Transforming problem houses into Dream Homes

Travel Journal

I recently accompanied my partner to Manila to attend to some family business. While we were there, we jumped on a plane and flew to Singapore to visit some friends. In addition to catching up and eating our way through the city (the food there is amazing), we also did some sight seeing.

What do architects look at when they travel?

Buildings, of course!


On arrival, our friend picked us up and whisked us to the Gardens By The Bay so that we could see these man-made trees, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano as part of a huge pleasure park, illuminated. It is really a magical place at night. The Star Wars looking structure in the back ground is the Marina Bay Sands, a hotel, designed by the Israeli architect Moshe Safdie.


Singapore has some older historic neighborhoods as well. The mosque at the end of this street was built by the English at the request of the local Sheik. Interestingly, the mosque was designed by an Irishman.


Many of the older buildings in Singapore are designed to cope with the hot, wet climate. Street level arcades are common. They provide much needed shade and protection from the tropical downpours. Shuttered windows are very common as well. They keep out the hot sun, but allow the cooling breezes to work their magic.


Back at the Gardens By The Bay are these amazing glass halls. This is the Hall of Flowers, which contains flowering plants from climates all around the world. The other, not shown, contains an indoor rain forest, complete with water fall and fog. The entire Gardens By The Bay complex is sustainable, and uses almost no power or water from off site.


Among the religious buildings in Singapore is this Buddhist Temple which is dedicated to a relic: a tooth of the Buddah. The entry sequence from the street to the main hall, though, fairly short, does manage to create a sense of transition from the profane to the sacred. You start at the street with a small plaza, then up the stairs and through the arcade into a court. At the back of the court is a porch where you can light incense before proceeding into the main hall.

The long weekend in Singapore was fun. Our friends made sure that we got a taste – literally and figuratively – of all that Singapore has to offer. Travel is such a great way to shake up your thinking and see design from another perspective. The “otherness” of different countries and cultures helps designers see opportunities in their own locations when they might not have seen them before.

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