Of birds and bees

One George Street's sky gardens are a city slicker's haven

Issue: Sep 2009

An executive chills out at One George Street's fifth floor pool and sky garden
An executive chills out at One George Street's fifth floor pool and sky garden
A strong breeze rustles the rainforest trees, and a few leaves gently drop to the ground. A meandering shallow stream gurgles and links up to a 25-metre swimming pool. A swimmer relaxing by the edge soaks in a sweeping view of Singapore's business district.

Welcome to the fifth floor sky garden of One George Street - probably one of the best-kept secrets of downtown Singapore. Here is where frenzied executives come to unwind: they work out at the Fitness First boutique club located on the same floor, take a dip in the pool, or chill out at the sky garden.

"I really like the quiet here," says Alice Tang, a financial services professional. "I like the view, and the pool is outdoors, and well-maintained."

Made to measure

Nestled close to Raffles Place, One George Street is a 23-storey Grade A office tower owned by CapitaCommercial Trust and managed by CapitaLand. The building is distinctive because it has four, not one, sky gardens.

Fitness First's Managing Director Anthony Tottman says the sky garden and pool on the fifth floor had convinced the company to lease the space at One George Street. The developer, CapitaLand, had even worked with the club to redesign the area - expanding it from an original 6,000 sq ft space to a 10,000 sq ft club with high ceilings and full-height glass windows, to take advantage of the view.

"This is one of our most successful clubs because of the experience it offers to our members," says Tottman.

Voids of green

One George Street was one of first commercial properties to integrate sky gardens into its development
One George Street was conceived as a rectangular box elevated 18 metres above ground, with different-sized voids on each of its four sides, on different levels.

Helen Smith-Yeo, principal landscape architect at Sitetectonix, the firm responsible for the building's landscaping, says: "This created opportunities for the integration of garden elements within the vertical dimension of the building, leading to a successful fusion of landscape, environment and architecture in a highly urban context."

This led to the creation of the impressive sky gardens on the 5th, 12th, 15th and 22nd floors. The lush tropical greenery now attracts small insects and animals - you can spot colourful sunbirds (often mistaken as hummingbirds) on the 22nd floor's rooftop sky garden.

These oases in the sky helped One George Street clinch the inaugural SIA-NParks Skyrise Greenery Award in 2008. The award is organised jointly by the National Parks Board and the Singapore Institute of Architects. It aims to promote skyrise greenery in Singapore and to recognise the joint efforts in greening high-rise developments by owners/developers, architects, landscape architects/designers, and landscape contract managers.

One George Street made a "bold statement in the Singapore skyline," the judges said.

"The choice of locating a void at the fifth floor was a fantastic idea; it provides a commanding view of the Singapore River. This sky terrace reflected the 'blue and green' from the river in its artful integration of indoor and outdoor landscape."

The fifth floor sky garden gives a panoramic view of downtown Singapore
Although the award was based on skyrise greenery, the judges noted that ground greenery was also taken into consideration. They praised One George Street's ground landscaping for its seamless link to adjacent Hong Lim Green, a small national park.

With no traditional walls surrounding the ground floor of One George Street, the 18-metre high public plaza remains open and connected to the park.

"The whole landscape on the ground was conceived as one fluid environment where the park flows into the plaza, which in turn flows into the lobbies," explains Smith-Yeo.

Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, the sky gardens have been credited for reducing local ambient temperatures and easing the cooling load of the building. The building's façade system, which allows optimum daylight penetration while reducing glare and heat transmission, also makes it more energy-efficient. These were the two main reasons why One George Street was conferred the Green Mark Gold award by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.

Impressive office

The airy and open plaza links One George Street to adjacent Hong Lim Green
At One George Street's main lobby, a thicket of young bamboo welcomes visitors. The sense of calm it exudes is a fitting prelude to what the oases in the sky have to offer.

According to Victor Leung, Senior Building Manager at One George Street, some tenants have even "adopted" or rented parts of the sky gardens on the 15th and 22nd floors. They include Lloyd's of London, a British business insurance firm.

"We often invite visitors, particularly those who are in Singapore for the first time, to the sky gardens. It offers a great view of the city and it is a good way of introducing visitors to the main sites in Singapore," says Simon Wilson, Managing Director of Lloyd's Asia.

He adds, "Having trees outside your window on the 15th storey of a building is very impressive!"

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