WOHA Architects' lyf one-north Singapore merges brutalism and sustainable co-living

In Singapore’s one-north district, this residential complex blends playful exposed concrete, vibrant murals, and greenery in two seven-storey wings linked by an inhabited bridge.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Jul 12, 2022

Singapore has long been regarded as a pivotal centre for the integration of biophilic design and contemporary architecture, especially considering the intensity and quality of urban development occurring within the city-state. As one of the most densely populated areas in the world, the region’s architects have been forced to innovate constantly in order to introduce green spaces within its packed cityscape, pushing the island nation further towards its goal of becoming a ‘City in Nature.’ One of the firms at the forefront of realising this idealised, ecologically restorative image of urban design is WOHA Architects - founded by Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell in 1994 - whose unique brand of sustainable architecture merges buildings, landscapes, and urban spaces into interconnected human-scale environments that intend to “activate urban ecosystems, steward nature, and foster a sense of community.” Following a highly publicised showing at Expo 2020 Dubai with their work on the Singapore Pavilion, the firm has completed a dynamic co-living complex at Singapore’s one-north district, a subzone of Queenstown that was initially envisioned as a hub for science, technology, and research.

  • Street view of the west elevation and the staircases with terracing greenery | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    Street view of the west elevation and the staircases with terracing greenery Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall
  • Aerial view of lyf one-north capturing the surrounding context | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    Aerial view of lyf one-north capturing the surrounding context Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall

Located at the nexus between the educational, commercial, and residential clusters of the one-north district, the development accommodates 324 housing units spread out between a pair of seven-story blocks. Linked by an inhabited bridge, the structure’s two wings boast façade designs which combine a brutalist-influenced aesthetic with softer modern touches, in addition to vibrant murals that infuse colour to the ensemble.

  • Street view of south elevation. The building massing frames the view toward a conserved bungalow behind | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    Street view of south elevation. The building massing frames the view toward a conserved bungalow behind Image: Darren Soh
  • Street view of the development with prominent artwork wall facing the public road | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    Street view of the development with prominent artwork wall facing the public road Image: Darren Soh

The scale of the structure is quite imposing of its own accord, particularly due to the materiality of exposed concrete that constitutes most of its faces. However, perforations and fenestrations aid in reducing the sheer heaviness of the precast concrete form, whose staggered trajectory delineates patches of greenery on its sides. The architects made use of variations in texture: ranging from smooth, ribbed, and rough exposed concrete aggregates, to eliminate any monotony, while different-sized openings: from large capsule-like circular windows to more standard rectangular ones, introduce an element of playfulness to the external edifices. Shading devices such as fins and hoods, in addition to terraced planters, generate a play of volumes across the structure’s otherwise bare faces.

The building’s angular geometry was inferred from the bent grid of the one-north district master plan | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
The building’s angular geometry was inferred from the bent grid of the one-north district master plan Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall

As per the design team, the district’s master plan comprises roofscapes that ebb and flow in accordance with the land itself, from high-rise commercial, residential, and office buildings, to low-rise housing and open public spaces. The building’s angular geometry was inferred from the bent grid of the master plan and demarcates an important visual corridor between the divergent aesthetic characteristics of office buildings in the Fusionopolis research and development complex, and smaller-scale heritage bungalows in the Nepal Hill section of the neighbourhood.

  • The amphitheatre lights up and serves as a welcoming and lively gathering space in the evening | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    The amphitheatre lights up and serves as a welcoming and lively gathering space in the evening Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall
  • The activity terrace is shaded by the link bridge building above and surrounded with lush greenery to provide thermal comfort in the tropical climate of Singapore | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    The activity terrace is shaded by the link bridge building above and surrounded with lush greenery to provide thermal comfort in the tropical climate of Singapore Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall

In the backdrop, a hill slope replete with bursting foliage from the trees along its incline flows down to the complex’s public spaces at the rear. Stretches of landscaping extend the greenery along this part of the site towards the building’s form, where a split ground plane was incorporated to conform to the flow of the terrain while defining public and private recreational environments. A bold red canopy runs along the building’s road-facing end, beside the entrance from the MRT station in its vicinity - which provides connectivity to other developments within the city. Featuring angular peaks and troughs, the canopy references the district’s roofscapes, comprising both flat and pitched units. A larger version of this assembly crowns the building’s uppermost levels, functioning as a secondary roof structure that further leans into the complex’s adherence to the topography of the site.

The lush surrounding landscape softens the strong geometric language of the building | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
The lush surrounding landscape softens the strong geometric language of the building Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall

Besides its primary function as a residential development addressing the housing needs of young professionals involved in the creative and technological industries nearby, lyf one-north was also intended to act as a community hub serving the larger neighbourhood, with an abundance of public and semi-public social spaces. The void between the blocks is occupied by an amphitheatre and multipurpose driveway plaza that can double as an event and activity space for performances, pop-up activities, and exhibitions when needed. Its main role within the development has been described as that of a “public living room,” for residents and visitors to congregate under the shade of the blocks and interconnecting bridge. Dynamic lighting design enlivens the space’s steps, which cascade down into the driveway and canopy bordering the road.

  • View below the link bridge. Bold colours highlight the amphitheatre as a communal focal point for the development | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    View below the link bridge. Bold colours highlight the amphitheatre as a communal focal point for the development Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall
  • Street view of south-west corner | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    Street view of south-west corner Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall

Angled columns extend the three-dimensional geometric language of the canopy, rising to support the blocks and bridge. The bright red finishes on these structural members as well as the underside of the bridge are a sharp contrast against the stark grey of the concrete. Moving inwards, the swimming pool offers another point of congregation, along with green communal terraces that provide avenues for residents to obtain fresh air. Finally, the top of the complex hosts an open rooftop lawn for socialising and recreation, with panoramic views of the surrounding urban landscape.

  • The swimming pool is one of the main communal spaces, allowing residents to congregate and socialise | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    The swimming pool is one of the main communal spaces, allowing residents to congregate and socialise Image: Darren Soh
  • Aerial view of the swimming pool in front of a conserved bungalow in the surrounding context | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
    Aerial view of the swimming pool in front of a conserved bungalow in the surrounding context Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall

WOHA’s advocacy of sustainable design is a key feature of the residential design project, employing energy-efficient and water-conserving implements along with integrated building management systems that automate maintenance tracking along with electricity and water consumption. These alongside other measures have resulted in the building being awarded Singapore’s BCA Green Mark Gold Plus for sustainable design and the BCA Universal Design Mark Gold award. Moreover, universal access and a car-lite vision were also essential factors in the final scheme to ensure inclusivity and pedestrian friendliness throughout the development.

The structure’s uppermost level is home to a an open rooftop lawn | lyf one-north Singapore | WOHA Architects | STIRworld
The structure’s uppermost level is home to a an open rooftop lawn Image: Patrick Bingham-Hall

Reflecting the firm’s vision of sustainable living, lyf one-north presents a model of a housing complex that is a holistic example of contextually-driven design, deriving its layout, massing, ornamentation, and functionality from every facet of its surroundings. In doing so, it not only embeds itself into the urban and social fabric of its context but also produces a remarkable example of a housing settlement that aligns with Singapore’s goal to become a ‘City in Nature.’

Project Details

Name: lyf one-north Singapore
Location: 80 Nepal Park, Singapore 139409
Plot Area: 4548.8 sqm
Gross Floor Area: 6823.2 sqm
Year of Completion: 2022
Client: Ascott Residence Trust
Architect, Landscape Architect, and Universal Design Assessor: WOHA Architects Pte Ltd
Project Team: Wong Mun Summ, Sim Choon Heok (QP), Darren Chen, Herbert Salim, River Law, Liak Yuan Zhi, Christina Ong, Chong Siew Way, Koh Wei Ling, Edrick Paguio, Arthur Gunawan, Benjamin Chong, Rutchai Suksakorn, Daryl Venpin, Rita Lo,
Project Manager: CapitaLand Project Management Pte Ltd
Mechanical and Electrical Engineer and Green Mark Consultant: Squire Mech Pte Ltd
Civil and Structural Engineer: Mott MacDonald Singapore Pte Ltd
Quantity Surveyors: Arcadis Singapore Pte Ltd
Lighting Consultant: WOHA Architects Pte Ltd (Exterior) & Light Collab Pte Ltd (Interior)
Interiors: Ascott International Management (2001) Pte Ltd – Interior Design Services
Acoustic Consultant: Radian Acoustics Pte Ltd
Design for Safety: DfSP Consultants Pte Ltd
Public Art/Mural Artist: Mural Lingo
Main Contractor: Nakano Singapore (Pte) Ltd
Interior fitting out works Public Areas: EDZ Interior Contracts Pte Ltd
Softscape: Nature Landscapes Pte Ltd
Lighting: Luxlight Pte Ltd
Building Maintenance Unit: Akrobat Pte Ltd
Lift: Schindler Lifts Singapore Pte Ltd
Sanitary wares, fittings, and accessories: BSG Trading Pte Ltd
Furniture: Grafunkt
ACMV: Design Aire Engineering (Singapore) Pte Ltd
Electrical and Plumbing: Kandenko Co Ltd
Fire Protection: Fire-Mech Pte Ltd
Precast Façade: Robin Village Development Pte Ltd
Swimming Pool: Modern Pools Pte Ltd
Steel Work: Pan Sin Engineering Pte Ltd

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