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Published August 22, 2006

Benoy replaces Pelli as Orchard Turn's concept architect
Libeskind may be facing a brick wall with his design for condo at Keppel Bay


(SINGAPORE) Some big-name architects much touted here for upcoming landmark projects may not see their designs built after all.

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects - the firm founded by Argentine-born Cesar Pelli which designed the Canary Wharf Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers - was earlier named overall concept or form architect for the entire Orchard Turn project, which will have an eight-level retail podium and a residential tower rising over 50 storeys.

But the firm may not end up leaving its mark on the site after all. It appears that Pelli's design may be dropped in favour of another by Benoy of the UK, which designed the Bluewater mall in Kent and the Bullring in Birmingham.

Benoy's proposals, which include mounting LCD screens on the mall's facade, are understood to have wowed Orchard Turn Developments, a joint venture between CapitaLand and Sun Hung Kai Properties which bagged the landmark site in December last year. Another internationally renowned architect, Daniel Libeskind, may also be facing a brick wall with his design for Keppel Group's condominium at Keppel Bay.

In an interview with the International Herald Tribune in May, Mr Libeskind released artist's impressions for the project dubbed Emerald Bay, showing swaying towers. A check with Keppel revealed that the project is still a 'work-in-progress'.

Sources that BT spoke to, however, say that the planning authority, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), was sufficiently impressed with the initial design to extend certain waivers, but that subsequent designs or works-in-progress have not met with the same response.

A spokesman for the URA did say that the architect for the development had shared some preliminary ideas with the authority, 'but we have not yet received any formal planning application to URA to date'.

Whether these famous architects have had constraints placed on their designs is not clear, but Aamer Taher, a council member of the Singapore Institute of Architects, believes that developers in Singapore do make decisions 'based on tried and tested formulas'.

One aspect of design in Singapore that is often a point of contention between architects and developers is having to achieve building efficiencies of up to 95 per cent. The result is that common spaces like corridors and lift lobbies are reduced to the minimum while bay windows, which are exempt from development charge calculations, are exploited to the maximum.

'Architects are reduced to juggling numbers,' said Mr Aamer.

For important landmark sites, the URA does intervene by way of its Design Advisory Panel (DAP). It is understood that the Emerald Bay does not require a DAP review but that the Orchard Turn site does. URA said: 'Throughout the DAP evaluation process, the developer is given the opportunity to clarify or propose alternatives to address DAP's concerns, if any.'

Orchard Turn Developments Pte Ltd initially appointed Benoy as the retail concept/architectural consultant for only the mall component of Orchard Turn while Pelli was to be the form architect responsible for the overall concept of the entire project - both the retail and residential components. However, when contacted by BT, Orchard Turn Developments CEO Soon Su Lin yesterday confirmed that the partners have decided to appoint Benoy as the form architect for the entire project, suggesting it has taken over the role initially performed by Pelli.

'In developing the retail concept, Benoy has conceived various exciting proposals which included mounting of LCD screens on the facade of the building, significant shop-front visibility opportunities facing Orchard Road, and an outstanding exterior design for the retail component. These proposals are befitting the status of a world-class retail mall which we are committed to create.

'It was thus deemed most appropriate by the partners to appoint Benoy as the form architect so that the overall retail design concept can be extended to, and seamlessly integrated with, the residential component, ensuring that the entire Orchard Turn development conforms to a common architectural language. This approach establishes the Orchard Turn's retail component as the centre of gravity along Orchard Road,' Ms Soon told BT yesterday.

She added that Singapore-based RSP Architects Planners and Engineers remains design architect for the project's residential component as well as overall submission and project architect for the entire project.

The Orchard Turn mall, which will have four basement levels and four levels above ground, is on track to open by Christmas 2008.