Moshe Safdie, FAIA, is enjoying an embarrassment of riches. The architect’s Boston-area firm has five large-scale projects scheduled for completion this year—three in the U.S. and one each in Singapore and India. The Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore, designed for the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is one of the most ambitious: The $5.7 billion, 9-million-square-foot program includes a 2,500-room hotel, convention center, casino, retail, dining, nightclubs, event plaza, and museum, all topped by the Sands SkyPark. The complexity of the program is behind the project’s eight-month-long grand opening: while the hotel and SkyPark opened last June, the final elements, including the ArtScience Museum, won’t open until Feb. 19.

Safdie confronted the project’s colossal scale by dividing the hotel component into three 55-story towers overlooking Marina Bay; the voids between them frame views to downtown Singapore. The sloping geometry of the towers required the structural engineers at Arup, particularly the bridge and tall-building specialists, to devise a strut-and-tension-cable system to support the walls during construction. “The struts were enormous, temporary steel legs, which crisscrossed the hotel atrium,” Safdie describes. “These were removed after large trusses linking the towers were installed” at the 23rd floor. The cables, not part of the original design, were left in place after the towers’ completion, and were grouted into the concrete shear walls to conceal them.

A low-rise, undulating podium in front of the towers houses a vast array of entertainment venues. But keeping the podium structures low meant that there was little open space left for outdoor amenities. “Once we laid the footprint of the building, we still lacked the necessary location for the amenities of the hotel complex, which includes swimming pools, gardens, and jogging paths,” Safdie explains.

To solve the problem, Safdie had the audacious idea to build the three-acre SkyPark, 656 feet in the air, by bridging the tops of all three towers. Though the park was originally constrained to the towers’ footprint, the design team decided, after consulting a feng shui expert, to cantilever a portion of the park off of the north tower. And it is no small cantilever: at 213 feet, it runs nearly the length of a 747 and is one of the largest public cantilevers in the world. “The move gave the building directionality, and now, as you enter Singapore from the highway, it presents itself as a dramatic gateway element,” Safdie says.

Tremendous structural and construction challenges followed, not the least of which involved extensive wind testing and modeling. Originally, the hull-shaped belly of the park was designed as a pure toroid, but the form was streamlined to allow for efficient cladding: 9,000 silver-painted, metal-composite panels enclose the mega trusses that bridge the three towers at the 55th story. Offices for hotel operations and mechanical rooms housing water tanks for the swimming pools are also contained within the hull.

The hull was built off-site in 14 separate steel segments. Each was trucked to the site, lifted into place using hydraulic strand jacks, and assembled on top of the towers. The two largest sections were a pair of 262-foot-long, 1,400-ton box girders that formed the 213-foot cantilever. At a lifting speed of 46 feet per hour, it took more than 16 hours to lift the girders and slide them into place.

At every step, the structural design of the cantilever was reevaluated and modified as necessary. The taper of the main supporting box girders was reduced to improve the cantilever’s response to vibrations that are created as people walk, run, or use the swimming pool. A 5-ton tuned mass damper located at the tip of the cantilever—and hidden within the hull of the architectural form—provides additional stability. The damper is suspended from transverse girders and accessed via catwalks in place for inspection and maintenance of the box girders.

It’s easy to get distracted by the mega-scale and complexity of the project, when looking at the numbers—billions of dollars, millions of square feet, and a skypark with a 15,000-square-foot infinity pool, and space for 3,900 people to mingle among 650 plants and 250 trees. Yet, Marina Bay Sands exhibits the same ingenuity and fearlessness that defined Safdie’s controversial Habitat 67 residential complex for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal. The principles that drove that design more than 40 years ago remain the principles driving his work today: ethical standards, which require addressing the realities of urban density, demographics, and scale while preserving the genius loci of a place confronted by globalization. On the other hand, what most distinguishes the Marina Bay Sands as a Moshe Safdie design is his unflinching eagerness to push beyond perceived limits of construction to accomplish feats of derring-do.

Project Credits
Project Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, Singapore
Client/Owner Marina Bay Sands (Las Vegas Sands Corp.)
Architect Safdie Architects, Somerville, Mass.—Moshe Safdie, FAIA (design principal); Gene Dyer, AIA, Easley Hamner, FAIA, David Robins, Carrie Yoon (project directors); Rafael Acosta, David Brooks, Isaac Franco, AIA, Tunch Gungor, Michael Guran, Jeffrey Huggins, Jeff Jacoby, Charu Kokate, AIA, Jaron Lubin, Toshihiko Taketomo, AIA, Dana Tanimoto, AIA, Trevor Thimm, Siebrandus Wichers (project team)
Executive Architect Aedas
Structural, Civil, Façade, Geotechnical, Acoustic Engineer Arup
M/E/P Engineers (Design) Vanderweil Engineers
M/E/P Engineers (Production) Parsons Brinckerhoff
Landscape Architect (Design) Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architecture
Landscape Architect (Production) Peridian International
Lighting Consultants Project Lighting Design
Casino Design Safdie Architects with the Rockwell Group
Interior Designer CL3 Architects; Hirsch Bedner Associates
Theater Consultants Fisher Dachs Associates
Water Feature Design HFA International
Construction Manager Ssangyong Engineering & Construction Co.
General Contractor (Hotel, SkyPark) Ssangyong Engineering & Construction Co.
Artists James Carpenter, Antony Gormley with Tristan Simmons,
Ned Kahn, Sol LeWitt, ChongBin Zheng
Size 9 million square feet
Cost $5.7 billion (including land)

Materials and Sources
Adhesives, Coatings, and Sealants Dow Corning; GE
Appliances Fabristeel
Carpet Tai Ping Carpets
Concrete Ssangyong Engineering & Construction Co.; Yau Lee Group; KTC Group; Yongnam
Glass Shanghai Yaohua Pilkington Glass Co.; Cardinal Glass Industries; Singapore Safety Glass
HVAC Shin Nippon Air Technologies Co.
Lighting Control Systems United Engineer Group
Lighting Gexpro
Masonry and Stone Engareh (atrium); Artebuild (rooms)
Metal Yongnam; JFE Steel Corp; AME Group; Lip Chee Engineering
Paint KEIM Mineral Coatings of America (exterior); Dulux (interior)
Plumbing and Water System OSK Engineering (contractor)
Roofing Kalzip (Corus system); GRP Roofing; Alfasi Group; Struts Building Technology
Site and Landscape Great Harvest Construction (hotel); Prince’s Landscape & Construction (SkyPark and hotel); Venturer
Wayfinding Pentagram (design); King Wah Engineering Co. (construction)
Windows, Curtainwalls, and Doors Benson (wall systems, west façade); Jangho (atrium and spa); Arco Aluminum; (east façade); Technal (doors); Prime Structures; Stelatex; Alfasi Group
Pool Contractor Innovez Sports Technologies; Natare Corp.