The redevelopment of Downtown East is a five-year undertaking to transform the well-loved recreation and leisure node into an integrated leisure experience away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The project comprises two phases of construction works. Phase 1, completed in March 2015, involved the construction of D’Resort which consists of a hotel block and three clusters of chalet blocks. Phase 2, which is set to be completed by end 2017, involves a complete makeover of the existing shopping mall which will have new retail and dining outlets, as well as a significant expansion of the Wild Wild Wet water themepark.
In the overall master plan, visitors coming via public transport would mostly arrive at the shopping mall, where the resort experience is set to begin. The mall is linked to the hotel block via an elevated walkway, with an event space that is open to the sky, and visitors enjoy daylight and natural breezes as they walk through it. The deliberate choice of materials throughout the development creates a natural and laidback atmosphere, with irregular floor patterns, galvanised steel railings and greenery.
The focal point of the development is the two wings of the five-storey Resort Main Block, which are elevated and stand out from the surrounding low-rise chalet blocks and park. The resort main entrance driveway was elevated to the second storey to afford visitors a more panoramic view of the whole development and the seaside.
Guests disembark at a welcoming double-volume, naturally ventilated arrival plaza, animated with four clusters of thin composite reinforced concrete columns. Each cluster of columns encapsulates a single tree – the Tristaniopsis Whiteana, which aggregates to form a tectonic garden setting that soars to the fourth storey, opening up to the sky. The columns and circular beams are deliberately left in off-form concrete to form a contrast to the lush natural greenery. By capitalising upon this semi-open space, structure and landscape are integrated to form a picturesque setting.
The park setting lends itself to the natural enhancement of the chalet environment. Three clusters of accommodations offer views that vary between the beach, the park and the mangrove. The 17 blocks are oriented with careful consideration of the site opportunities, affording optimum views of the different landscape offerings, and the single-stacked blocks enjoy maximum cross-ventilation.
Every room has either a balcony or an outdoor patio, carrying through the idea of immersing guests in a natural setting. Room sizes range from 28 to 82 square metres, which cater for groups of all sizes. Room configurations also capitalise on flexibility, with a total of 62 units having connecting doors to facilitate large groups or multi-family outings. The chalet clusters are also interconnected by raised, sheltered walkways that are naturally ventilated, hence reducing the need for air-conditioning and lowering the carbon footprint of the development.
There are strong linear design elements throughout the development, from the tall slender columns at the arrival plaza, the handrails, façade to the canopy articulation – the scale and proportion of the different elements come together seamlessly, showing the level of attention paid to the smallest details. The distinctive array of galvanised vertical steel posts that serve as the railing fulfil not just the functional requirements, but also create a multitude of shadows across the floor and walls that add richness to the visual texture. This strategy is also employed to great effect at the lift lobbies where full-height vertical fins serve as sunshades for the naturally ventilated lift lobbies, while the shadow cast contributes to the texture and grain of the space.
The design language and strategies used demonstrate the importance of understanding and designing within the site context, such that the project sits comfortably in the surroundings. The design language also showcases the sensitive eye on materiality – how materials come together in a palette that is ultimately an expression of elegant rustic hospitality.