“A big step forward in rethinking residential design, this massive development manages to be light, highly efficient and well integrated with its surroundings.”
The Pinnacle @ Duxton redefines by ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism, high-rise high-density living and challenges the conventions of public housing as an architectural typology. The project addresses pragmatic, financial, social issues, and responds sensitively to a myriad of planning constraints. It boldly demonstrates a sustainable and liveable urban high-rise high-density living and initiates an innovative typology of public communal spaces that are metaphorically reclaimed from the air.
The project proves that living in skyscrapers in the middle of the city can offer a high standard of living as well as creating free space that is literally pulled out of the sky. This residential complex comprises seven discoid towers with a total of 1,848 living units that in an open, relaxed style create a sweeping overall shape. Shops, a restaurant area, an education center, a kindergarten and two residents’ centers round out the development. The seven towers of the high-rise complex are connected by means of continuous roof gardens, known as Sky Gardens, on the 26th and 50th floors. There are 12 roof gardens, laid out as sports facilities, lounges, lawns and beaches, covering a total area of almost one hectare.
The development was the result of the first international competition for public housing in Singapore, and is regarded as groundbreaking for having redefined the concept of public housing with its unique design features.
The design inspiration for the development came from the idea of using “flow and eddies”, “strips and loops” to weave through the estate and form a network that links the tower blocks and the existing ground to create interactive spaces among the residents, while at the same time creating green pockets or pathways. The idea allowed the complete utilisation of the oddly shaped plot of land by allowing greater flexibility in the orientation of the flats, and was also applied to raise the ground level of the buildings so as to create parking spaces beneath it in order to fully utilise the tight space.
Targeted at the young couples, the 1,848 units were designed like condominium units. The seven tower blocks are linked with sky gardens at the 26th and 50th storeys respectively, with exclusive entrance rights for residents. A unique feature of the design was to add “plug-in elements” such as fitness stations, pavilions and benches, in the greenery created. Facilities such as a food court, childcare centre, basketball court and a jogging track are also conveniently located within the development. An outdoor gallery showcases the historical significance of the site by tracing the outline of the original two buildings.
The design concept also left ample space for future developments and the flexibility to meet the changing needs of residents. Within the units itself, there is the flexibility of contracting or expanding the living spaces through the use of light weight wall placements. Residents were also allowed to choose exterior façade treatments of planter boxes, bays, bay windows, windows, or balconies.
Is an innovative landmark with a fresh typology, it illustrates HDB’s transformation of an old estate into a vibrant hub. Enabled more Singaporeans to afford quality, elegantly designed high-rise homes in a prime downtown site. Had transformational impact on the area’s demographics with inject of younger families into the existing community. Created new and unique spaces in the sky for public enjoyment and fostered greater community cohesion. Sensitively preserved memories of the area’s heritage by creating connections to its past.
The Pinnacle@Duxton is located at Duxton Plain and stands on a historic 2.5ha site where the first two blocks of public housing in the Tanjong Pagar area were originally completed in 1964. As part of an urban renewal strategy, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) organised an International Architectural Design Competition in 2001 to commemorate the historical significance of the location. The competition called for an innovative design approach to high-density, high-rise public housing that would optimise land use while meeting the changing lifestyle and rising aspirations of residents. The design also had to be cost effective in order to meet the construction budget allocated for subsidised public housing.
A total of 227 design entries from 32 countries were submitted for the competition, and the award was clinched by a Singapore-based architecture company, ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism, in collaboration with RSP Architects Planners and Engineers. The winning entry was known as “Sky houses: flying green” and was praised for its simple yet effective design in incorporating and reinterpreting the existing landscape.
ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism:
Soaring at 50-storeys, The Pinnacle @ Duxton redefines high-rise high-density living and challenges the conventions of public housing as an architectural typology. The project addresses pragmatic, financial, social issues, and responds sensitively to a myriad of planning constraints. It boldly demonstrates a sustainable and liveable urban high-rise high-density living and initiates an innovative typology of public communal spaces that are metaphorically reclaimed from the air.
The constraints of an irregular-shaped and tight site of 2.5 hectares in the prime central business district area required an efficient and clear block layout that addressed the length of the westerly-facing site. In response, seven tower blocks housing 1848 apartment units are placed in the most open and porous way, creating urban windows that frame the city skyline. With this manoeuvre, the layout eliminates overlooking between units; optimizes views, connection, air and light flow; minimizes Western exposure to reduce solar heat gain; and includes the conservation of historical trees. A large forecourt for the towers was created, maintaining visual connectivity with the existing Tanjong Pagar Community Club, which is a major community node for this neighbourhood.
Within the development, residents enjoy the convenience of shops, a food court, an education centre and a childcare centre, and two residents’ committee centres. Beyond the development, residents are served by two train stations which will link them to the island-wide mass rapid transit system; bus stops at the development’s doorstep and a bus interchange depot; amenities like a police complex, hospital, restaurants, pubs, cafes, and shops – all within a 10 minute walking-radius. Exploiting the inherent sustainability of the high density high rise housing model, The Pinnacle @ Duxton creates a walkable and diverse community, and provides a connected, convenient and compact model of sustainable urbanism.
On the ground, a new architectural surface warps, peels and flows over the carpark and services, efficiently organizing vehicular and pedestrian circulation. The linear block layout allows for a direct services network in the car park; a double-volume carriageway running under the blocks accommodates the fire engines and waste disposal. The peripheral arrangement of service cores allows for the car park to be efficiently and clearly laid out.
The new architectural surface is a lush environmental deck that connects strategically with the existing urban network while forming a green lung for the city. Layers of tree screens border the site and pathways to provide varying degrees of opacity and privacy, softening the massiveness of the towers, creating a human scale. Multiple layers of pathways, connections, and landscape bands are created, recognizing the option for residents to take a fast and convenient way home, or a slow and relaxing path for recreation. A covered linkway band provides uninterrupted connection from both ends of the development and also function as a buffer against killer litter. An extension of the Duxton Plain Park, this raised new ground is a plug-in to the island-wide park network and functions as a social dynamo where social activities are emerged. Landscape elements comprising pavilion, benches, and exercise nodes are plug-ins to this extended park network and function as location markers as well as vibrant community nodes. Integrated within this landscape is an outdoor gallery ‘Traces’ which poetically captures, with the concept of an ephemeral light ruin, the historical significance of this site by tracing the outlines of the original two public housing blocks which were built in the 60s.
On the 26th and 50th storey, continuous Sky Gardens weave through the seven tower blocks, forming a simple yet powerful sculptural skyline that creates a strong identity for the project. Twelve Sky Gardens are conceptualised as displaced landscapes like a Sky Gym, Hillock, Crater, Meadows, Lounge, Beach. They function as an extension of the living environment for residents, forming almost 1 hectare of new land. Designed with children playgrounds, an outdoor fitness gym for the elderly, landscape furniture resembling beach deck chairs and outdoor sofa sets; they provide diverse, creative and unusual spaces for community interaction. They also function as areas of refuge during fires and allow the sustainable sharing of mechanical services, reducing seven sets to just three. The seamless connection created by the linking Sky bridges allow for the entire development to be serviced by a single Building Maintenance Unit.
The individual apartment unit is designed with growth of the occupants in mind – from newly-weds to homes with kids, then teenagers and later grandchildren. The pre-cast flat slab system and structural column zoning allowed the flexibility of wall placement in lightweight concrete, which extends 400mm on either side of the grid – thus rooms can contract or expand to suit the occupants.
Efficiently constructed off-site, the pre-fabricated concrete building components were delivered and put together on the tight site. Residents were given an unprecedented choice of exterior facade treatments – planter boxes, bays, bay windows, windows, and balconies. The facade is atomized into modular panels strung together to form seven sets. Composed by simple rules akin to Bach’s musical fugues, the layered sets form a complex facade. The pre-fabricated panels incorporate both structure and services. These include columns, beams and service ducts. With a simple and affordable application of paint finish, a highly differentiated façade is created from an undifferentiated fabrication process – creating visual delight and reducing the perceived building mass.
As a public housing project, The Pinnacle @ Duxton addresses concerns for security, maintainability and cost-effectiveness, and displays sensitivity to the relationship between high-rise high-density living and the human scale.
International Highrise Award – From the jury’s verdicts:
- The Pinnacle means that not only the well-to-do but ordinary people as well can now afford to live in the city including generous open space. In line with local customs, the apartments on offer are flexible and can be joined together or divided up to respond to the changing requirements of families.
World Architecture Festival Award – Commented:
- The judges were interested in the way that the winning project, by ARC Studio Architecture and Urbanism, presented a way in which architecture should be done today in over-populated cities. The integration of the public spaces in the higher levels of the towers presents possible scenarios for future programs such as schools, health, sports etc…. all taking advantage of the high density project.
- Moving life from a continuous realm that takes you up to a 20th or higher floor is a new approach to solving the problems of contemporary society in metropolitan areas, giving us a trace of new ways of interlocking programmes for high-density developments!
SIA Architectural Design Awards – Judges’ Citation:
- The Pinnacle moved the bar upwards for designing at even higher-density and showed the way forward for the evolution of Singapore’s public housing model – a model which is socially and culturally ensconced in the psyche of generations of Singaporeans since Independence.
- It was on a sliver of land which the architect had to create close to two thousand homes. The design response was intelligently distilled into a series key concepts which is the unique and iconic design that the project came to be. The apartments needed to be in line with what is most relevant to public housing home-owners, the parameters which have been established and fine-tuned over the thousands of homes built and years of layout refinements. The development had to engage the community at large by providing spaces and amenities for them. There had to be an expression of individual choices in the overall scheme of things, reflecting society’s sophistications. Signifying a turn in direction in public housing design, it needed to be instantly powerful, and borne of clarity in its design intent.
- The Jury found that the design of The Pinnacle at Duxton embodied these visions it had set out for itself. In the process, the architect created a great icon in the landscape, unique to Singapore, but more importantly, potentially relevant to cities of the world.
Project name: The Pinnacle@Duxton
Location: 1 Cantonment Rd, Pinnacle@Duxton 50/L, Singapore 080001
Coordinates: 1.277264, 103.841223
Type: Mixed Use, Housing, Skyscraper
Primary Use: Residential
Stories: 50 storeies & basement carpark
Height: 163m (536ft)
Project Area: 253,957 sq m (2,733,570 sq ft)
Construction Year: started, April 2005
Cost: S$279 million
Completion Year: 2009
Client / Owner / Developer: Housing and Development Board, Singapore
Design Architects: ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism – 324 River Valley Rd, Singapore 238 356
Associate Architect: RSP Architects Planners & Engineers – 15 Scotts Road #07-00, Thong Teck Building, Singapore 228218
Project Team: Khoo Peng Beng, Belinda Huang, Sandy Ng, Lim Khim Guan
Structural Engineer: Surbana International Consultants
MEP: Surbana International Consultants
Contractor: Chip Eng Seng Contractors
Envirospace Consultants: T.Y. Lin International
Text Description: © Courtesy of ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism, infopedia, International Highrise Award, World Architecture Festival Award, SIA Architectural Design Awards
Images: © ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism, The Pinnacle@Duxton, flickr – Wojtek Gurak, Philip Oldfield, Jason Pomeroy