Designed by MKPL Architects Pte Ltd, Visitor Centre at HortPark is located in Singapore. Due to its strategic location, a nursery of the National Parks Board was turned into a horticulture park as part of the southern ridges park master plan. A visitor center housing exhibitions, training and multi-purpose facilities with one small restaurant was to be built as an orientation point. The attribute of the site is its long vista towards the distant ridges – a rare view that signifies the genius loci – a last bastion of unspoilt greenery in Singapore. Unfortunately the site is flanked on one side by 8-storey high industrial buildings, that break the enchantment of the natural landscape.
That view and the mature trees around became the point of deliberation for the design concept.The light-weight roof, a simple construction of steel post and beam, is tectonic in expression and feel, while the base is heavy and stereotomic. The space beneath roof is light and airy, with transparent and uniform light, echoing its setting within a park Bold and singular use of black colour, recedes the architectural elements into the background, bringing the landscape and the park to the foreground.
The result is a huge canopy, scaled to those of the trees around it, so that it constantly frames, and draws attention to the landscape around it. It seeks to adjust the visitor to a right frame of mind and to reawaken the senses to a tropical environment. Raised on plinth (for control of sight lines and to build with the natural contours) it is deliberate that the views of the visitor are controlled upon arrival, so that the distant views of the ridges are framed to welcome the public.
The palpable coolness as one steps into the shade from the blazing sun, the feeling and sense of the space under the canopy is akin to that of a shaded space under a tall rain tree; breezy, cool, uninhibited and shadow-less. The architecture is crafted to be simply a series of columns, like a grove of trees, with an unadorned sandwich green roof, all painted black to contrast and interact with the landscape and trees. The edges of the roof are louvered like that of a tree canopy, with courtyards, punctuating at strategic locations to bring in daylight as well as let the trees emerged in the midst of the architecture. Through the strategically placed spiral stair or a ramp floating within a water court, one descends into the ‘base’ of the building. Constructed in off-form concrete, the space is heavy and enhanced by controlled lighting.
Light courts pierce the ‘base’, bringing in greenery, light and air. Black steel screen, made of twisted metal plates, adds layers to the light courts. Emerging from the ‘base’, connected to an outdoor event space, this is where one’s experience of the horticulture park begins. The man-made drawing attention to the natural, the monochrome coloring the greenery. The HortPark has become a vibrant place where communities as well as companies are able to enjoy, where activities run parallel to the promotion of Horticultural awareness.