The coast of Changi, shrouded in lush greenery, is a haven for Singaporeans seeking respite from high-density urban living. Its tropical environment is complemented by low-rise colonial architecture, contributing to a laidback environment commonly associated with the eastern part of Singapore.
The Civil Service Club at Changi is an Addition & Alterations project to the former one-storey clubhouse situated along this nostalgic coastline. The project consisted of a new four-storey Recreation Complex and a new four-storey Chalet Block with three Villa Clusters. The essence of this project was to preserve the clubhouse’s colonial heritage, and rejuvenate the surroundings with new recreational and hospitality programmes. Three main zones – namely, recreation, food and beverage, and hospitality – form this renewed space, sensitively paying homage to the genius loci of the site.
Anchoring the development is the new Recreation Complex. In terms of programmatic function, the complex houses facilities such as the bowling centre and rooftop tennis courts. The Recreation Complex is purposefully located adjacent to the lively Changi Village, creating an architectural dialogue between these two establishments, simultaneously facilitating the dynamic flow of people between them. The rich materiality of the undulating concrete façade is enhanced with a reddish earth tone that complements the terracotta roof tiles of the conserved colonial blocks. The Recreation Complex, with its externalised staircases, naturally ventilated corridors and brick façade orchestration, is designed with porosity as an architectural intent.
The Chalet Block is situated at the other end of the site, adjacent to the existing Changi Golf Club. Carrying over the same architectural language of the Recreation Complex, multiple slender columns and trellises create a sense of transparency and break down the scale of the new buildings, so that they do not overwhelm the existing colonial buildings.
Tropical building design principles were applied throughout the project. Given the high rainfall, humidity and heat of Singapore’s climate, the buildings were designed to provide respite from the tropical heat and driving rain with sunshading and cross ventilation, achieved through the adoption of vertical and horizontal screens. The naturally ventilated corridors allow chalet guests to enjoy the pleasant green surroundings, and balconies in every room have panoramic views of the sea. The use of screens and greenery celebrates the close relationship between architecture and nature.
The Villa Clusters are tucked away at the quieter corner of the site, overlooking Changi Beach and surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful mature trees along the coastline. Rooms in these double-storey villas face the sea. An interesting interpretation of the old lattice windows of the colonial blocks has been expressed onto the timber façade panels of the villas, creating a nostalgic resort feel.
A primary design intent of the project was to retain the laidback charm of the Changi Village area, which included conserving the existing single-storey structures that date back to the colonial times. As one enters the grounds along the textured driveway, the pitch-roofed porte-cochère, clipped plantings and decorative pots evoke a sense of nostalgia. The back of the conserved Meyer House, now the club’s main entrance hall, opens out to reveal a panoramic view of Changi Beach. The entrance hall’s main reception area features a unique vaulted ceiling geometry that was stripped away to reveal old glass roof tiles and skylights that funnel diffused natural daylight into the carefully refurbished space, accentuating the charm of the conserved buildings.
The number of matured trees presented an opportunity to allow the landscape to ‘seep’ into the buildings. The landscape acts as a canvas, forming a vibrant background that ties up the buildings, old and new, harmoniously. Green spaces were designed around existing mature trees to create a tranquil environment. The club’s lawn features many mature raintrees that were thoughtfully conserved. The grassed terraces and steps leading to the raised first storey of the Recreation Complex form an intimate relationship between architecture and nature.
The refurbishment of the Civil Service Club at Changi parallels the retelling of an old story with new relevance. The architectural intervention draws inspiration from memories of the past and, at the same time, renews a sense of optimism for the future. The architects behind the project have successfully created a sense of place where old and new, nature and architecture coexist harmoniously.