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High Density Development that’s Green? Singapore shows how it’s done...

Posted by
on March 06, 2019 at 01:34 PM

© Courtesy of internet resources

Tackling the contemporary problem of balancing green cover with the high density built forms that urban agglomerations necessitate has become one of urban planning’s core concerns. Building high to leave sufficient green spaces free on the ground was an initial architectural response to the problem, pioneered by countries like land deficient Singapore and commercial hive USA. Surpassing this, the response had to be notched up by taking the greens up into the buildings by way of terraced gardens, ‘hanging’ gardens and green walls. Among the most recent developments in this direction is a building project in Singapore, ever the pioneer in progressive urban design systems. Marina One, designed by Ar. Christoph Ingenhoven and landscaped by architects Gustafson Porter + Bowman, is a mixed use complex of four high rise towers that are designed to blend into the landscape of the green heart at their centre.

For starters, Marina One is located at the centre of Singapore’s central business district which mandates a high density of built area and population accommodation simply for reasons of market viability. The same factor also mandates having commercial and retail facilities in addition to residential spaces, resulting in a mixed use model. The increasing concerns about shrinking green spaces in urban centres and the resulting environmental and health issues mandate the infusion of greens into such dense built forms. What separates Marina One from the many such buildings taking shape across the world is its design, i.e. the artistic skill with which an entire green forest with all its biodiversity has been made to coalesce into the built framework.

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

Two residential towers and two commercial towers were supposed to have been developed on four distinct plots of land next to each other, Ar. Christopher Ingenhoven is supposed to have seeded the idea to combine the four plots to have a greater expanse at their centre where something big could be done. As things stand now, the four towers stand surrounding a forest of 3700 sq m built into the four lowest levels called the Green Heart – a public garden which mimics a green forest in great detail, which the penthouses at levels 33 and 34 can enjoy looking down into!

© Courtesy of internet resources

The Green Heart, as mentioned earlier, is woven into the first four levels of the buildings, carved out of the framework such that the floor height at some points is as high as 16 metres! An intricate system of curvaceous winding paths and ramps line the interior faces of the four surrounding towers so as to create the contours that mimic the ‘terraced rice fields on Asian hilly slopes’. These man-made rolling hills slope down into the valley at their heart, sprouting gardens at all terraces, several pools of water with walkways crisscrossing the forest and a    13 m high waterfall that descends into the pool below with a muted pleasant sound on account of the ‘no-splash’ technology employed. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

The forest boasts of a bio-diversity of around 400 different species of plants and trees which have been selected considering details like seasonality, adaptability, sunny and shaded areas, tree height and canopy cover. Taking advantage of the fact that roots of tropical trees do not go deep but spread side-ways, it has been possible to grow the entire park on slabs of depth less than 1.5 m. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

The vision has been to create a green oasis for the public in the heart of the bustling business district so that, not just inhabitants of the building, but shoppers, people working in the area and even construction workers who are constantly at work at some of the other building sites around can take a blissful breather in the shady greens of the Green Heart. It is an unimaginable open green public space in the heart of the busy concretised business district. Shops and restaurants that are tucked into greenery afford scenic views of the landscape all around to their patrons and customers. The greens planted here are young and expected to grow into the full blown vision of the designers in the next 20 years. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

Superficially described, the Green Heart is but a supersized multi-level green courtyard shared by the four towers of Marina One at their centre. But, what makes it very special is the intricacy of its crafting which, surprisingly, gets highlighted when you look at the numbers involved. Apart from the statistics already mentioned, Marina One has 400,000 sq mts of built space in its four towers at the heart of Singapore’s commercial district, with four basement levels and four levels of podium. Of the 1.88 million sq ft of office, retail and entertainment space, the 2 office towers offer a usable area 175,000 sq m. 1,042 apartments of 1 to 4 bedroom accommodations housing about 3000 residents are available in the two residential towers. This is a very high density scheme that achieves a usable built area of 125% of its site area. And, yet homes and establishments have sweeping scenic views and are very close to nature!

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

High density and green, commercially viable yet open, green lung in a congested business district, combining a podium-tower model with central green courtyard with terraced gardens, green walls and artificial forests, Green Mark Platinum and LEED Platinum certified - several elements combine to make it an internationally ideal development model for a world where 70% of the population will be living in urban areas in the next 30 years.

© Courtesy of internet resources

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