Wisma Geylang Serai, Singapore

Competition Entry (2013)

The project develops the typology of the communal roof.

The continuous roof references Malay culture in three ways.  First, the pitched roof is an abstraction of the iconic Malay roof form as exemplified by the bumbung panjang house-form.  Second, the articulated roof surface references the art and craft heritage found in Malay basket making and fabric design.  This diamond-shaped surface articulation is a function of the underlying diagrid structure.  Third, the thin structural columns that support the roof reference the delicate stilts that support the traditional Malay house.

A large continuous roof brings people together.  Not only different organisations within the same community but people from across diverse communities.  This communal gathering takes place not only in the public plaza, but also on the generous outdoor terraces and the green rooftop spaces. A roof also provides shelter from the sun and from the rain.  This allows the terraces and the public plaza to remain active during all weathers.

It’s massing and relation to the site enriches public space.

The surrounding urban context, for example Joo Chiat Road, features small-scale shophouses and a lively atmosphere.  Respecting this context, the proposal carefully breaks down the mass of the required program into smaller units that create difference and visual interest at the street level.  These building units are arranged into bands that run parallel to Geylang Serai creating a composition that references the arrangement of the traditional Malay house.

The large public plaza is placed beneath the continuous roof.  The uncovered outdoor plaza is a concept developed in temperate countries where spending time in the glare of the sun is not problematic.  In tropical countries the provision of shelter – both from the sun and from heavy rain – is important for a successful outdoor space.

The Malay house features terrace space (serambi gantung) between the main rooms.  In a similar way, the proposal features large terrace space running north-south between the different civic centre programs.  These spaces are both for circulation and informal gathering.  The terrace space adjacent to the public plaza represents the ideal raised platform for viewing outdoor performances.

This proposal celebrates the cumulative intelligence manifest in traditional Malay architecture.  This is less about ornamental and decorative elements and more about the architectural grammar and spatial logic of this particular building typology.  Hence, we emphasise the roof form, delicate structure elements and extensive use of terraces and platforms.  This generates a building complex that is technically efficient, recognisable as deeply rooted in the Malay tradition, and that performs as a flexible and accommodating composition.  Above all it celebrates community: gathering together and enjoying both festive and relaxing time outdoors.

Building Type: Civic 
Location: Geylang Serai, Singapore 
Site Area: 430sqm 
Status: Design Competition Entry (2013)
Architecture Design: Serie Architects London