ, WOHA’s focus harkens back to the pre-modernist naturalism of the Arts-and-Crafts movement, as well as a desire to combat the process of global warming in tropical Asian cities. They stand to lose much of their biodiversity as monoliths spring up like daffodils, contributing to global warming. "Skyscrapers don't have to be shiny machines," says Hassell. "We can introduce other concepts to their design and they can turn out quite differently."

For the architects, such concepts include amongst others, vertical ecosystems and use of the Green Plot Ratio, which compares newly planted vegetation on an urban development—like a building site—with the amount of vegetation present before it was touched by humans. "We need to start making cities that are net positive contributors to climate stabilization," says Hassell.

Wondering what WOHA’s green metropolis might look like? Here are a few of our favorite projects in Singapore:

PARKROYAL on Pickering

Welcome to the futuristic garden abode of your dreams. The PARKROYAL on Pickering hotel masters its hotel in a garden concept, achieving the perfect combo of high-end trendiness and environmentally friendliness. Meeting the country’s highest environmental building certification, 15,000 square meters of sky gardens, waterfalls, reflecting pools and green walls make the hotels’ carbon footprint the same of nearby Hong Lim Park across the street. Many of the hallways and common spaces are naturally ventilated, while rainwater collection and the use of solar power make this accommodation easy on your conscience (but perhaps not your wallet).

Skyville@Dawson

As one of Southeast Asia’s most densely populated cities, Singapore features a diverse range of public housing projects. One of the most acclaimed is Skyville@Dawson, made up of 80 home ‘villages,’ complete with communal areas, in what the architects hope foster community-centric living. Each unit features openings on all sides to let in light and air, minimizing the need for air conditioning. As in many of WOHA’s projects, greenery features highly—tenants can go for a run in the expansive rooftop park, equipped with solar panels that power common lighting. Is this sustainable big city living of the future? Let’s hope so.

Oasia Hotel Downtown

This recently opened hotel features plant-covered trellises meant to provide a cooling layer while re-greening to the fullest. In addition to looking impressive, the sky gardens will contribute 1100% Green Plot Ratio when fully grown. WOHA’s first project to utilize the green plot ratio was Singapore’s Newton Suites in Singapore, which achieved 130%. The architects plan to integrate such practices into their future projects – plus plenty of others. "The skyscraper is such a recent innovation that we lack a vernacular, regionally inflected highrise tradition to draw on," says Hassell "But this is why we think it is an exciting research area and the field is wide open for experimentation."