Heatherwick Studio has completed a 20-storey residential skyscraper in Singapore, which was designed to be “a counterpoint to ubiquitous glass and steel towers”. Dubbed EDEN, the 104.5-metre-tall apartment building in the Newton district of Singapore comprises a vertical stack of homes that each have a garden.
EDEN contains twenty apartments, with just one per floor. When stacked on top of each other, the apartments are quickly lifted out of reach of a ground-level garden, so the design team examined how to raise this greenery and thread it upwards through the building. By pulling apart the square block of a conventional residential tower and moving services to the perimeter, they were able to create a large central living space on each floor, surrounded by smaller individual rooms and wide shell-like balconies. These balconies are alternated to create a series of double-height spaces, which are filled with tropical planting, drawn from more than twenty species of flora. As well as surrounding each apartment with greenery, the plants will grow to cascade down the building, softening its appearance.
Looking beyond the luxury glass towers found in cities across the world, the design team saw the potential of concrete to create something unique, which could enclose more private spaces and reflect a sense of place. Concrete also contributes to the building’s environmental strategy, as its mass blocks warm air to aid natural cooling. Instead of casting a flat concrete facade, Heatherwick Studio wanted to bring the material to life and give it tactility and a texture that couldn’t be seen anywhere else in the world.
The studio took the natural contours of Singapore’s terrain and abstracted it to create a new topographical texture, then worked with fabricators to produce one-off moulds for each concrete panel. Embossed with an outline of the building and its immediate surroundings, these panels reveal and make a virtue of their location, giving the material greater physical and conceptual interest.
The colour of the building also plays a role in differentiating EDEN. To find the ideal tone that would appear natural and complement the concrete, more than a hundred deep red, purple and brown shades were tested under the Singaporean sun.
The exposed underside of the balconies and the handrails are also rendered in smooth, highly polished concrete. Here, Heatherwick Studio developed a bespoke casting technique to bring the ideal mixture and concentration of stones to the surface at these points, giving a rugged, industrial material a precious, gem-like quality.
At ground-level, entrance is through a canyon-like corridor, 1.5 metres wide and more than ten times as high, lined with black granite. This opens into a dramatic 18-metre-high lobby at the heart of the building, hung with living plant chandeliers. This space is made possible by raising the first apartment 27 metres above street level, ensuring that every residence benefits from elevated views.
Throughout the building, every interior detail has been crafted to express a sense of warmth. The natural imperfections of the organic materials have been celebrated; for example, the imprints in the 180 million-year-old Jura limestone are revealed, saw marks are left visible in the handmade parquet, and the balcony floor is laid with a textured herringbone-patterned slate. This idea flows through to the solid exposed timber of the oak kitchen cabinets, and the walnut entranceway, which mimics the topographical texture of the exterior concrete panels. In the bathrooms, the sink, vanity unit and bath were also custom-designed for the project by the studio, and utilise a similarly restrained yet rich palette of materials.
EDEN represents a unique way of living in the city, with its combination of evocative material textures and crafted details, and Heatherwick Studio’s celebration of the area’s natural landscape. Over time, the building is designed to mature, becoming overrun by its lush planting – like a sapling that has taken root beneath the streets, pulling the landscape of Singapore up into the sky.