Portrait © Studio Periphery
WOHA – a Singapore-based architectural practice founded by Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell in 1994 – have gained global recognition for their integration of environmental and social principles at every stage of the design process. They have designed a diverse amount of innovative and highly influential projects, which have been built in a number of cities and countries, and their best-known projects have been widely publicised as benchmarks for sustainable design.
In the face of global warming, unprecedented urban population growth, and increasingly dysfunctional infrastructure, WOHA’s architectural strategies and planning principles are now applicable to every large city in the world. WOHA are intent upon improving the day-to-day existence of all city residents, whilst simultaneously preparing them for (and protecting them from) the impact of climate change.
As well as those of Asia, the ever-expanding cities of Europe, America and Africa, are now confronting their own social and infrastructural problems as the 21st century progresses. In order to avert an impending systemic collapse, the architecture and planning of all global cities require an urgent reappraisal at the level undertaken by WOHA.
The form and appearance of WOHA’s architecture is always guided by the local context and culture, and above all, by the local climatic conditions, which determine every energy-saving strategy. In order to revitalise their urban environments, WOHA’s structures are designed to harmonise with and incorporate natural ecosystems, and to proactively encourage self-sufficient cities, which will have no need for the destructive use of artificial energy.
WOHA’s built projects range from residential towers, hotels and public housing to transportation hubs and institutional buildings, and they have proposed many schemes that integrate several, if not every, building type within one structure. In a process they describe as ‘Macro-Architecture Micro-Urbanism’, WOHA have increasingly focused upon designing buildings as integrated mini-cities, which regenerate the greater urban context by providing environments that are both sustainable and sociable.
WOHA have received numerous international awards for their work, including the CTBUH Best Tall Building Worldwide (2018), CTBUH Urban Habitat Award (2015), RAIA Jørn Utzon Award (2011), RIBA Lubetkin Prize (2011), Singapore President’s Design Award – Designer of the Year (2008), Aga Khan Award for Architecture (2007), and they have won six separate categories in the World Architecture Festival. Their most awarded and most recognisable recent projects have been Oasia Hotel Downtown, the School of the Arts and the PARKROYAL on Pickering hotel in Singapore.
Several noteworthy schemes by WOHA are currently under construction, including two housing projects in Mumbai, which have an almost unimaginable size and scale. Yet the underlying strategies have provided prototypes for sustainable and liveable development in the world’s largest and most congested cities. Kampung Admiralty – a WOHA prototype for a ‘high-density high-amenity’ mini-city – has been completed in northern Singapore. The development amalgamates elderly housing, medical facilities, retail, cafés, restaurants and community spaces within a single naturally-ventilated structure, which will be roofed by a tropical rainforest.
Two environmentally and socially groundbreaking schemes have also been completed in Singapore. SkyVille @ Dawson incorporates layers of landscaped open-air ‘sky villages’, which have been placed as links across the voids between the high-rise apartment blocks in a public housing complex. The crimson-coloured Oasia Hotel Downtown tower comprises a vine-clad stack of open-to-the-elements atria, and the new vegetation growing on the façades and contained within the building amounts to more than ten times that of the site in its natural state.
‘Breathing Architecture’, an exhibition devoted exclusively to WOHA’s work opened at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2011, before traveling to Taichung in Taiwan. In March-September 2016, the ‘Garden City Mega City’ exhibition opened at the Skyscraper Museum, New York, and thereafter traveled to Mexico for the Mextropoli Festival from March – April 2017. The exhibition was also on show at the Austin Central Library in Texas, USA from February – April 2018. The immersive video installation ‘Fragments of an Urban Future’ – featuring three WOHA buildings – was launched at the Venice Biennale in May 2016.
Four extensive monographs have been published on WOHA’s projects to date, as well as the book ‘Garden City Mega City’, a summation of their template for rethinking architecture and cities for the 21st century.