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Design Competition For Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS)

In February 2013, Peoples’ Association together with the Singapore Institute of Architects launched an architectural design competition for the development of Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS). WGS has been envisioned as a forward-looking and cosmopolitan civic centre which will celebrate the heritage of Geylang Serai, and will be a window into the rich Malay arts and culture. It will be a landmark in Geylang Serai precinct with a community lifestyle, providing spaces and facilities for a wide range of community activities and services. It was felt that this landmark project is best achieved through a design competition process.

The two-stage design competition for WGS attracted 56 entries. The selection went through a rigorous process of technical evaluation, followed by Jury session to shortlist 5 best schemes to proceed to stage 2. The shortlisted schemes were further developed taken into consideration inputs from the Jury Panel. Stage 2 was another rigorous technical evaluation and jury session to select the winning scheme. followed by final evaluation by a credible Jury Panel, comprising architects, community leaders and users.

The selection of the winning scheme is based not only on the conceptual design and the aesthetic, but also on factors like creative response to the urban site context, environmental response strategies to climatic conditions, functions, use of public spaces, buildability and constructivity.

The winning design for the Wisma Geylang Serai by Design-Environment Group Architects was announced at the Wisma Geylang Serai Design Competition – Exhibition of Entries Award Ceremony on 13 July 2013.
The following gives a summary of the winning scheme, together with the 4 shortlisted schemes.

Winning Scheme

The scheme is engaging and creative interpretation of the brief, which has posed an interesting question of what it is to the community, vis-a-vis architectural design, to embrace contemporary and progressive aspirations and is culturally relevant at the same time.

The design featuring universally recognizable double-pitch roofed 'houses' artfully composed in an informal manner atop a rectilinear podium creates an image which is almost primordial and yet contemporary. The design picks up on the roof-line of the adjacent Geylang Serai market and creates an elegant, well-proportioned scale and a character of rhythm along Geylang Road, thus, adding greatly to the vicinity's urban character and the experience of street life.

Shortlisted Schemes

The scheme demonstrates decisively the bold approach by the architect taking essential inspiration of well-known artifacts of the Malay community and transforming into a striking architectural design, physically and in abstract. There are certain undeniably powerful resonances in such a design approach for WGS, being the centre of focus, especially during the Malay community festivities here at Geylang Serai.

With its wavy, sheer facade in abstract pattern, the design creates a memorable leitmotif and the effect of an instant icon. It would be equally beguiling by night when the entire building would glow from the inside like a lantern.

The scheme is a well thought-through contemporary design with dynamic, fluid spaces and seamless visual connectivity. The graceful, flowing design shows the architect's finesse in handling proportions, porosity and transparency, and crafting interesting spaces as an integral process in designing the building and its layout.

This design takes a different approach to the brief in seeking to create a "commodious" public plaza by merging the brief's original intent of a public plaza along Geylang Road with the planned secondary internal street. The architect achieves this by compacting the programs within a singular footprint on plan and splaying the building form outwards progressively at the higher floors. This creates a dynamic inclined building which overhangs and shades over parts of the wide public plaza thus created.

The building has a very modern appearance and, according to the designer, hints at 'artifactual' references by the building shape and that of the facade cut-outs. The design is innovative for the Malay house tube-shaped interventions which puncture through and cantilever out, greatly animating the facade. These create unique spaces to be experienced from within, especially with natural light and air which would be brought into the building.

The proposal has an interesting look at having a festivity 'promenade' underneath the building itself, thereby creating a highly conducive, generous, permanently sheltered internal street for public events. The space and architecture design were conceived as part of the same grand idea, by hollowing out from a trapezoidal volume along the diagonal axis running from the open plaza at the corner. The linear event space is dramatically defined by a series of complex parabolic arches overhead which folds in from the external facade.