How The Landscape Architects Behind Gardens By The Bay Connect Architecture To Nature
Andrew Grant believes that landscape architects have a leading role to play in salvaging what remains of the Earth’s biodiversity and the natural global climate. “Landscape architecture has always been important but in the recent past it had largely been seen as a peripheral aspect of new development,” shares the landscape architect, who is the founder and director of Grant Associates.
“The difference today is the realisation that the landscape is essentially our global life support infrastructure.” Since starting his firm in 1997 in Bath, UK, Grant has forged connections between people and nature. Collaborating with WilkinsonEyre, the firm was responsible for the ground-breaking design of Gardens by the Bay. Both practices are working together again on the Sentosa-Brani Masterplan, as well as the Tianjin Friendship Park in China.
What is unique about the way you approach your projects in Singapore?
Andrew Grant (AG) We believe our strength as a design practice lies in our constant search for opportunities to reconnect people with the natural world while addressing the global challenges of urbanisation, the climate crisis and biodiversity extinction. Singapore offers a perfect setting to apply this approach, which is why we started an office here in 2012.
Our design process is underpinned by our knowledge of human behaviour, nature and ecological science, combined with innovative design technology. While we enjoy being playful and inventive, our approach isn’t just about experiences and aesthetics. It’s about the creation of inspirational places and spaces that have purpose, a distinctive identity, promote wellbeing and are part of a biodiverse ecosystem.
(Related: How WilkinsonEyre Bridges Art And Science In Projects Like Gardens By the Bay)
Tell us more about the Sentosa-Brani project.
AG It will see Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) leveraging the islands’ ridge-to-reef attributes to bring in world class attractions as well as fresh night-time offerings, while enhancing transport connectivity to and within the islands. New spaces and concepts that are authentic and environmentally sustainable will be created—including rejuvenated beaches and expanded nature and heritage trails.
The objective is to create a resilient landscape and ecological setting for all the proposed development sites, taking advantage of the existing natural qualities of these islands while reinforcing them and repairing them. The redeveloped islands will feature five distinct zones, each delivering unique experiences, with the zones progressively taking on a more leisurely character as guests travel farther from the city into the islands.
What has the firm learnt from working on Gardens by the Bay that you feel will be useful to the Sentosa-Brani Masterplan?
AG Gardens by the Bay was (first) designed 14 years ago and at the time, we wanted to explore the opportunities for cutting-edge ecological and sustainable design principles, using new engineering and technologies, and new ways of construction and planting.
In contrast, the Sentosa-Brani Masterplan is a strategic framework that establishes a forward-looking vision, but it does not define the specific details. These details will be developed over time by the various design teams who come forward for the component parts and they will be guided by what is deemed best practice and cutting edge at that time. The common threads that do link the Gardens with Sentosa-Brani is the focus on using nature as the guiding inspiration and the detailed design of buildings and landscape.
(Related: How Architects Have Made High-Rise Living More Comfortable in Singapore With Their Designs)
What are the ways in which green environments can create a positive impact on its users?
AG The most direct example I can think of is how people react to the waterfall in the Cloud Forest. I have watched so many people enter the dome; when they feel the cool moist air and see the planted mountain, there is an almost universal response of a smile and a ‘wow!’. These ingredients are very simple but are a powerful evocation of a wild landscape and I think they evoke an almost instinctive response.
But the most important biophilic interventions are undoubtedly those that people engage with on a daily basis, that become part of normal life. In my own garden, I installed a natural swimming pool a year ago and this has transformed how my family uses the space. The pool is designed to function without chemical treatments and uses natural filtration through gravel and wetland plants to assist with the cleaning of the water. It is full of wildlife and is wonderful for swimming and just watching the patterns of water and life in and around the pool,
This story is part of our series on biophilic design. Read the other articles in this series here:
How Architects Are Bringing More Greenery To Singapore With Biophilic Design
WilkinsonEyre Bridges Art And Science In Projects Like Gardens By the Bay
Guz Architects Designs Houses That Are Inspired by Nature In Singapore
How Nature-Inspired Designs Help To Improve Our Wellbeing, According to WOW Architects
How Sustainable Hotel Design Can Be Both Practical And Green, According to Bill Bensley
- Photography Courtesy of Grant Associates