by Tay Suan Chiang, Sep 5, 2009 [View PDF]
Architect Ole Scheeren’s new condo project here has hexagonally stacked apartment blocks
The architect behind the high-profile new project at the site of the former Gillman Heights estate has been to Singapore “countless times”.
With The Interlace and another project here, Mr Ole Scheeren is likely to make more visits. He says: “Singapore almost seems to be an entire construction site. There is now more rebuilding than ever, and it is an impressive statement of its confidence and belief in its future.”
The 38-year-old, a well-known Beijing- based German architect and partner at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), is certainly contributing to Singapore’s rebuilding in a big way.
His design for The Interlace in Alexandra Road is set to change the way condominiums look in Singapore. It has 31 blocks of apartments stacked in a hexagonal arrangement.
The joint projecfby CapitaLand and Hotel Properties is a move away from the more familiar condo look – isolated, vertical towers of apartments.
This is the second project in Singapore for Mr Scheeren, who is dating Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung. He also designed Far East Organization’s Scotts Tower, a residential project at the junction of Scotts and Cairnhill roads.
His overseas work includes Beijing’s China Central Television Station (CCTV) and Bangkok’s 300m MahaNakhon tower.
Speaking at The Interlace’s design presentation yesterday, he describes the project as a “contemporary vertical village” .
It will have 1,040 apartments spread across the blocks, each six storey’s tall, interlocking with one another. There will also be public and private sky gardens, eight courtyards and a lkm jogging track on the 8ha site.
He says setting the blocks in such a way gives residents views of the surrounding lush greenery. Another positive is privacy – the blocks are not close to one another and residents would be unable ·to look into their neighbours’ homes, he adds.
In addition, passers-by can spot the distinctive project from afar.
This is not the first time he has produced buildings of unusual design: The CCTV headquarters consists of two towers that join at the top, while his most recent project, the MahaNakhon, has a pixelated facade. (See story below)
He tells Life! that OMA does not consciously make buildings look unusual. “Our mention is not so much to make a building stand out by its shape but an interest in exploring new potentials and possibilities with architecture.”
With The Interlace, he “hopes to be able to show an alternative to the usual tower blocks in a condominium” .
Local architects are in two minds about the project, though. Mr Tan Kok Hiang, founding director of Forum Architects, says he “likes the architectural statement”.
Mr John Ting, past president of the Singapore Institute of Architect, says: “The architecture is a great breakthrough in a long time.”
Architect Mink Tan of Mink Architects says, on first impression, The Interlace looks like “stacks of Lego blocks” and “does not evoke any village feel”. But he likes the attention to detail, such as on its facade.
In 1995, Mr Scheeren joined OMA, which has offices in Rotterdam, Beijing and New York, and became a partner in 2002. He graduated from LO)1don’s prestigious Architectural Association.
The son of an architect, he wanted to be a rock musician, when his interest in architecture waned for a while.
But his passion was renewed after he saw renowned architect Rem Koolhaas’ winning work on a new centre fox technology in Mr Scheeren’s home town, Karlsruhe. He felt he could connect with Koolhaas’ works and decided to work for him.
He now oversees OMA’s works in Asia, which include a media centre in Shanghai and the upcoming Taipei Performing Arts Centre.
He has been living in Beijing for the last five years and began working in Asia 10 years ago.
His first contact with the continent, however, was in 1992 when he spent 31/2, months backpacking in China, visiting places. such as Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Kunming. The country then was not so opened up, but it showed him that “the world was so different from what I had seen before”.
Though he has been working in Asia for the past decade, particularly China, he has yet to master the Chinese language. But he is getting by, as “more Asians speak English”, and he and his local team have , edeveloped a system of communication that works”.
Other unique works
China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters in Beijing
What: This new headquarters of the state television network towers 230m high. It consists of ‘two towers leaning towards each other and joined at the top, forming a distinctive loop. One tower is dedicated to broadcasting and the other to research and education.
Reactions: Locals nickname it Big Underpants because it resembles long underwear.
MahaNakhon in Bangkok
What: A 77-storey complex in Bangkok’s central business district. Set to be completed in 2012, it will be the tallest building in the Thai capital. MahaN akhon will house retail space, apartments and a hotel. Its facade has a pixelated effect, with some sections of the building carved in, and protrusions on other sections.
Reactions: Netizens are divided on it. Some applaud it for being distinctive while others say it looks as if it has been half eaten by a bug.
Scotts Tower (main picture) in Singapore
What: A 68-unit residential development with four towers suspended from a central core. Developer Far East Organization has not yet started marketing the project, which is to be located at the junction of Scotts and Cairnhill roads.
Reactions: Seems to have got the thumbs-up from local architects. Veteran architect Professor William Lim has said: “The design is a clear and .strong statement. The units are high up; they offer better views and free up the ground. “
Prada Epicenter (below) in New York
What: Designed together with Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas, founder of Office for Metropolitan Architecture. The store was an interior conversion of the former Guggenheim store in Soho. Its interior resembles a big wave, connecting the ground floor to the basement. Oversized stairs made of “zebra” wood are also used as informal display spaces where people can tryon shoes and browse through bags and other accessories.
Reactions: Some critics praise it, others dislike it. The New York Times urged people “to think of this as a museum show on indefinite display”, while American art publication The New Republic described it as “a monument to theoretical extremes.”
A happy, private life
Fans of award-winning actress Maggie Cheung will be relieved to know that she will not be doing an Andy Lau – getting married on the sly, that is.
When Life! Asked her boyfriend, Mr Ole Scheeren, if they plan to get hitched any time soon, he said: ‘.’We will let you know when we have plans.”
Cheung, 45, and Scheeren, 38, were drawn to each other instantly when they were introduced at a birthday party for her manager Melvin Chua in Beijing in June 2007.
They made their first public appearance as a couple at a Swarovski Fashion Rocks bash in London four months later.
“We are very happy and we live a fairly private life, which is necessary, otherwise we get asked these questions,” said Mr Scheeren of their relationship. The coupIe live in Beijing.
He added that they are happy to “live a completely normal life” and try and avoid the paparazzi. We are not big ‘ fans of places where that might happen,” he said.
The attention he receives as Cheung’s boyfriend is inevitable, but nothing that has affected my life dramatically”, he said, adding that he has no need to change his lifestyle. “I know people will want to know about us, but we want to keep our work and private lives separate,” he declared.