Experiencing Big Property
What can the architecture of commercial environments do to support the desires of people in our age of experience-driven consumption? The conceptualisation of Singapore’s Funan by Woods Bagot for CapitaLand involved a detailed preliminary process of user group studies. Programming, spatial definition and the articulation of the architecture and interior were all influenced by the findings.
Stephen Jones, Director at Woods Bagot, reflects on the need for big property to favour specificity over anonymity:
“Brands around the world are increasingly tying into specific customer interests and their demand for more personalised experiences – places that matter. The danger with a big commercial property is that it can take on an anonymous aesthetic offering little value to the community.
“We’re constantly trying to move away from that in our work and to promote a higher level of detailed design that relates to the lifestyles of specific users. We’ve moved past the big form-driven, single-gesture projects that have characterised a lot of the work in Asian cities, particularly over the last decade – the large, windswept grey-tiled plazas with some kind of abstract art in them to humanise the urban realm.
“As a community and as a profession, we must realise that those things don’t work. If user needs and context are considered and integrated into the planning from the inception of a project, we can design to promote valuable user experience, community amenity and response to climate. We’ve got to look for this more detailed user-focused engagement. That’s a real challenge for a big property, because it takes time, a lot of energy, and the alignment of groups of stakeholders.
“I sincerely believe Funan is a benchmark for what can be done to create a rich commercial environment, by engaging deeply with user needs to benefit the community. Developers from other parts of the world are coming to look at the project. It’s a credit to the team to have gotten so far.”
Woods Bagot worked with RSP Architects Planners & Engineers on Funan, as well as Grant Associates (landscape design) and Nipek (lighting design). Photo by Darren Soh.