The paint has barely dried on Thomas Heatherwick’s The Vessel in New York, and he is already touching down in Singapore to oversee the progress of Eden, his London-based studio’s first residential project in Asia.
Set to complete later this year, the 104.5m tall block rises up 20-stories over Draycott Park, a quiet side street off the main Orchard Road strip. And on every metric, the apartments – a tent-pole project by Hong Kong-based property developer Swire Properties – represent an intriguing discourse on tropical modernity with none of the usual tropes one might expect. For Heatherwick, Eden represents a chance ‘to create something distinct for Singapore to contrast against a skyline already filled with angular steel and glass towers.’
The balconies will be draped with curtains of greenery, lending the tower the look and feel of a vertical garden, but there is also a structural elegance. On that front, the side elevation has a low-key sci-fi element to it, the vertical blades – giant, ash-brown concrete slabs cast from moulds that are imprinted, incredibly, with Singapore’s topography – resemble the fins of a space-ship shuttering open to reveal its pulsing, organic interiors.
In turn, these are lined with a sequence of large seed-shaped balconies, which will eventually brim and overflow with torch ginger, elephant ears, heliconias, split leaf philodendrons, and tree ferns; the result being what Heatherwick describes as a vertical and horizontal blending of nature.
Each floor holds a single 282 sq m apartment, with the first one hovering 23m above the ground. Heatherwick’s stroke of genius was to move the service core to the perimeter and then break the quotidian rectangular floor plan into two quadrants. These split apart like a ladybug’s wings to reveal a large central living space flanked by bedrooms and wrapped by open voids with at least nine doors that slide open to the elements.
By alternating the balcony floor patterns as he stacks up the apartments, Heatherwick creates oversized volumes for double-height plants. ‘Instead of fighting nature, there is a need for balance and to reconnect with it,’ he says.
Visually, Eden has soft echoes of The Learning Hub, Heatherwick’s other Singapore project, which has a similar organic quality. But aesthetics aside, Eden’s spatial configurations allow both natural ventilation without sacrificing privacy, whilst the abundant landscaping from the ground up will significantly temper the ambient tropical heat.
For Heatherwick, who is also at work on Changi airport’s fifth terminal with Kohn Pederson Fox, Eden is a timely case-study in globalised architectural replication and environmentalism, particularly about how to avoid living in hermitically sealed spaces that deny nature. The approach is a reflection of his creed that ‘architecture should solve problems, rather than to express my aesthetic or my philosophy as an architect’.
For more information visit the Heatherwick Studio website
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Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.
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