BIG completes a planted tower in Singapore with a facade that pulls apart

Big Biophilia

BIG completes a planted tower in Singapore with a facade that pulls apart

While the Green Oasis is a centerpoint of the design, the facade opens at a number of elevation points. (Finbarr Fallon)
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Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Carlo Ratti Associati
Completion Date: September, 2022

The newest contribution to Singapore’s reputation as a city engaging in biophilic design is Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) CapitaSpring. The new 51-story, 920-foot-tall tower was designed in collaboration with Carlo Ratti Associati and follows a plan of “vertical urbanism.” Realized for the Singaporean real estate investment and development firm CapitaLand, the project is home to offices, residences, a hawker center, restaurants, and pedestrian-friendly ground-floor podium. The site, located in the city’s financial district, was formerly a parking garage and hawker center, a regional form of open-air food court. Now, the site is part of Singapore’s continued fast-pace vertical growth, but with a more environmentally cognizant mindset. The project includes 165 bicycle parking locations and a 1,970-foot-long cycling path which connects to the Central Area cycling network—the city’s most extensive bicycle pathway.

Elevation view of tower
The facade’s openings are meant to invite the public in. (Finbarr Fallon)

The building’s form is defined by the “pulling apart” of the building at multiple elevations, revealing its green interior containing in excess of 80,000 plants. The green elements cohere the design throughout the structure, with gardens at the base of the building, and a “sky garden” on the rooftop. There are over 90,000-square-feet of landscaped area, beginning with the grand openings of the podium and ground-floor public areas. Pathways through the gardens lead to the City Room, an 18-meter- (60-foot) tall open podium that brings in sunlight while serving practical functions for the building’s circulation. The public can access the market on the second and third floors, while the first eight floors of the tower are accessible to residents and the upper 29 floors to office workers, who have views of Marina Bay.

diagram of a tower's facade
The facade was designed to be integrated with the building’s landscaping, emphasizing the importance of its longterm success (Courtesy BIG)
pool and residential tower exterior
The tower’s design is clearly in the veins of modernist design, while its green elements give it a different material feel. (Finbarr Fallon)

The building’s core contains a “Green Oasis”—a planted 35-meter (115-foot) open-air space that embraces the building’s tropical flora with the clean gray-and-white modernist facade design. With vertical aluminum fins winding up the building in flowing lines—which seem to stretch its verticality despite its already-narrow plan—the way they pull apart are reminiscent of Minoru Yamasaki’s work, albeit with a metallic finish. As BIG Partner Brian Yang told AN, the way the building pulls apart works from both the interior and exterior views. While from the exterior, the planted interior is revealed, the openings also reveal views of the city to occupants. Furthermore, the openings serve as an “invitation” to those down below to venture up the building.

office atrium
The position of the facade openings were designed to provide occupant comfort with natural ventilation. (Finbarr Fallon)

In addition to the aluminum fins, the rest of the facade is clad in glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) and precast concrete around the openings. As Yang said, “while there were multiple other studies… in the end we coalesced around a material palette that allows for a tangible contrast between crisp and geometric, and fluid and organic, much as the building itself is a play on strict modernism meeting lush tropicalism.” Yang added that the site’s orientation avoided any facades facing directly south, so sunlight considerations focused on the depth of the fins to minimize solar gain while retaining the intent of keeping views out of the building open. The Green Oasis is shaded by the portion of the tower above it, and was designed at an elevation above most nearby buildings, allowing for through-ventilation that mitigates humidity.

rooftop garden
CapitaSpring’s rooftop garden has expansive views of the city, while allowing close-up views of the facade itself. (Finbarr Fallon)

The plants were organized to mimic the hierarchy of a tropical rainforest, with the plants’ leaf growth “in direct proportional relationship to light availability within vegetation layers.” Plants that are more shade-tolerant are near the base of the building, with trees toward the top. This includes the planted rooftop, with views of the city, and over 150 fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers planted to supply CapitaSpring’s restaurants. As Yang said, it was important to the client that the biophilic design did not just survive, but flourished as an example of the “potential of this kind of tropical urbanism.” Through an iterative process, the design team mapped the availability of Photosynthetically Active Radiation throughout the green spaces, isolating areas to “maximize the presence of trees, bushes, and ground cover.” The total landscaped area exceeds 140 percent of site area, making the tower true to its biophilic design intent.

Project Specifications