Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Esplanade

Look to the East

The design of these translates natural materials, hard industrial lines and soft, contemporary fabrics into a range of Oriental metaphors.

Contemporary design often presents a fresh interpretation of cultural icons and traditions that have been around for centuries.

This is evident in the office interior of Singapore's newest performing arts centre, The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay. To create its vibrant and eclectic look, a great designer drew his inspiration from aspects of various Asian cultures.

The EsplanadeBorn in somewhere, brought up in some place and now living in nowhere, I am what I describe as a 'lost Asian' - I relate to the Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Balinese ways of life. In designing this office space, I have taken certain elements from each of these cultures and using different materials, played with them in an abstract way, he says.

To reach the reception desk, guests cross a smooth strip of marble, flanked by a bed pf pebbles on either side. Running perpendicular to the stones is a platform made of Chengal wood, a hardy timber traditionally reserved for outdoor use in Singapore. The overall look is reminiscent of a tranquil Japanese garden - the pebbles symbolise water, while the marble and wood suggest bridges that lead to you to secluded settings, says him. Large round portholes, similar to those found in the walls of ancient Chinese gardens, create a fishbowl effect in meeting rooms and offices.

I liken the multiple layers of the exposed ducting to the thatched roofs found in traditional Asian architecture. The exposed service's raw industrial look displays an honesty that seems appropriate for the offices of an artistic organisation, and the absence of a defined ceiling helps to heighten the space.

Encompasing a range of departments, from accounts to creative, the offices are designed to break down stereotypical office hierarchy and encourage interaction between staff and management. A vertical glass-box sliced through the middle of the open-plan space houses middle management. Having them so visible to the other work areas helps to empower staff and open up channels of communication. A long corridor, with one wall clad in rock, stretches from the chairman's room to the chief executive's office. The stone is a metaphor for the solid foundations that underlie the organisation.

Three massive concrete cones, an existing structural element, have been used to define the more public spaces of the floor, including the reception and a cocktail area overlooking the concourse of the arts centre. As a gesture to the Chinese passion for gold, the pillars have been spray painted gold, with the joins in the concrete adding a subtly decorative touch.


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