A tropical skyscraper by WOHA and Patricia Urquiola is wrapped in a vine-covered sunscreen.
There is some debate about whether putting plants on a building is actually useful, or just what I have called greenwrapping, putting a green tinge on an otherwise awful building with green roofs or walls. But the new Oasia Hotel Downtown in Singapore, designed by WOHA and Patricia Urquiola, is a whole new ballgame. According to the press release from V2com,
In contrast with the conventional, completely sealed-off, air-conditioned tower, this hotel, designed by local office WOHA, merges architecture and nature, and combines indoor and outdoor spaces in a striking fashion. According to the architects, the aim was ‘to create an alternative imagery for commercial high-rise developments. It combines innovative ways to intensify land use with a tropical approach that showcases a perforated, permeable, furry, verdant tower.’
Furry is not an adjective that immediately comes to mind, but there is a lot to love about this idea of a giant atrium hotel where it is not sealed up and air-conditioned, but shaded by the aluminum screen which will "gradually be overgrown by 21 species of creepers and vines, creating a lively contrast between vibrant reds and lush greens." There are three giant "verandas" as well as the rooftop terrace, which is protected by a 30 foot high mesh cladding.
While the pursuit of sustainability is often accompanied by humourless earnestness, WOHA shows that it prefers to stand apart. This Oasia Hotel, which is part of an eponymous chain, combines sustainability with delight, two terms that are prominently present in the office’s design philosophy. Aside from the red façade – soon to be completely green – the sky gardens also offer greenery, fresh air, and opportunities for natural cross-ventilation, as well as representing the most visibly sustainable and delightful, aspects of the building.
Architects WOHA adopted what they call ‘a club sandwich approach by creating a series of different strata, each with its own sky garden.’ Patricia Urquiola did the interiors and outdoor spaces, using a lot of AGROB BUCHTAL ceramics, sponsors of this press release. For more photos, see the hotel's gallery here.
There is a lot to like about this design. The screen provides shading and a framework for the planting; creepers and vines are relatively low maintenance, and in Singapore, everything just grows like mad so it is one of the places where covering a building in plants actually works. Designing all these atria to be naturally ventilated is brave, in such a hot and humid climate. And I absolutely love the concept of combining sustainability with delight, a word and an ambition that we do not have enough of.