Located at Balestier Road and adjacent to the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, the integrated development at Zhongshan Park offers unique opportunities to rejuvenate the Balestier conservation area in Singapore, reinforcing the memorial hall’s significance while simultaneously creating new activities through mixed-use additions. This 39,100sqm mixed-use development comprises a shopping mall, a commercial tower and two hotels within a park. It is the first development within a park in Singapore.
The starting point of the design was to create an unobstructed view corridor towards the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. The memorial hall is a heritage institution housed in a repurposed colonial bungalow, dating back to 1901, which traces Dr Sun’s revolutionary activities in the Southeast Asian region. The design team moulded the identity of the place by distilling the components down to the diagrammatic understanding of nodes, paths and edges.
Visitors arrive at Zhongshan Park by bus or car at the vehicular drop-off, which leads to the arrival plaza on the south side. The plaza greets visitors with a series of reflective water features and colourful flowering trees. Influenced by a concept from traditional Chinese gardens called changlang (长廊), or a long covered corridor that links important spaces, the development boasts a winding path that shapes the rhythm and flow of visitors. It wraps the periphery of the podium and leads to the event space. As they proceed, the visitors come upon several framed perspectival views that are reinforced with the placement of vertical screens. Nodes along the way are defined by lattice patterns inspired by traditional Chinese garden features. Every scene is well orchestrated as an experiential activity. The rhythm of one’s steps changes and slows down in response to different placement of the scenes.
A diverse collection of public spaces is generated along the view corridor. The courtyards and main seating areas are organised around two preserved Banyan trees. The water features form a vibrant transition between the hardscape on the south and the pockets of green spaces just across from the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. The event space on the north side opens up to the memorial hall. It offers public spaces for use in many different ways, such as festivals and events. In this way, public space and landscape merge in an intimate reciprocal relationship that creates juxtaposition between a direct axial view and a meandering promenade through an architectural space.
To preserve the character and scale of the neighbourhood, the frontage along Balestier Road accommodates the height of the low-rise shophouses. The interlocking layers of glass façade and stone-cladding are an interesting reinterpretation of the distinctive mixed urban fabric of the new and old shophouses in the area. Bamboo-inspired screens not only function as partition for the glazed podium façades, but also exemplify the strong and resilient personality of Dr Sun Yat Sen.
The commercial and hotel towers take on clean, contemporary forms clad in glass, and the reflective glass façades create a constant sense of movement of the sky and clouds, giving the façade a dynamic appearance through reflectivity with its surroundings. The design of the Zhongshan Park integrated development draws references and connections not only from elements in traditional Chinese gardens and regional culture, but also from the rich history of the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.