Sunray Woodcraft Construction is one of the largest interior builders in Singapore for interior fit out works. From its beginnings as a family-run business in 1987 to expanding to neighbouring Malaysia in 1991, the company has established a reputation for being a leader in their field. The building housing the company’s new headquarters is one of the first to be completed as part of the newly positioned International Furniture Hub in Sungei Kadut, Singapore. It presents an opportunity to look afresh at the light industrial factory type, stacking production processes in order to optimise working conditions.
The original brief called for an office building with an attached factory, complete with gallery showrooms and workers’ dormitories, to replace the existing headquarters in Singapore and existing factory in Johor Bahru. This merging of two elements of the factory’s production process and originally separate uses prompted a rethink of the spatial arrangement and workflow of the eight-storey building, which now comprises production space, workers’ dormitory, warehouse, offices and showrooms.
The headquarters is designed to reflect the company’s design and craft expertise. The building’s stacked timber box design is a series of interconnected volumes which correspond to their interior functions. Its design was driven by three challenges – namely, a wide range of user requirements, the client’s ambitious requirement for increased space and the unique position of the site within the estate, highly visible from passing trains nearby.
Each box, reflecting the different stages of production, is identified by the specific needs that their individual spaces serve. Factory production and warehouse spaces are clad in yellow horizontal aluminium louvres, flooding spaces with the maximum amount of natural ventilation and light while remaining shaded from the sun and protected from rain. Deep recesses between boxes create intuitive points of entry and exit for each box while allowing natural light to penetrate deeper into the floor plate. Office spaces are clad in closely spaced vertical aluminium louvres, shading the interior spaces and maintaining a view of the outside.
The showroom box is clad in concrete – a contrast to the yellow boxes that make up the rest of the building. Its large picture window further highlights the furniture on display and creates a focal point on two sides of the building facing the train tracks. The workers’ dormitory at the rear of the site is clad in vertical louvres with checkerboard openings to allow for maximum natural ventilation while maintaining privacy. Smaller areas which require highly controlled ventilation systems, such as the spray booth and laser cutter work areas, are located within boxes clad in precast concrete with high level windows and mechanical ventilation. The use of yellow throughout the building pays homage to the company’s corporate colour, with the three tones serving as a creative interpretation of the stacked timber boxes concept.
The specialised facilities allow the factory to handle anything from bespoke interior fit outs to interiors for international hotel chains. The seamless workflow of spaces, easily navigable volumes and efficiently planned areas are designed around the movement of materials, finished products, as well as three separate user groups – namely the showroom and office visitors, staff and dormitory workers. The building experience for each group is carefully planned, with the user’s requirements driving the design. For example, contiguous floor space between production zones and dormitories allow fast and easy access for workers. Dormitory floors are stacked towards the rear of the site, facing away from other workshop activities which may cause noise or dust and allowing for maximum privacy. Visitors arrive in the drop-off lobby on the ground floor, located within the perimeter of the building. A lift lobby then brings visitors and office workers up directly into the showroom or office reception areas. Between the main office workspace and the offices of upper management, reception areas overlook roof terraces, filling these areas with natural light and providing long vistas over the estate. Here, a secondary lift core also allows staff direct access into the workshop and warehouse areas. Ensuring a seamless design and smooth production processes were crucial to maximise efficiency and quality control. The design, meticulously catering for a wide range of users, their needs, as well as the movement of raw materials and finished products, helps to give the building a rich and varied focus.
The design redefines the notion of tropical architecture and the characteristic wood and furniture factory – from the typical, open-sided, corrugated metal roof, warehouse type commonly seen in the region – into a design that is highly efficient and aesthetically appealing. Responding to the subjective needs of the interior spaces, the building skin envelops each space accordingly, with large horizontal openings to bring in ventilation and light for production spaces, smaller vertical openings for office spaces and an enclosed box to retain the controlled light conditions required in the showroom. The building is a striking design statement embodying the efficiency and pride the client has in their craft, raising the bar for similar development types in the surrounding Sungei Kadut area.