An audience with Singapore

James
05 Nov 2009

Surbana completes Sentosa, an amphitheatre for modern times

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

From amidst the white beaches and clear blue waters arises a 3000-seater amphitheatre. As duskapproaches, the amphitheatre starts to reflect the warm, orange hues of sunset, welcomingvisitors who have arrived in eager anticipation of a magnificent symphony of lights, drama andpyrotechnics, 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 thecity and Sentosa’s vernacular experience. It seeks to negotiate the visual contrast between theultra-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. Theamphitheatre is also surrounded by interlacing timber panels, a contemporary interpretation ofwoven 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 theshow was in progress. Yet it was to remain clearly porous during the day. Two planting beltslining the perimeter of the amphitheatre seek to address this. Tall trees filter views from theelevated train station while shrubs soften the hardscape.In treading 'lightly' on the relatively flat terrain, seating levels were meticulously computed tomaintain a good line of sight for all participants. As such, there was no major land infill exerciseinvolved. The hatched screens also provide a low cost solution of shading the highly specialisedequipment which requires constant cooling.

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

Key Facts

Architecture
Singapore
Commercial Offices

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