One Raffles Link
The new building overlooks War Memorial Park with its 230-foot- (70-meter-) high "chopstick" sculpture commemorating the civilian victims of the Japanese occupation. To the south is a new arts center, the Esplanade Theaters on the Bay. To the north is the Suntec City Convention Center with its office, retail, and hotel complex.
The new building is a hub in a larger urban strategy. Direct, climate-controlled pedestrian access is provided to facilities in all directions. One Raffles Link fronts onto Nicoll Highway, Singapore's main north-south artery.
Building Out, Not Up
Hong Kong Land Property Co. Ltd. (HKL) bought the Raffles Link site in 1996. The development and marketing of the building took place during the deepest recession in the region since World War II, when values collapsed by 40 per cent.
But the leasing team knew what they were doing. They had gone to New York and London to find out what the financial users wanted, and it was clear there was a strong demand for large-floorplate buildings.
Floorplates in Singapore are typically about 10,000 to 12,000 square feet (900 to 1100 square meters). But research indicated that financial traders wanted column-free space five times that size.
As the deputy prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the opening of One Raffles Link: "Technology and changing investor preferences have made large areas for pit trading in exchanges obsolete. But financial institutions still prefer to house their various risk-taking units in large dealing rooms."
HKL recognized that the Raffles Link site could provide the answer. Several major players like Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Citibank, and Lehman Brothers had already moved to the Marina District even though it's outside the central business district (CBD).
A mandated strategy to link the site with the City Hall mass rapid transit (MRT) station via an underground mall meant that the building would be in easy walking distance of public transportion, essential in Singapore.
A Mixed-Use Program
One Raffles Link combines office, financial trading, and retail functions. The 330,000-square-foot (30,740-square-meter) office building component consists of six levels of column-free, 60-foot- (18-meter-) deep office space above ground-level lobbies, retail, and restaurant spaces.
The typical floor provides 48,000 square feet (4,425 square meters) of long-span space flexible enough to suit the occupational goals of either an open-plan layout or a more traditional office arrangement.
The first basement connects to Raffles Link Shopping Mall, a 20,000-square-foot (1900-square-meter) subterranean retail mall. The second basement provides 132 parking stalls.
Most visitors approach the building underground through the shopping mall. Walking from the City Hall MRT station, the visitor goes first down a level, then under the Stamford Canal that runs through the site, and up again.
Along one wall of this walkway is a striking light sculpture — a series of rectangular shapes lit with an ever-changing range of colors. Daylight is delivered to the space by glazed pavilions sited on the War Memorial gardens which cover two atria located at points where the mall changes direction.
Arriving at the building, the visitor moves up into the double-height, ground-level space which doubles as a meeting place and car drop-off point. The 30-foot- (9-meter-) high space was a special amenity provided in exchange for planning permission to add an extra floor onto the building.
The central feature to the space is the "Water Cycle 2000" mechanical sculpture designed by Jonathan Minns of the British Engineerium Trust. A giant bronze wheel pours water down into the semicircular pond below. The layout of the wheel was based on Feng Shui principles: the flow of water towards the mall means that abundant wealth will flow into the shopping area.
On both sides of the drop-off area is a large reception hall finished with a rich mix of Italian stone. The entire western facade is supported on a ground floor colonnade of gold Brazilian granite.
Nodding to East and West
One Raffles Link exhibits sensitivity to its multicultural context through building form. The more formal frontage responds to the memorial to the west. The east facade of the building reflects the abstract modernism of the Marina District.
The compositional tension created by design's dual character is resolved across the roof consisting of three separate elements: a barrel-vaulted roof above the west facade, a dynamic triangular-louvred roof to the east, and a triangular element at the north end.
This roofscape is a critical component of the overall design because the top of the low-rise building is visible from the higher buildings around it and from the office towers of the CBD. It was a zoning requirement that the rooftop mechanical equipment should be shielded from view.
Modern Design for the Tropics
Cladding on the western elevation is insulated, clear glass with a high-performance, multifunction coating that cuts out the heat gain from the setting tropical sun yet allows for the greatest visible light transmission, with minimal exterior reflectance.
The elevation is further screened by an attached, three-story louvered sunscreen whose fixed blades are calibrated to block the harsh sun.
The granite colonnade that runs along front and back of the building at ground level provides shade from sun and shelter from rain so essential in Singapore's tropical climate.
Singapore has attracted a wide range of international architects including I.M. Pei (Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Centre), James Stirling (Tamasek Polytchnic), and Norman Foster (MRT Station).
Kohn Pedersen Fox has added a significant building to this ensemble, compatible with Singapore's role as a global city in the 21st century.