By OMA / Ole Scheeren
Ole Scheeren’s design generates an extensive network of private and shared social spaces in a radical reinterpretation of contemporary life in a community. Instead of following the default typology of housing in dense urban environments – clusters of isolated towers – the design turns vertical isolation into horizontal connectivity and reinstates the notion of community as a central issue in today’s society.
31 apartment blocks, each six stories tall, are stacked in a hexagonal arrangement around eight generous courtyards. The interlocking blocks create a multitude of shared outdoor spaces, forming a dramatic topography of inhabitable terraced gardens across the stepped volumes. Partly resting, partly floating, the blocks hover on top of each other to form an expressive “interlaced” space that connects the individual apartments with an accessible and inclusive community life.
The design generates a multiplicity of qualities and choices for its inhabitants and gives a sense of multi-layered richness and freedom of possibilities for living.
The 170,000m2 development, which was completed and handed over to residents in late 2013, provides 1,040 generous residential units of varying sizes that are reasonably priced. The unusual geometry of the hexagonally stacked building blocks creates a dramatic spatial structure populated by a diverse array of activity areas.
The blocks are arranged on four main ‘Superlevels” with three ‘peaks’ of 24 stories. Other Superlevel stacks range from 6-18 stories to form a stepped geometry, resembling the dramatic topography of a landscape more than a typical building. Multi-story openings allow light and air to weave into and through the landscape of the courtyards.
Eight expansive courtyards and their individual landscapes are defined as the heart of the project and form distinct spatial identities. Each courtyard, spanning a distance of 60m across and extending further through the permeable interconnections, possesses a specific character and atmosphere that serves as a place-maker and spatial identifier.
The primary pedestrian route through the project leads residents from the main entrance through and to the courtyards as primary points of orientation and identification – you live in a courtyard, a space, rather than a building or an object. Pedestrian circulation is grouped and bundled according to the density of residents around each courtyard in a central ‘connector’. A system of secondary footpaths brings residents from the connector to the private front doors of their homes.
The Interlace generates a space of collective experience within the city and reunites the desire for individual privacy with a sense of togetherness and living in a community. Social interaction is integrated with the natural environment in a synthesis of tropical nature and habitable urban space.
The notion of community life within a contemporary village is emphasized throughout the project by an extensive network of communal gardens and spaces. A variety of public amenities are interwoven into the landscape, offering numerous opportunities for social interaction and shared activities integrated with the natural environment.
A Central Square, Theatre Plaza, and Water Park occupy the more public and central courtyards and contain numerous shared amenity areas such as a clubhouse, function and games rooms; theatre, karaoke, gyms, and reading rooms; and a 50m lap pool and sun deck, family and children’s pools. Surrounding courtyards such as The Hills and Bamboo Garden provide shaded outdoor play and picnic areas with lower blocks around its perimeter. The Waterfall, Lotus Pond, and Rainforest Spa complete the eight main courtyards and offer residents further choices and areas in a more contemplative environment with additional swimming pools, spa gardens, and outdoor dining.
Multiple barbeque areas, tennis and multi-courts, organic garden, pet zone, and ‘the rock’ line the perimeter of the project and offer a wide selection of communal activities for residents. A continuous loop around the site provides a 1km running track and connects the ‘internal’ courtyards to the activities around the edge of the site.
The character of a vertical village embedded in a rich landscape of activities and nature is evident throughout the project. Elevated roof terraces and sky gardens extend outdoor space on multiple levels with views above the tree line to the surrounding courtyards, parks, sea, and city. The diversity of the various offerings and atmospheres of natural environment encourage social interaction with the freedom of choice for different gradients of privacy and sharing, contributing to the overall sense of community.
Sustainability features are incorporated throughout the project through careful environmental analysis and integration of low-impact passive energy strategies. A series of site specific environmental studies, including wind, solar, and daylight analysis, were carried out to determine intelligent strategies for the building envelope and landscape design. As a result, the project has been awarded the Universal Design Mark Platinum Award and Green Mark Gold PLUS Award from Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority.
The landscape design capitalizes on the generous size of the eight-hectare site and further maximizes the presence of nature. By stacking the apartment blocks, the design generates a multiplication of horizontal surfaces populated by extensive roof gardens and landscaped terraces that in aggregate provide 112% green area – more than the size of the unbuilt site.
Water bodies have been strategically placed within defined wind corridors, which allow evaporative cooling to happen along wind paths, reducing local air temperatures and improving the thermal comfort of outdoor recreation spaces in strategic micro-climate zones.
Traffic and parking is accommodated in a single layer below the landscaped ground level. A large number of open-air voids allow light and air to the semi-sunken and fully naturally ventilated parking deck, creating areas of lush vegetation and trees below ground and connecting these spaces visually and through planting to the courtyards above.
All apartments receive ample levels of daylight throughout the day while the unique massing of the project provides a sufficient level of self-shading in the courtyards which helps maintain comfortable tropical outdoor spaces year-round and continuous usage of the courtyards and their communal functions.
Extensive balconies and protruding terraces form a cascading vertical landscape across the facades and further connect the green roofs and shared public terraces between the building volumes. Overall, the project appears not only surrounded by the tropical vegetation but embedded within it.
A system of three core types for 6, 18, and 24 stories is located at the overlap of the stacked apartment blocks. Cores typically serve 3-4 different units per floor, which provides efficient circulation without long corridors. Core lobbies are naturally lit and ventilated, bringing daylight and fresh air into common areas. Circular “mega-columns” arranged around the vertical circulation in an optimized hexagonal configuration enable the 3-way rotation of the blocks and provide a standard solution for all conditions.
The highly efficient system of compact cores, minimal circulation, and maximized floor area allowed the project to be realized on a budget for reasonably priced private housing, within the competitive context of Singapore’s market.
The Urban Habitat Award recognizes The Interlace’s significant contributions to the urban realm; its exemplary integration with its surrounding environment; and its ability to add to the social sustainability of its immediate and wider context, environmentally, socially, and culturally.