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Sentosa, Singapore, Singapore

Thursday 05 Nov 2009

An audience with Singapore

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Surbana completes Sentosa, an amphitheatre for modern times 

As a rapidly maturing economy takes foot in Singapore, it is more common to visualise the city centre as a 'concrete jungle'. Therein lies an obsession with iconography as the predominant architectural typology. However, a mere 5 minute journey away from the metropolitan chaos is Sentosa, a tranquil seaside enclave which provides much needed urban relief. Seamlessly connected to the city by road and rail, Sentosa’s idyllic theme translates into a somewhat stark juxtaposition to the city.

From amidst the white beaches and clear blue waters arises a 3000-seater amphitheatre. As dusk approaches, the amphitheatre starts to reflect the warm, orange hues of sunset, welcoming visitors who have arrived in eager anticipation of a magnificent symphony of lights, drama and pyrotechnics, accompanied by storylines of popular local mythology.

Delicately nestled within local fauna is an open plaza. It is not merely a waiting area however. Instead, it is a threshold – a transitional urban space which interfaces the rapid modernity of the city and Sentosa’s vernacular experience. It seeks to negotiate the visual contrast between the ultra-modern aluminum clad train station and the traditional village stage set within the show. Once inside, the amphitheatre reminiscences the vernacular, echoing the theme of the show. Hatched patterns on screens and facades recall the traditional basket weaving technique. The amphitheatre is also surrounded by interlacing timber panels, a contemporary interpretation of woven fishermen nets. These screens not only invoke curiosity, but double up as security fences.

Part of the design brief called for the amphitheatre to shield views from the crowd while the show was in progress. Yet it was to remain clearly porous during the day. Two planting belts lining the perimeter of the amphitheatre seek to address this. Tall trees filter views from the elevated train station while shrubs soften the hardscape. In treading 'lightly' on the relatively flat terrain, seating levels were meticulously computed to maintain a good line of sight for all participants. As such, there was no major land infill exercise involved. The hatched screens also provide a low cost solution of shading the highly specialised equipment which requires constant cooling.

As the show draws to a close with the final concord of fireworks and lights, visitors stream out of the expanse into the open plaza, having savoured the vernacular – long bygone in today’s hectic context. The amphitheatre glimmers in the background, gradually fading into the silky night sky. This is precisely the way architecture should be, not drawing attention to itself, but congruent to its context, receding, experiential, sensual yet delightful.

Key Facts

Status Completed
Value 0(m€)
Were you involved in this scheme?
Surbana International Consultants Pte. Ltd.

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