Kazuya Ishida(Principal Designer)/Shigekazu Miyakawa(Principal Architect)/ Yoshihiko Tsuri(Architectural Department)/Kenji Mamiya(Architectural Department)
A bridge for people, a bridge to the next generation
Revitalizing a neighborhood.
The design of Orchard Gateway began with a design competition in 2006 to redevelop a hotel and commercial facility on a site located facing Orchard Road. Architectural Department Assistant Manager Yoshihiko Tsuri says, “The client’s request was to design a building on the south side of Orchard Road. However, across the street, directly diagonally opposite, there was a retail and office building called Orchard Emerald owned by the client’s affiliated company. Chairman Paul Tange focused immediately on the urban design perspective and wondered if it would somehow be possible to join the two sites. He realized that here was an opportunity to revitalize this stretch of Orchard Road, what is today the Somerset area, and the site of Orchard Gateway. The area had originally been one of the most vibrant on Orchard Road, Singapore’s premier shopping avenue. However, by this time, the activity of the community had dispersed to surrounding areas. Chairman Tange’s aim was to create a new complex that would restore the neighborhood to its original vibrancy.”
The first bridge for Orchard Road.
Drawing visitors and shoppers to the area with a new building—this was Chairman Tange’s proposal. His idea was to design a new building not only on the proposed south side of Orchard Road, but also a new building on the north side, where the existing Orchard Emerald building stood, diagonally opposite, and to connect the two sites with an overhead pedestrian bridge. This was quite a radical proposal as there had never been a bridge over Orchard Road. No one had ever imagined it. Principal Architect Shigekazu Miyakawa explains the reason, “At 50 meters, Orchard Road is a very wide road. As it is one of the city’s main streets, cars pass through constantly, and the street is lined with very large trees. The reason there had never been a bridge was due to the difficulties involved, and, because visually, it appeared as though the street could not be crossed.”
Despite the difficulties, Chairman Tange believed that a bridge was the best solution. Miyakawa says that there were many reasons to support the proposal of a bridge beyond simply providing access between the sites on the south and north sides of Orchard Road. “Even though traffic on Orchard Road is heavy, there are few pedestrian crossings at ground level. Most people cross by means of underground passages. However, many people also cross the road at their own peril where there are no traffic crossings, and it is quite dangerous. A bridge would provide a convenient and safe crossing. Further, to address the urban design aspect, Chairman Tange wanted to use the bridge to evolve from ‘linear urban development’ along the road to urban planning that covered the whole area, and, ultimately, to a three-dimensional urban connectivity.”
Erecting a bridge in two days.
Tange Associates’ design won the competition and the proposal was adopted by the client. However, securing authorization from the Singapore authorities for Tange’s proposal was the next big challenge.
As traffic along Orchard Road is extremely heavy, it is not possible to stop traffic for a long period of time. Therefore, in order to reduce the time necessary for construction, Chairman Tange suggested a method of erecting the bridge in two days. Architectural Department Assistant Manager Kenji Mamiya says that Tange Associates’ DNA can be seen in this approach. “We were faced with an extremely short construction schedule for this bridge, but because Tange Associates always customizes our approach to the specific challenges of each project, we work out the best solutions and are able to achieve them.”
Ideas emerge from dialogue.
The history of the design of Orchard Gateway includes various architectural features. One of these is apparent in the interior design, as Principal Designer Kazuya Ishida notes. “This building is a commercial facility with a hotel occupying the upper levels. The design of the commercial facility was exacting due to the irregular L-shape. If an L-shape configuration is long and narrow, movement is more complex. Therefore, we had the idea to connect certain floors of the adjacent commercial facilities with skywalks and corridors to smooth the flow and provide a better shopping experience. The result of connecting the two buildings was a shape closer to a rectangle. We expressed this sense of integration with the design such that people who are shopping hardly notice that they have migrated between buildings.”
Where did the idea to adjoin the building to the adjacent facility come from? Tsuri says that it is the result of Tange Associates’ longstanding custom of engaging in dialogue with the client. “In the period of time between winning the competition and actually starting the design stages, a development plan for the site next door to our project had begun. This was a project of an affiliated company of our client. That affiliated company owner sounded us out, saying, ‘How would it be if we created flow in the area by connecting the two facilities to each other in order to create a win-win situation leading to an increase in sales for each facility?’ This was the beginning. We also listened to the opinions of those living and working in the area. In the end, I believe that Tange Associates’ practice of emphasizing repeated dialogue is one of the reasons that a successful space was created.” And, in this way, vibrancy returned to the Somerset neighborhood, and the overhead bridge across Orchard Road is now not only a practical convenience for pedestrians, but also an attraction and new landmark in the area.