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The Urban Edge - A Design Proposal

Addressing the Brief

The proposed Waterfront Theatre at Esplanade is conceived as a raw and informal theatre space with an approachable aesthetic that will appeal to different groups of local and international theatre-goers. The theatre aims to reflect and be a part of Esplanade Annexe’s younger, more casual and relaxed environment. It also will support the Annexe as a new, prime pre-theatre dining zone.

Back-to-basics design principles are adopted together with new technologies, complemented with a material palette that is economic and contextual.

The Theatre is conceived not as a standalone building, but one that addresses the urban scale and takes advantage of its privileged location along the prominent waterfront promenade.

Connectivity and access along the promenade to the Waterfront Theatre are top priorities, as well as the provision of ample space for public gatherings. The proposal thus aims for a cohesive intervention that activates and engages the different elements along the waterfront, from the F&B outlets, to the promenade, to the new theatre as well as the floating platform.

The key concept is the skewed position of the Waterfront Theatre, which will address current site issues, and work towards activating the lawn, engaging the disparate elements on site, and maintaining a ‘friendly’ scale along the promenade.

Bearing in mind that the project is cost-sensitive, a simple truss structure is proposed. The structural system also drives the architecture of the building, embracing a raw and casual aesthetic that is easy to construct. Earthworks are also kept minimal, except for areas which are required for the stage mechanisms, or localized areas at the front of house which will aid in enhancing the public realm.

 

A Tilted Theatre

Following comprehensive site studies, the following site issues were identified; the lack of connectivity between the disparate buildings like the Annexe block, the F&B structures and the covered walkway from the Esplanade, and a lack of shelter along the promenade.

The waterfront theatre is positioned at an angle as a deliberate urban strategy that addresses pedestrian movement in and around the area, and eventually through the building. At present, there are many ‘negative’ spaces which are under-utilised; for example, the graveled surface between the Powerhouse and the promenade, and the hardscape when approaching from the Floating Platform. The area is not sheltered, and there are no ‘destination’ points, thus it is neither inviting nor conducive for public activity. In response to this, the lawn space from the West of the site is extended towards the theatre and the positioning of the theatre will take up a smaller footprint on the lawn, thus freeing up more open space as an extended ‘front-of-house’ zone.

Besides a more friendly and instinctive approach, the angled placement of the theatre also marks the culmination of the lawn space and gives prominence and bearing to the building without the need for a fanciful iconic form.

The resulting foreground created from the angling of the theatre also balances the monumentality of the large volume, leaving a buffer space that visually reduces the scale of the building along the promenade and ensuring that passers-by can appreciate it without being overwhelmed.

An additional feature made possible by the skewed position of the theatre is The Billboard that is proposed in front of the existing powerhouse. The Billboard can be used for a wide variety of events – from general advertisements and theatre-specific advertisements (e.g. current and upcoming programmes); to movie screenings and interactive screens etc. The latter would play a part in supporting Esplanade’s vision to generate a more inclusive environment, and a sense of ownership and community amongst users of the space.

 

Cloud Link

The entire complex currently lacks a unifying exterior element that the new waterfront theatre can address. This lack of connectivity can largely be attributed to the lack of shelter. Over and above the functional provision of a covered walkway, the proposed sheltered access weaves through the lawn space instead of forming a stark line at the border of the site and the promenade. The walkway features various nodes, which are determined by the existing and proposed structures. By drawing users towards the lawn, the space is activated and a more engaging relationship with the F&B outlets is created.

Architecturally, the walkway is expressed as a series of lightweight steel modules with overlapping billowy cloud-like canopies made of thin but durable material like ETFE, serving as a subtle yet effective sheltered passage towards the theatre. The lightness and transparency of the shelter give prominence to the Waterfront Theatre, whilst also enhancing the sense of porosity throughout the lawn and forecourt along the promenade.  

 

Structure as Façade

In line with the ‘raw and casual’ theme, the structure of the auditorium is expressed as the facade which negates the need for additional cladding or facade treatment.

The design takes cue from auditorium backstage structures and this truss system serves a practical function of being able to span across a large area, which can also be easily assembled, thereby reducing construction time.

As an architectural expression, the truss structure continues downwards to form the vertical supports for the theatre, continuing the raw aesthetic and keeping the design language simple and coherent.

 

1 April 2018

Addressing the Brief

The proposed Waterfront Theatre at Esplanade is conceived as a raw and informal theatre space with an approachable aesthetic that will appeal to different groups of local and international theatre-goers. The theatre aims to reflect and be a part of Esplanade Annexe’s younger, more casual and relaxed environment. It also will support the Annexe as a new, prime pre-theatre dining zone.

Back-to-basics design principles are adopted together with new technologies, complemented with a material palette that is economic and contextual.

The Theatre is conceived not as a standalone building, but one that addresses the urban scale and takes advantage of its privileged location along the prominent waterfront promenade.

Connectivity and access along the promenade to the Waterfront Theatre are top priorities, as well as the provision of ample space for public gatherings. The proposal thus aims for a cohesive intervention that activates and engages the different elements along the waterfront, from the F&B outlets, to the promenade, to the new theatre as well as the floating platform.

The key concept is the skewed position of the Waterfront Theatre, which will address current site issues, and work towards activating the lawn, engaging the disparate elements on site, and maintaining a ‘friendly’ scale along the promenade.

Bearing in mind that the project is cost-sensitive, a simple truss structure is proposed. The structural system also drives the architecture of the building, embracing a raw and casual aesthetic that is easy to construct. Earthworks are also kept minimal, except for areas which are required for the stage mechanisms, or localized areas at the front of house which will aid in enhancing the public realm.

 

A Tilted Theatre

Following comprehensive site studies, the following site issues were identified; the lack of connectivity between the disparate buildings like the Annexe block, the F&B structures and the covered walkway from the Esplanade, and a lack of shelter along the promenade.

The waterfront theatre is positioned at an angle as a deliberate urban strategy that addresses pedestrian movement in and around the area, and eventually through the building. At present, there are many ‘negative’ spaces which are under-utilised; for example, the graveled surface between the Powerhouse and the promenade, and the hardscape when approaching from the Floating Platform. The area is not sheltered, and there are no ‘destination’ points, thus it is neither inviting nor conducive for public activity. In response to this, the lawn space from the West of the site is extended towards the theatre and the positioning of the theatre will take up a smaller footprint on the lawn, thus freeing up more open space as an extended ‘front-of-house’ zone.

Besides a more friendly and instinctive approach, the angled placement of the theatre also marks the culmination of the lawn space and gives prominence and bearing to the building without the need for a fanciful iconic form.

The resulting foreground created from the angling of the theatre also balances the monumentality of the large volume, leaving a buffer space that visually reduces the scale of the building along the promenade and ensuring that passers-by can appreciate it without being overwhelmed.

An additional feature made possible by the skewed position of the theatre is The Billboard that is proposed in front of the existing powerhouse. The Billboard can be used for a wide variety of events – from general advertisements and theatre-specific advertisements (e.g. current and upcoming programmes); to movie screenings and interactive screens etc. The latter would play a part in supporting Esplanade’s vision to generate a more inclusive environment, and a sense of ownership and community amongst users of the space.

 

Cloud Link

The entire complex currently lacks a unifying exterior element that the new waterfront theatre can address. This lack of connectivity can largely be attributed to the lack of shelter. Over and above the functional provision of a covered walkway, the proposed sheltered access weaves through the lawn space instead of forming a stark line at the border of the site and the promenade. The walkway features various nodes, which are determined by the existing and proposed structures. By drawing users towards the lawn, the space is activated and a more engaging relationship with the F&B outlets is created.

Architecturally, the walkway is expressed as a series of lightweight steel modules with overlapping billowy cloud-like canopies made of thin but durable material like ETFE, serving as a subtle yet effective sheltered passage towards the theatre. The lightness and transparency of the shelter give prominence to the Waterfront Theatre, whilst also enhancing the sense of porosity throughout the lawn and forecourt along the promenade.  

 

Structure as Façade

In line with the ‘raw and casual’ theme, the structure of the auditorium is expressed as the facade which negates the need for additional cladding or facade treatment.

The design takes cue from auditorium backstage structures and this truss system serves a practical function of being able to span across a large area, which can also be easily assembled, thereby reducing construction time.

As an architectural expression, the truss structure continues downwards to form the vertical supports for the theatre, continuing the raw aesthetic and keeping the design language simple and coherent.