By Clair Hurford
The growth of e-commerce in Singapore and popularity of e-commerce giants like Lazada and Taobao – both owned by Chinese multinational conglomerate Alibaba – is putting pressure on Singapore’s malls like never before.
Famously a ‘shoppers paradise’, Singapore is seen as the gateway to the lucrative ASEAN market due to its location and affluent population. Vacancy rates are inching up as consumers turn to their phones and laptops for their retail fix.
Singaporeans may not be splashing their cash in malls, but they’re still hanging out there. Singapore’s climate ensures that malls remain an air-conditioned refuge from the sweltering tropical heat and claustrophobic apartments, particularly for families. On weekends in particular, malls teem with people seeking an escape, and perhaps a bubble milk tea.
Westgate is a new breed of so-called eco-friendly shopping malls; a community space in the heart of Jurong’s so-called Lake District. It was conceived by its designers, RSP Architects Planners & Engineers, ‘as an urban oasis with plenty of lush landscaped areas for the public to enjoy ’with landscapes inspired by rivers and mangroves reflective of the island’s original environment.
Palm trees and water features line the indoor-outdoor ground floor atrium, the centerpiece of the landscaping. Vertical green walls adorn both the interiors and building façade. Wind corridors exploit the breeze and help cool the building, reducing its dependence on air-conditioning. A massive fiddle leaf tree spans the width of an escalator trussed by giant palms, each seeking the light and shelter of the upper-floor glass canopies.
Lauded by the 2015 Skyrise Greenery Awards for its innovative greenery design and excellence in landscape design, Westgate is an example of the efforts being made under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint to increase the amount of rooftop greenery in land-scarce Singapore.
Westgate’s lush landscaping ‘show the possibility of a new kind of retail typology in the tropical climate’ says RSP, whose work includes Jewel Changi Airport, the National Archives of Singapore Building and Dubai’s Nakheel Mall and Palm Tower.
Their vision to design built environments that ‘enrich and transform people’s lives’ is writ large in a building tackling a society in transformation.