In Singapore, there is now a place where you can worship at the altar of consumption, at the feet of a pop idol, or in a megachurch, all under one roof. The Star combines 260,000 square feet of retail space—known as Star Vista—with a 5,000-seat concert hall that is part of the Star Performing Arts Centre, and on Sundays is used by the New Creation Church, a congregation led by the charismatic Pastor Joseph Prince. In a culture in which retail and spectacle have already combined to produce Marina Bay Sands and its three splayed, 50-story towers rising over a casino and supporting a flying pool, the Star’s hybrid program and expressive shape are perhaps not so unexpected. What is remarkable is the strength of its imagery, the fluidity with which both the uses and the forms flow into each other, and the amount of open-air civic space the building provides.
The Star’s designer is Andrew Bromberg, Assoc. AIA, an American who runs a high-design-oriented, 35-person studio within the Hong Kong office of behemoth international firm Aedas. Bromberg has drawn up slicing, splayed, and canted towers for Dubai and for various cities in China, and he is currently overseeing designs for the new high-speed train terminal in Hong Kong. With his ability to create striking imagery that works within developers’ idioms and budgets, Bromberg is now beginning to compete for significant commissions with both large American offices and the likes of Foster + Partners and OMA.
The Singapore commission began when Rock Productions, New Creation Church’s event production organization, took the lead in finding a new space for the church. Rock Productions had already chosen the site in One North, a business and residential neighborhood emerging from a 2001 master plan by Zaha Hadid, Hon. FAIA, and was in discussion with her office to design the building.
Rock liked the fact that its venue would be located next to a major suburban train station, but the site required the developers to contend with height limitations on the one hand and zoning that called for transit-oriented shopping on the other. Once they understood the complexity of the situation, they sought out a partner and found one in developer CapitaMalls Asia. The two agreed to create one building, with each party owning their respective facilities, while sharing the underground parking garage in a 50-50 partnership. After interviewing several firms, they agreed in 2005 to hire Bromberg and Aedas to come up with a design.
The architect placed the 180-foot-wide auditorium, clad in segmented, acid-etched Okalux glass over fiberglass, atop the three levels of retail, surmounted that with Rock offices, and supported the auditorium volume from below with a forest of columns. Then he had to create acoustic separation, mold the overall form to conform to height and view corridor restrictions, give each of the partners a clear identity, and ensure that the retail environment would not be overwhelmed by the large space on top of it.
In addition, Bromberg says, “I was hoping to introduce devices allowing you to see where you came from: slots in floors, overlooks, skylights. In this sense, the positioning of circulation was also very deliberate, to give different perspectives and vantages of these large flowing volumes and to optimize wayfinding.”
To do this, he created one large box that appears to hover over a terraced mall whose canopy and open-air plaza invite in shoppers and visitors to the Star. He then curved and sliced the remaining volumes to open up views and to thread stairs and escalators through the whole project. All that carving also opened up the interior public spaces to breezes. “I wanted to make an environment that blended into the tropical environment of Singapore but could be comfortable,” Bromberg says. “We saved 30 percent of the air conditioning costs in the mall by having the public spaces nonconditioned, shaded, and with induced wind currents.”
Despite this openness, the Star is a self-conscious monument, its nearly 16-story height holding its site and attracting views from the elevated train tracks to the north. From that vantage point, the form bulges up and out, while pointing toward the front façade. An inward-curved glass screen denotes both public gathering and entrance (the gesture also serves to continue an axis the master plan decrees will be established between two future towers to the east).
The proximity of the transit stop, as well as the built-in audience of event and service attendees, led CapitaMalls to develop its portion of the complex with a mix of 60 percent restaurants and food service and 40 percent retail, which in turn helped Bromberg justify the incorporation of extensive terraces in addition to the large central space (termed the “Grand Foyer”), which blends into a food court at the building’s core. Arriving visitors flow down from the transit stop exit and into that ovoid expanse, canted columns rising above you and curved pods of restaurants and stores leading you on, up, and through the whole mall.
Freestanding escalators take you up to even more outdoor spaces, which serve as prefunction gathering areas. As you move up and around, Bromberg’s cracks and slices provide breezes and sometimes vertigo-inducing views. Finally, you pass through ticket control and into air-conditioned foyers that surround the horseshoe-shaped auditorium on three sides. Once inside, the Star’s geometries calm down into the lazy arch of both the orchestra and the two shallow balconies, concentrating your view on the spectacle on stage.
Bromberg was careful to continue public circulation up past Rock Production’s domain, creating a 400-person outdoor amphitheater five floors above the ground that doubles as a place to either eat lunch or sit and wait for an event. Ramps then lead you all the way up and around the auditorium, making the whole building accessible, while serving as exits for both the main space and a small event hall on the roof.
The Star is a mash-up, both in terms of function and form. It begs the question of what the difference is between retail-oriented, semi-public places and what Bromberg insists on calling “civic space.” The latter exists by virtue of the need for circulation and crowd-management areas, but it does serve to create places for unprogrammed gathering and encounters. The auditorium lets the whole structure act as a visual magnet without becoming either a religious symbol or the kind of overwhelming paean to sports and music that most recent arenas impose on their neighborhoods. Here, formal excitement stands in for signaling function.
Bromberg has given all these uses space to breathe and express themselves, while sliding away from any explicit definition. Your eyes and your feet slide around the Star, its singularity slithering away into a life-sized game of Chutes and Ladders. If this is the Church of Deconstruction as a technique, I will say amen.
Project The Star, Singapore
Client/Owner Rock Productions, CapitaMalls Asia
Architect Aedas, Hong Kong—Andrew Bromberg, Assoc. AIA (lead designer); Tony Ang, Caroline Aviles, David Chan, Henry Chan, Olivia Chan, Thomas-WT Chan, Wayne Chan, Sam Cheng, Sam Cho, Alvin Choo, Allan Curr, Roderick Delgado, Bryan Diehl, Muhammad Fadly, Petrina Goh, Emma Hadi, Ka-Ming Ho, Samantha Hu, Yann Hui, Syarif Fahmi Ismail, Koh Thien Nee, Willie Kua, Leo Lau, Helena Lee, Assoc. AIA, Henry Leung, Francesco Lietti, Isa Bin Lmin, Andrew Loke, Vicky Pang, Assoc. AIA, Boris Manzewski, Kenneth Mcgurie, Moreno Negri, Alen Nikolovski, Lancelot Ng, Michael O’Brien, Tobias Ott, Joshua So, David Tan, Tan Chai Tan, Danny Tang, Garry Philips, Iskandar Rahman, Eugene Seow, Tony Sin, Serene Toh, Jason Wang, Lukasz Wawrzenczky, Ian Wigmore, Kent Williams, Kenny Wong, Magdaline Yeo, Ada Yuen, Sharifah Zerdharina, Jaenes Bong, Marcin Klocek, Eric Lee, Grace Chen Xiao (project team)
Interior Designer —Andrew Bromberg, Assoc. AIA
Mechanical and Electrical Engineer Mott MacDonald
Structural and Civil Engineer Thornton Tomasetti (concept); Parsons Brinckerhoff (QP)
Geotechnical Engineer Parsons Brinckerhoff
Construction Manager Capitaland and Retail Project Management Private
General Contractor Hexacon Construction
Landscape Architect ICN Design International
Lighting Designer Lighting Planners Associates
Project Manager CapitaMalls Retail Project Management (CRPM)
Fire/Environmental Engineer Arup Singapore
Façade Engineer ALT
Theater and Acoustic Consultant Artec Consultants
Quantity Surveying Langdon & Seah Singapore
Signage Bonsey Design Partnership
Operational Consultants IMG Artists
Size 62,000 square meters (667,362 square feet)
Materials and Sources
Acoustical System Ecophon ecophon.com; Rockwool rockwool.com
Building Management Systems and Services Johnson Control International johnsoncontrols.com
Carpet Contract Image Singapore (auditorium lobby); InterfaceFlor (back-of-house rooms) interfaceflor.com; Weavepact Singapore (auditorium)
Ceilings Ecophon (office) ecophon.com; eNovate with DURLUM Asia (custom) durlumasia.com; Knauf knaufinsulation.us; Boral (plasterboard) boral.com
Exterior Wall Systems Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall System (Singapore branch) janghogroup.com
Furniture OFFITEK (retail management offices) www.offitek.com.sg; Civic Zone furnishings sourced by client
Glass China Southern Glass csgglass.cn
Gypsum Boral boral.com
HVAC Guthrie (civic) guthrie.com.sg; Kurihara (retail) kurihara.com.sg
Insulation Rockwool rockwool.com
Lighting Control Systems Krislite krislite.com; Stongly
Masonry and Stone UE IBP Stone Merchants Singapore ibpceramics.com
Metal Yongnam Engineering (steel frame) yongnam.com.sg; Siong Ann Engineering Singapore (secondary steel: catwalks, equipment) siongann.com; JR Clancy (specialist theater equipment) jrclancy.com
Millwork Grandwork Interior grandwork.com.sg; SCK sck.com.sg
Paints and Finishes Jotun jotun.com; Dulux dulux.com; Nippon Paint nipponpaint.com; International Paint internationalpaint.com
Plumbing and Water System Industrial Plumbing
Roofing Kalzip kalzip.com
Seating Jezet Belgium jezet.com
Site and Landscape Products Elmich Systems elmich.com
Wayfinding Crimsign Graphics (signage) crimsign.com
Windows, Curtainwalls, and Doors Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall System janghogroup.com