On the 30th of April, a trail with Raymond Woo took place in the heart of Singapore – Orchard Road. Organised by the President*s Design Award (P*DA) team from DesignSingapore Council and Urban Redevelopment Authority, the trail started at the glass-fronted 268 Orchard Road and concluded at the iconic Ngee Ann City.
Born in Singapore, Raymond Woo is a local architect who is responsible for designing many significant buildings like the Singapore Airlines hangar, Prudential Tower and 78 Shenton Way. Raymond was a recipient of the P*DA’s Designer of the Year in 2016, and was also a Jury member of the Architecture Panel for P*DA 2018.
Throughout the trail, Raymond elaborated on the different architectural concepts that underpin his practice. About 25 students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic were captivated by Raymond’s dedication and knowledge of architecture.
“268 Orchard Road is located here and Ngee Ann City is at the back. If you can’t tell, these two buildings are siblings,” he joked as we entered 268 Orchard Road.
FUTURE ARCHITECTS: The 79-year-old architect, who was previously an external lecturer at the School of Design & Environment, National University of Singapore, began to explain the design and architectural concepts that were applied to his buildings. As the students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Diploma in Sustainable Urban Design and Engineering, stood in front of 268 Orchard Road, they were eager to know more about what lay in front of them.
MEETING POINT: As we stepped into the enthralling glass-fronted building, we found ourselves in a large, high-ceilinged atrium. This vast atrium serves as a meeting point for patrons. “When designing a huge building, it is important to have points of identification that are huge and convenient enough to house patrons.” This is a trait that remains at the top of his mind when designing buildings.
OBSCURE GLASS: 268 Orchard Road is the only building in Orchard that is made up entirely of glass. The entire building is made up of thick glass panels that are derived from natural materials. Each panel is sound proof and a good conductor of heat, in light of our tropical weather.
CABLE TREES: The glass roof is supported by multiple cables called ‘cable trees’ that branch out, ultimately forming the shape of a diamond. “The main idea of 268 Orchard Road is to make it look like a diamond, which is why there are no columns in this building,” Raymond added.
DOUBLE LAYERED PANELS: Each glass panel is double layered which helps to keep the heat out to prevent the patrons from sweating in such a warm and humid climate.
EXPOSED: Each pipe is exposed throughout the building with the intention to drive curiosity among visitors. “I did not expose these pipes for fun, but because pipes are a useful element that is part of the building and visitors should know that. Always remember to be honest with your building and don’t hide anything.”
THE CIVIC PLAZA: Most Singaporeans might know that Ngee Ann City has two fountains – one located at the Civic Plaza and one at Basement 2. However, most of us are unaware of the fountains’ main purpose. “These fountains are beautiful, but these fountains are meeting points for people. They are accessible and convenient and that prevents people from getting lost. It is important to have points of identification when designing any buildings, otherwise your building is a failure.” This tip resonated strongly with the young audience – most were seen nodding and taking notes. The Civic Plaza – which can hold up to 4000 people – is an inspiration from St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City within the city of Rome, Italy, with the idea to bring people together.
INTRIGUED: As we stood outside Ngee Ann City, the students could not hold back their curiosity about the striking colour of the façade. One student asked, “Why is the building red?” Raymond answered by saying, “the Teochew loves the colour red because it stands for good luck, so that’s why we selected the red granite.” Ngee Ann City was commissioned and owned by the Ngee Ann Kongsi, a charitable organisation set up by the Teochew community.
THE LIONS: Placed directly outside the main entrance of Ngee Ann City are two lions. ‘Feng shui’ beliefs call for the placement of these lions as symbols of protection. The lion (on the left) is stepping on top of its mischievous little cub to prevent it from running away whereas the lioness (on the right) steps on an egg. These statues are directly imported from China. (Photo taken from Raymond Woo’s office)
Q&A: As we concluded the trail by entering Raymond Woo’s office, the students were given an opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions on the trail. When asked what one memorable tip they can take away from the trail, Ryan from the Diploma of Sustainable Urban Design and Engineering class responded by saying, “I think it’s interesting how we have to be honest when we design our buildings. Nowadays, we tend to hide everything, like the pipes, because we think it’s ugly, but we should be transparent with our design because each function means something.” Throughout the trail, Raymond had pointed out the importance of having a visible meeting point for shoppers. Sean, aged 19, agreed with this tip: “My whole life, I was unaware that the fountains serve as a meeting point. The only fountain I know was the one downstairs because when I was young, my parents would park at the basement which was closest to the fountain, so I often see people hanging around the area waiting for their friend. However, after today, I realized that it is important to have huge meeting points especially in a huge mall.”
Some of them also had a bit to share regarding their experience at 268 Orchard Road. “Before I entered 268 Orchard Road, the cables weren’t nice to look at from the outside, but after I went up to the 3rd floor, seeing the lights and cables come together was pleasing to the eyes,” added Farah, aged 19. Jodie, a fellow coursemate, pointed out how 268 Orchard Road is often overlooked by passers-by. “I used to walk past 268 Orchard Road without looking inside because it seems like a normal building and I often see passers-by walk past it without glancing. However, after the trail, 268 Orchard Road is a whole new building to me and it makes me appreciate the design process that goes into it.”
The President*s Design Award team would like to thank Raymond Woo for allowing us to experience an informational and unforgettable trail. Do keep an eye out for future outreach activities organised by the P*DA team!
30th April 2018
268 Orchard Road
Ngee Ann City