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Issue 4
RESTORING THE ART DECO MASTERPIECE OF TEMASEK SHOPHOUSE
TRANSFORMING A FORGOTTEN RELIC INTO A SPACE FULL OF LIGHT
SJ architecture

January 2022

The Temasek Shophouse: Orchard Road Elevation. Photo Credit: Stillusion Photography
Abstract: Because of the meticulous restoration by Surbana Jurong architects and engineers, a grand dame of Art Deco now has a new lease of life in the historical part of Orchard Road. From a darkened retail space for fast fashion that was left unoccupied for years, Temasek Shophouse has emerged as an architectural gem from the same colonial era as the General Post Office and the Supreme Court, which are now restored as The Fullerton Hotel and the National Gallery Singapore respectively. Temasek Shophouse is a showcase of sustainability with day-lit rooms for work, a column-free space for events and collaborations, and a green space designed for barrier-free access, energy-efficient cooling systems, a rear garden filled with fruit trees and an urban beehive. The restoration of Temasek Shophouse is central to its narrative of sustainability as it provides a hub for the philanthropic arm of Temasek, a global investment company headquartered in Singapore.

Introduction

Standing quietly opposite the Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station in downtown Singapore, Temasek Shophouse is an elegant art deco office building that recalls Singapore’s British colonial heritage.
Envisioned as a ”Cradle of Social Impact”, Temasek Shophouse is a space that encourages, enhances, and elevates social and environmental initiatives for the common good.
The property is the home of Temasek’s philanthropic arm — Temasek Trust, Temasek Foundation and Stewardship Asia Centre. The space is also occupied by Temasek’s co-working partners, including, Commissioner of Charities, ABC World Asia, and Foreword Coffee Roasters – a social enterprise café – and others.
The work at Temasek Shophouse is geared towards advocacy of the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and supports Temasek’s vision of an ABC (Active Economies, Beautiful Societies, Clean Earth) world. Temasek Shophouse aims to encourage a spirit of active citizenry, to foster a collaborative approach in designing solutions for pressing social and environmental issues.
The winner of the 2019 Award for Restoration at the annual URA Architectural Heritage Awards, the project is also a showcase of award-winning architectural conservation which also offers a testbed for sustainable design initiatives.

The winner of the 2019 Award for Restoration at the annual URA Architectural Heritage Awards, the project is also a showcase of award-winning architectural conservation which also offers a testbed for sustainable design initiatives.

History Of

Temasek
Shophouse

Temasek Shophouse was in a state of disrepair for many years before it was restored by SJ Architecture in 2019.
Built in 1928 by a pair of wealthy Malacca-born businessmen, Ee Kong Guan and Chee Guan Chiang, the building was originally conceived as a townhouse, with a commercial space on the first floor and residential apartments above.
The building was a state-of-the art building of its time. It adopted the neo-classical Art Deco style along with large institutional buildings such as General Post Office and the Supreme Court, now respectively restored as The Fullerton Hotel and National Gallery Singapore. The rear elevation was innovative as well. As one of the earlier adopters of spiral staircases in Singapore, the intention was for nightsoil collectors to do the necessary without disturbing the occupants.
For decades, the building was used variously as a furniture shop, an eatery, a department store, and eventually a shop selling fast fashion, named “This Fashion”, up to 2011. During this interim period, the occupier introduced changes that minimised the amount of daylight entering the building. The additions included a series of escalators, a new mezzanine level and a lift core. The building’s original fanlights were covered to conceal the building’s mechanical and electrical services. With the added mezzanine, the previous occupiers lowered down the five footway and introduced shutters, reducing daylight into the first storey and mezzanine space.
The intervention – led by SJ architecture with collaboration from KTP Consultants and Threesixty Cost Management (both members of the Surbana Jurong Group) – aimed to honour the original architecture and reinterpret it to fit the needs of the client.
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Image 02b 1 scaled 1
Views of the interior (looking towards Orchard Road) prior to the intervention works
Firstly, we conducted preliminary structural inspection. We found there is merit in strengthening the column to cater for the intensified usage. The structural repositioning was strategically planned along with the reconfiguration of the escalators and the lift cores, to create a contiguous first storey space.
Secondly, the front-facing area along Orchard Road was opened, restoring its original height, and increasing daylight into the interior space. Similarly, the covered shed at the rear of the building along the Stamford Canal was restored as a garden space. This not only increased the amount of daylight into the interior, it also brought with it a sense of tranquillity because of the greenery.
Lastly, the intervention also restored some of the original architectural elements. The open ceiling plan helped to bring back the original spatial quality, revealing the rich rhythm of fenestration and architectural details such as the coved beam structure. The open ceiling plan also allowed for more daylight into the interior spaces.
In addition, the intervention team chose to paint the building in black and white to accentuate the building’s geometry; particularly through the contrasting illumination for both the front and the rear façades of the building. The resulting effect is the understated elegance of a grande dame of heritage architecture coming back to life on Orchard Road.
seeds issue 4 temasek shophouse image 2
The Temasek Shophouse viewed from across the Stamford Canal along Handy Road: Handy Road Elevation
Photo Credit : Stillusion Photography

CHALLENGES OF RESTORING TEMASEK SHOPHOUSE

As Orchard Road is a busy historical road, it posed a separate challenge to the restoration work. The project is flanked by three other adjoining conserved buildings, a monument (Macdonald House) and the historic Stamford Canal. The Dhoby Ghaut MRT and the train track reserve lines also added constraints to the project. Hence the team constantly had to monitor any cracks, movements, and settlements on the surrounding buildings.
Additionally, there is no direct vehicular access into the space. As a result, all construction waste removal and material delivery had to be scheduled at night and done with extreme care, to avoid disturbing the neighbouring buildings.

Balancing FUNCTION AND AESTHETICS

The restoration is meant to serve the client’s need for office workspaces while providing ample space to host public gatherings and to facilitate collaborative work. As such, the first storey and the garden are dedicated to a fully publicly accessible space, with an event space and a cafe.
The Mezzanine is converted into meeting rooms and open lounges, facilitating meetings and collaboration between different organisations, while the second and third stories are used as offices. Previously inaccessible, the rooftop has a new board room with a roof terrace. The operable sliding-folding door allows the board room and the terrace to be integrated, creating a contiguous event space. From the rooftop, one could enjoy unblocked views of Fort Canning and Marina Bay Sands.
We designed the first storey to be as open and inclusive as possible. A nursing room, family toilets, a new wheelchair ramp, and an audio enhancing system were introduced into the space to serve families as well as individuals with mobility and hearing impairments.
To maximise the limited space, we designed many of the rooms to have a flexible configuration. For example, the two meeting spaces on the first storey can be easily converted into an exhibition space. There is no fixed furniture within the central atrium space to provide flexibility for a wide variety of event arrangements.
The workspaces are also designed to be open. There are no cubicles; instead the office spaces are equipped with a living-room like pantry and co-working spaces. We planned for meeting rooms of different sizes, ranging from those serving eight people to a phone booth, to serve the various working needs.
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The Temasek Shophouse : A view of Open work spaces (Mezzanine Level).
Photo Credit: Stillusion Photography
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The Temasek Shophouse : Open work spaces and Collaborative Spaces (Level 2)
Photo Credit: Stillusion Photography

A SUSTAINABILITY SHOWCASE

The design deliberately used a network of energy efficient equipment to ensure a commitment towards environmental sustainability. Temasek Shophouse also adopted numerous sustainability test-bed technologies. The Vortex Fan, a Singapore invention, for instance, is used in the public space to promote hybrid cooling. Beyond that, the client also integrated the Airbitat system, an evaporation cooling system in the building.
The Rear Garden features multiple tropical fruit trees and flowering species. It was designed to be a host to birds and butterflies flying in the urban areas. The garden has helped in emphasising the form and space of the original architecture and framed the two feature spiral staircases. Additionally, it also alludes to the history of Orchard Road as a road filled with plantations. The gardens also host a small bee hotel.
The greenery extends naturally into the interior. The key green feature is the three-storey high green wall in the atrium, hosting a range of carefully curated flowering plants from neighbouring countries to illustrate a regional cooperation in the social impact sectors.
Image 06 1 scaled 1
The Temasek Shophouse Greenwall.
Photo Credit: Stillusion Photography
In line with its architecture, the interior design of Temasek Shophouse takes inspiration from the Art Deco style. Characterised by strong geometrical lines, the style allows for a timeless, modern, and forward-looking design. It also works well with the neo-classical elements of the building.
The Art Deco movement is often associated with the forward-looking era of the 1920s. It is befitting that Temasek Shophouse ushers in a new era of change as a centre for social impact, housed in its beautifully conserved home in a historical part of Singapore, with its heart firmly rooted in sustainability for a cleaner earth and a better world.
Project
Temasek Shophouse
Location
28 Orchard Road, Singapore
Size
2,316 sqm
Status
Completed
Client
Temasek Trust
Services
Architecture , C&S , M&E, Cost Management
Collaboration
KTP, Threesixty Cost Management, Asylum, Switch, Radian, SECOM, Greenology
Firm / BU
Surbana Jurong Architects
Project Lead
Ivy Koh Chin Wern
Project Team
David Oktavianus, Lina Heng Hui Jun
Keywords
Conservation, Shophouse, Social Impact, Institution
The SEEDS Journal, started by the architectural teams across the Surbana Jurong Group in Feb 2021, is a platform for sharing their perspectives on all things architectural. SEEDS epitomises the desire of the Surbana Jurong Group to Enrich, Engage, Discover and Share ideas among the Group’s architects in 40 countries, covering North Asia, ASEAN, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand, the Pacific region, the United States and Canada.
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