In Singapore, Büro Ole Scheeren has completed a pair of sculptural towers designed to ‘knit together a previously disparate part of the city’. Named ‘DUO’, the project comprises a diverse mix of functions articulated around a 24-hour public plaza. Carved to create a series of circular urban spaces — including open-air gardens, walkways, cafés, and restaurants — the towers’ curved façades feature a honeycomb shading system. ‘Instead of thinking about the building as just an object in its own right, we have defined the towers through examining urban space and reintegrating the area’s existing architecture into something new,’ says Ole Scheeren.
The development is joint venture between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore, under guidance of both prime ministers and through their respective state investment arms. ‘DUO is a joint venture between two countries, and the project has come to represent this important duality,’ Scheeren continues. ‘Our architecture articulates the dynamic relationship of two urban figures and generates symbiotic effects beyond the project itself with a positive impact on the larger context.’
Importantly, the project integrates living, working, and retail with public gardens, cultural installations, and a diverse urban context. The two towers contain the project’s main functional elements: one tower accommodates 660 residences, while the other contains corporate offices and a five-star hotel operated by Andaz. The structures dematerialise as they reach the ground, opening out into a public landscape where a sequence of gardens and walkways weave around vibrant commercial spaces.
The plaza, which is open 24 hours a day, comprises a series of gardens and landscaped leisure zones which are linked to the rest of the city through multiple connections above and below ground. Vehicles reach the towers by a series of dedicated ramps, allowing the plaza to serve as a fully pedestrianized space. Meanwhile, high above the city on the towers’ geometric offsets and projecting cantilevers, large elevated terraces and a public observation deck offer sweeping views across Singapore’s skyline.
‘The main gesture of DUO is to give something back to the city,’ explains Scheeren. ‘We didn’t want a gated community or a privatized space, so we created a 24-hour accessible public realm that connects to all of the different aspects of the surrounding city. The landscape is conceived as something highly organic and completely permeable — its liquid geometry allows you to flow through the site in almost any direction. It’s a celebration of public access and activity.’
The honeycomb comprises a series of hexagonal sunshades that help protect the towers from the heat and glare of the sun, without interrupting the views out over the gardens, oceans and skyline. ‘The honeycomb expresses the dynamic curvatures of the facade and simultaneously becomes an environmental tool,’ Scheeren says. ‘Our strategic deployment of passive environmental design strategies greatly enhances the sustainable nature of the development. DUO is a project about acting with responsibility towards the urban environment and the public domain – both environmentally and socially.’