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Thread: Wing Tai picks top architects for 2 projects

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    Published September 25, 2008

    Wing Tai picks top architects for 2 projects

    Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel to design his first project in S'pore


    FEW cities can claim to have buildings designed by 10 Pritzker Prize winning architects, and Singapore is now one of them.

    Belle Vue Residence: Wing Tai has upped the ante in the race for big names by commissioning eminent Japanese architect Toyo Ito for its luxury development in Oxley Walk. Mr Ito is well known here for designing Vivocity

    To date there are only about 30 winners of the prestigious Pritzker Prize - the architectural equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize - and thanks to Wing Tai Holdings, Jean Nouvel, the latest recipient, will be the 10th winner to design a building here.

    Mr Nouvel, who follows in the footsteps of architects like Philip Johnson, Kenzo Tange and James Stirling, will design his first project here - a luxury 43-unit apartment building in District 9 to be called Le Nouvel Ardmore.

    On the choice of architect, Wing Tai deputy chairman Edmund Cheng said: 'Architecture influences who we are by defining how we live. That is why we set high standards for the architecture in our developments - to provide timeless elegant designs and thoughtful functional spaces.'

    For Le Nouvel Ardmore, Mr Nouvel has created a 33-storey tower derived from the concept of a rotating Rubik's cube.

    While the tower will not actually 'rotate', automated screens will be incorporated into the facade so homeowners can 'frame their own views' and create unique living spaces.

    Mr Nouvel's design also calls for an outer structural lattice in the form of a grid detached from the living spaces to create an buffer of greenery and layering of spaces.

    Besides giving the tower a distinctive look, the buffer space will be planted at certain levels to correspond to the villas-in-the-sky ambience of the development.

    Internally, units will have high ceilings bathed in light from big windows that will provide 270 degree views.

    'We know who our buyers are, we understand their needs and lifestyle requirements,' said Mr Cheng. 'They have keen appreciation for differentiation and seek sophistication in their properties.'

    As homebuyers become more discerning, developers here are increasingly commissioning big-name architects.

    'Discerning homebuyers and investors are increasingly drawn to good architecture,' said Mr Cheng. 'They have a higher sensitivity towards good design and are willing to spend not only on the interior of their apartments but also the exterior. Projects equated with quality are likely to attract higher premiums for their uniqueness and beauty.'

    Wing Tai seems to have upped the ante in the race for big names by commissioning eminent Japanese architect Toyo Ito for its other luxury development, Belle Vue Residences in Oxley Walk.

    Mr Ito, who received the 2002 Gold Lion Award at the International Architecture Exhibition of Venice Biennale, is already well known here for designing Vivocity.

    For Belle Vue Residences, he has pushed the boundaries by coming up with a floor plan inspired by the branches of a tree and setting a distinctly organic tone.

    The 176-unit development will have intimate pockets of space designed to mimic nature's branching pattern, integrating interior and exterior spaces.

    The organic branching effect also results in more exposed wall surfaces and windows for more natural light and better ventilation.

    As a result of organic planning, there are about 160 unit types, with most responding to the landscape in unique ways.

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    Published September 26, 2008


    Developers tap starchitects for added cachet


    THE phenomenon known as the starchitect has been around for a while but it was only after 1997 - when the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, became an international hit - did these architects become global celebrities.

    Star power: Wing Tai has commissioned two starchitects - Jean Nouvel and Toyo Ito - to design Le Nouvel Ardmore (above) in Ardmore Park and Belle Vue Residences in Oxley Walk, while CapitaLand has signed on Zaha Hadid to design Farrer Court Villas, its new condominium development at Farrer Rd

    The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was designed by the eminent American starchitect Frank Gehry. While the titanium-clad museum is spectacular, it was the fact that the museum had such a huge multiplier effect on the economy of the little seaside town that got many municipal governments (and some developers too) excited.

    Within the first three years of opening, it was reported that the museum was receiving almost one million visitors a year, generating about US$130 million for the town's economy, and helping the local government collect over US$20 million in taxes.

    This multiplier effect has since been dubbed the Bilbao effect and governments and developers alike have been scrambling to sign up starchitects in hopes of replicating it.

    Singapore came close to having a Frank Gehry designed development after CapitaLand signed him up to design their proposal for the integrated resort at Sentosa.

    CapitaLand did not win but it never lost sight of the power of starchitecture. Earlier this year, CapitaLand announced that it had signed on Zaha Hadid to design its new condominium development at Farrer Road. And in the universe of starchitects, few are more stellar than Ms Hadid.

    Patricia Chia, CEO of CapitaLand Residential Singapore added: 'In a challenging market where homebuyers are faced with many choices, it becomes even more important to create a distinct point of differentiation for our developments.'

    Ms Hadid is certainly a good designer but developers now also appreciate the cachet a starchitect's name carries. 'We believe that Zaha's signature style and international brand position, together with the site's many attributes, will provide a strong competitive edge for us when we launch the project in 2009,' added Ms Chia.

    Keppel Land also snagged a starchitect Daniel Libeskind for Reflections at Keppel Bay back in 2006 when 'iconic architecture' was the buzzword of the day.

    Keppel Land general manager (marketing) Albert Foo added: 'Withテつ globalisation,テつ consumers are now well travelledテつ and informed,テつ and have over time,テつ developed a taste for fine living. As such, the home has gone beyond brick and mortar to factor in lifestyle, luxury, prestige and unique product offering to appeal to these discerning customers.'

    Of course, developers know they have to pay a premium for starchitects' services. In 2006, Mr Libeskind himself said: 'There are premiums. And if it is worth it, it is worth it.'

    Some starchitects are more savvy at parleying their names. Philippe Starck, who has pop-star status, co-founded the design, marketing and branding company yoo Inspired by Starck and has Heeton Holdings as its first client in Singapore. For Heeton, getting Starck on board for its new Grange Road development also helps their own brand.

    Heeton chief operating officer and executive director Danny Low said: 'It is a fantastic opportunity for us to collaborate with the world famous Philippe Starck and this development will further enhance Heeton's profile both locally and regionally.'

    Mr Low said that there was definitely a price premium over local designers but he is confident that it will pay off. 'From their previous track record, the Philippe Starck brand has been able to achieve premiums in the range of 10-25 per cent, and selling 20-30 per cent faster than other competitive developments launched at the same time,' he added.

    Far East Organization (FEO) is no stranger to starchitects either, having worked with the likes of Arquitectonica, and more recently Rem Koolhaas' OMA.

    Chia Boon Kuah, COO (Property Sales) at FEO, added that most of their luxury home buyers have homes in other international cities. 'With Singapore staging itself to be a vibrant global city attracting international businesses and talent, there will be demand for world-class accommodation complete with top notch services and facilities,' he added.

    But the partnership with international architects is just one aspect of the value-add that FEO's luxury developments bring to our buyers, Mr Chia said.

    Mr Chia also believes that interest in brand-name architecture and design is not a new thing, but he noted: 'Internationally, homes designed by famous architects in the past remains one of the most coveted addresses.'

    Upping the ante is Wing Tai which has commissioned not one but two starchitects - Jean Nouvel and Toyo Ito - to design Le Nouvel Ardmore in Ardmore Park and Belle Vue Residences in Oxley Walk.

    Looking at the designs in more detail reveals that regardless of their star status, starchitects do deliver that certain je nes sais quoi.

    For Le Nouvel Ardmore, Mr Nouvel somehow manages to weave living bamboo into the 33-storey facade of the building while Mr Ito sculps organic spaces out of glass and concrete to mimic the branches of trees for Belle Vue Residences.

    Is it art or architecture? With starchitects, you get both.

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