Marina Bay Sands - Singapore
Leading a team of interior designers, with contributions from firms such as CL3, Rockwell Group and Hirsch Bedner, acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie has conceived an iconic structure that will surely come to define modern Singapore.
“No other single destination offers so many diverse attractions under one roof,” says Thomas Arasi, Marina Bay Sands’ President and CEO, in response to Sleeper’s question about the elements that distinguish this integrated resort in Singapore. “Where else can you find the Sands SkyPark, perched 170 metres above sea level with the largest outdoor pool at that height, seven celebrity chef restaurants, The Lion King, Asia’s largest ballroom and Singapore’s biggest hotel, including 230 suites offering personalised butler service?”
It’s a fair reply that provides an introductory overview of some of the facilities comprising this US$5.7 billion development. Situated on 15.5 hectares of reclaimed land that forms the heart of new downtown Singapore, across the bay from the Central Business District, Marina Bay Sands is the vision of Las Vegas Sands Corporation in combination with design architect Moshe Safdie, who has artfully merged a complex programme of business, leisure and public activities.
Since officially opening in June 2010, the resort has had a transformative effect on the city’s skyline. Three 55-storey reflective glass-clad towers project majestically into the air, anchoring this young urban district and supporting the 2.5 acre, aerodynamic SkyPark that crowns the structure, which appears to float in the air as it cantilevers 66.5 metres beyond the hotel towers below. But while the exterior is attention-grabbing, for Safdie, who was asked to design over 800,000m2 of hotel, meeting, entertainment and shopping space, the real challenge has been to reconcile the issue of mega scale with human scale. “As with all my work, I began by taking in the location, culture and people, asking what needs this structure could fulfil and how it could be a natural extension of the environment,” he tells Sleeper. “The first consideration was how to create a thriving, urban place that would weave together different components with a vitality that we associate with great cities, both historic and contemporary.”
Looking to classical blueprints of Greek and Roman cities as well as Chinese cities, Safdie considered the role of the street or public thoroughfare, in combination with the piazza, galleria and courtyard, as a focus of civic life. For Marina Bay Sands, he has explored a variation on this concept, planning the district around a pair of principal axes that traverse the entire complex and integrate a waterfront promenade with a multi-level retail arcade. To reinforce urban connections with the resort’s tropical surroundings, a series of layered gardens span the district, with every level offering green space accessible to the public. As part of this landscape network, generous pedestrian paths open to tropical planting and water views.
Another element of this contemporary civic life is the ship-like SkyPark on the 57th storey that combines a public observatory – serving up 360-degree views of the city – with gardens, jogging paths and restaurants. Hotel guests are also provided with a 150-metre infinity swimming pool in which to cool off. Safdie designed this engineering marvel to celebrate the notion of Singapore as a Garden City. Not surprisingly, its erection posed some major challenges and, in the end, it was prefabricated in 14 main steel segments offsite, then hoisted and assembled atop the towers using hydraulic jacks and bridge construction technologies.
Arising from his belief that architecture and art should work together to activate a space, Safdie has selected six internationally renowned artists to create 10 installations forming an ‘Art Path’ that stretches from the 23-storey hotel atrium to the exterior of the buildings. Adorning the western façade of the glass and steel atrium, Ned Kahn’s mesmerising Wind Arbor sculpture consists of 260,000 aluminium metal flappers mounted on hinges to react independently to wind movements and reflect light like shimmering water ripples. An integral part of the atrium at ground level is Chongbin Zheng’s Rising Forest. Composed of 83 giant glazed stoneware ceramic pots, each holding a tree, they are arranged around the interior and exterior of the atrium to create a ready-made canopy. The vessels are so large that Zheng had to build a customised kiln the size of a small building at a special base in China. Look up again, this time inside tower one, and guests are treated to a fascinating view of Antony Gormley’s Drift, a three-dimensional stainless steel polyhedral matrix made of over 16,100 linked rods. Suspended cloud-like, the geometric installation weighs 14.8 tons and had to be assembled by 60 workers with varying expertise from engineering to welding.
As a gateway for guests, the light-filled, multi-tiered hotel atrium, designed by Hong Kong-based CL3 Architects, doubles as a lobby, dining venue and meeting place. Natural materials including Jura Beige limestone flooring, White Travertine walls and Douglas fir timber panelling support the artwork and lighting fixtures. In addition to Zheng’s three-metre-tall pots, water features in black slate and Shanxi black granite bring the outside in, creating reflective or fluid pools. A muted colour palette is enlivened with thoughtful details, such as three oversized Chinese lanterns that act as both entrance and private seating for Jin Shan restaurant, or Fuse bar’s see-through branch-patterned entrance, constructed from MDF board and finished with a metallic paint. As with all three dining venues in the lobby, Fuse has its own distinct flooring, in this case, Smoked Oak timber, and it also boasts an eye-catching feature of floating glass panels shaped and imprinted like leaves above the bar.
Suspended amber glass lighting blocks with LED lamps fabricated by Preciosa demarcate each elevator bank. Two lighting groups of stunning white and blue hand-blown glass drops designed by Rockwell Group, meanwhile, adorn the entrance to the VIP lounge and the lobby elevators to Paiza, an invitation-only club for the high rollers who frequent the resort’s casino. Not only does the casino, a collaboration between Rockwell and Safdie Architects, house one of the world’s largest chandeliers, a contemporary interpretation comprising 132,000 Swarovski crystals inset into the ceiling, but the escalator leading to the private gaming rooms is adorned with an arresting champagne-coloured canopy of hundreds of LED strands in hand-blown glass.
An additional design company, Hirsch Bedner Associates, has developed interiors for the hotel rooms where golden thread-patterned wallcoverings by Goodrich, and limed oak form the basis of a soft tonal palette, accented by pops of colour including punchy reds. Afyon Beige stone runs through the comfortable bathrooms with a shimmering Palissandro Blue chosen for the vanities. HBA is also responsible for the interiors of the largest MICE facility in Singapore, where it has employed textured wallcoverings and patterned carpets supplied by Tai Ping to break up the extensive space.
Despite its expansive size, Marina Bay Sands manages to function as a cohesive ‘microcosm of a city’ both on a human and mega scale. In seeking to create a landmark rooted in local culture and life, Safdie has succeeded in delivering a multi-layered experience unique to Singapore.
WORDS: Neena Dhillon
PHOTOGRAPHY: Timothy Hursley