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Designing for Biodiversity: The Value of Nature-Centric Design

WOHA, in collaboration with bioSEA, was awarded a Good Design Research grant by the DesignSingapore Council to develop a framework to quantify and communicate the benefits of nature-centric design.

While the significance of landscape integrated architecture to the development of healthy cities, strong communities and rich urban space is well understood, the contribution of these green spaces to the biodiversity, thermal comfort and ecosystems services of our cities has been intuited but proven difficult to quantify.

Taking WOHA’s built works as test cases, a comparative methodology was developed to enable a holistic and empirical understanding of the benefits of nature-centric design.

By sharing the analytical framework here, WOHA and bioSEA are enabling other practitioners to assess and to advocate the success of their own nature-centric designs.

21 Carpenter

21 Carpenter is a 48-room heritage boutique hotel at the gateway to the historic Chinatown district, near the Singapore River. The hotel is built around a group of four conserved shophouses from 1936, with a contemporary rear extension.

The design of 21 Carpenter pays homage to the building’s history as a remittance house, the birthplace of Singapore as an international financial hub. An important part of the history of the building, beautifully poetic phrases from remittance letters, sent home by Chinese labourers, were incorporated into the art façade of the new extension, and inside the hotel.

The perforated aluminium art façade panels act as a skin for the building which fully shades the inner envelope, preventing it from heating up in the sun. Photovoltaic panels on the roof help the hotel produce its own energy, and a hybrid cooling system, combining fans and air-conditioning, further reduces power consumption.

The hotel has two landscaped terraces, greenery on its balconies and planting along the covered walkway. The plants create delight, improve the conditions of the neighbourhood and increase the environmental performance of the building.


  • SIA Architectural Design Awards - Design of the Year

    awarded by Singapore Institute of Architects


Along Meyer Road, in Singapore’s eastern residential enclaves, sits a condominium development housing 56 dwelling units adjacent to a 1 hectare forested park. The 5-storey with attic development is arrayed in a contiguous ‘C’ configuration with residences looking out onto a 50m by 75m internal forested garden that spills out onto the adjacent park.

Living spaces extend onto large outdoor rooms nestled amongst tall forest trees set amidst a formal English garden. Terracing gardens and water bodies cascade down onto a lower ground arrival level, opening up the subterranean arrival lobbies and facilities to natural daylight, ventilation and greenery.

From street level, the building is scaled to the proportions of a traditional French Chateau with a stately façade of customized louvers and panelling that envelops the entire form. The louvered façade is inclined to secure privacy for units from street level. The façade finishes extend onto the roof, creating an envelope that is sculptural and abstract.

Internally, the forested garden is cocooned by timber blinds that screen the residences imbuing the tranquil garden spaces with warmth and character. Within the garden, a long pool set centrally along the main axial views of the forested park reflect the tall trees and warm facades of the development. The pool is overlooked by guest and entertainment facilities that house a generous dining room, a cosy lounge and outdoor activity decks.

Pan Pacific Orchard

The design of Pan Pacific Orchard envisions a new prototype for high-rise tropical hospitality. This 23-storey 350-room building will become a distinctive garden hotel, adding to the green and spectacle along Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping belt.

To overcome the limited site area and to break down the scale, the design stacks 4 distinct strata with 3 Sky Terraces inserted as elevated grounds with amenities surrounded by gardens. The guest rooms are split into 3 stacks configured in L-shaped stacks overlooking either the Sky Terraces or city.

The 1st strata is designed as a Forest Terrace set between Claymore Road and Claymore Drive with a water plaza and cascades and edged by forest trees, creating a dramatic entrance and a memorable urban connection.

The 2nd strata is conceived as a Beach Terrace, offering guests a tropical oasis, with meandering sandy beachfront and palm groves around an emerald lagoon, set against Orchard Road.

The 3rd strata is set up as a Garden Terrace orientated towards the quiet residential estate of Claymore Hill. Flanked by the Bar and Lounge, the Terrace showcases a manicured garden, complete with verandah, lawn, fountains and garden.

The 4th strata is envisaged as a Cloud Terrace comprising of a 400 seat ballroom and event lawn, surrounded by thin mirror pools and filigree planting, washed by natural light filtering through the PV roof canopy.

The interiors are designed to reinforce the experience of each strata, offering a unique boutique-scale hotel experience. Huge living green columns with creepers visually connects the 4 stratas, juxtaposing against the stacked massing and lend the urban hotel with a touch of resort.

Lyf One-North

lyf one-north Singapore is a new co-living development located at the intersection of the commercial, educational and residential clusters of the One-North district of Singapore. The project adds an affordable, vibrant and lively co-living development to the neighbourhood, catering to young professionals working in the creative and technology companies located within this precinct. More than just an apartment building serving its own residents, the development is designed as a community hub for the neighbourhood.

It offers unique public and communal spaces for comfortable living, socializing and recreation for the co-living residents and the One-North community. lyf one-north houses 324 guestrooms and amenities across two 7-storey blocks linked by an inhabited bridge. Its central public space is an amphitheatre that can be used as a public living room for residents and visitors to commune amidst the lush greenery, or to be used for performances, pop-up activities and exhibitions.

The building uses a palette of precast concrete and landscaping which extends the existing greenery up into the development. The precast concrete façade uses variations in textures and geometry with its integrated sun-shading fins and hoods to express the playful and light-hearted character of the lyf concept. Terraced green planters along the external stairs bookend the building with a cascade of greenery. Origami-like folded walkways and roof canopies evoke paper fans and provide sun and rain protection to these areas.

50/50 City

This 4D masterplan explores how tropical cities can become places that answer the resident’s need to live, work, play and learn while promoting community and cultural engagement. The design aims to create a sense of identity while embracing an ecosystem of integration and systems thinking focused on qualities, beneficial relationships and productive networks to create self-sufficient, sustainable and sociable cities of the future.

The 2020 design commission was to create a new vision for defunct industrial estates in Singapore that develops a unique identity offering dynamic uses and activities. The  emergence of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic during the commission pushed us to consider what the future of cities and the future of live, work, play and learn will look like.

The 50/50 city is a district designed to transition from today to 2050 and beyond, leveraging the evolution of technology to create a vibrant, liveable and fun city for people. The design shows how highly developed and dense cities can transition to the future, envisioning how society will move into a new and diverse mobility system with an outlook on how people will move through the city in the future.

The masterplan pushes boundaries, merging futuristic and innovative design solutions catering to industry 5.0 and beyond, within a lush regenerative environment. A key component of the design was designing the transition over time, where roads are dieted, and then eliminated, and nature is brought back in a choreographed sequence yet each stage is viable and liveable.

At its core, the 50/50 city is a response to the urgent need to rethink city planning and urban design, setting aside half the land to restore our ecology and biodiversity to help slow down, and heal the man-made global crisis that threatens our existence.

Design 2050

As part of the ICSID World Design Congress 2009, “Design Difference: Designing our World 2050”, WOHA spearheaded a vertical studio to explore future scenarios for Singapore.

The task that the studio posed themselves was to make Singapore safe from rising sea levels while shrinking the ecological footprint of the country to the size of the island. The projects are testing new cross-programmed infrastructure, urban and architectural typologies to address the pressing issues of water, food and energy security. Proposals include residential power plants, multilevel factory / agri-villages, and resort dykes.

The output is manifold: With partners NUS, obilia and Black Design, WOHA created a 5 minute newscast from the year 2050, a complete (“commemorative”) paper-print issue of a newspaper of the same day and a whole series of memorabilia of the new world (t-shirts, calendars, postcards, etc). An exhibition in WOHA’s gallery complements the congress contribution and presents the studio projects from NUS architecture students.

Permeable Lattice City

WOHA participated in the Vertical CitiesAsia programme organised by the NationalUniversity of Singapore (NUS) as a jury member for the design competition held amongst participating universities and contributed a paper discussing WOHA’s approaches in designing for high-rise,high-density living in tropical/sub-tropical regions.

Based on the competition brief that specified a population density of 100,000people within a 1km2 site, WOHA compared the inner city centre densities of Manhattan, Hong Kong and Singapore and demonstrated that it would take the equivalent of 4 stacks of Manhattan City or 4 stacks of Hong Kong central district or 9stacks of Singapore’s city centre to achieve a population density of 100,000 people one ach 1km2 site. Within this same footprint, it would take 30 nos. of Dubai’s Burj Khalifastacked in 3.3 tiers or 67 nos. of The Met stacked in 3 tiers to meet the live-work-play components of the brief.

NUS Sustainable & Resilient Building

More information coming soon.

Agri-food production in Singapore

More information coming soon.