Park Nova architect Tina Qiu

When the late casino tycoon Stanley Ho’s Shun Tak Holdings paid S$375.5 million for 21 Orchard Boulevard in 2018, it broke records. The winning bid was $67 million above the tender guide and set a collective sale price record for price per square foot ($2,910).

Three years later, the luxury residential condominium that will rise at that spot is taking shape. It’s called Park Nova and will be the first project in Singapore launched by the Hong Kong-based property developer. We chat with design principal Tina Qiu, a senior associate partner at PLP Architecture and the architect responsible for reshaping a pivotal part of Singapore’s skyline.

A render of Park Nova's apartments with 270-degree views.
A render of Park Nova’s apartments with 270-degree views.

(Related: Why veteran architect Yip Yuen Hong works big and thinks small for his luxury projects)

When you go into a new project like Park Nova, what’s your creative process like?

The site offered us tremendous inspiration, but our starting point was to ensure that the internal arrangement of each apartment would meet the requirements of our client and future occupants.

We spent a great deal of time testing concepts for the building’s internal arrangement and the residential floor plan confirmation. We feel that we have achieved something special. For example, all the primary rooms, both living spaces and bedrooms, are on the outer edges of the building, allowing the outward perimeter of each apartment to enjoy the unique 270-degrees view across the city and the Botanic Gardens. There are no secondary spaces with a lesser view and no overlooking to your neighbors.

What was your architectural and design inspiration for Park Nova?

We drew inspiration from its rich surroundings. We see the site as a moment in a beautiful garden that is captivated by a canopy of lush green trees in all directions. We took our inspiration from the 19th century when plantations and orchards bringing forth harvests of fruits, pepper and nutmeg filled the region. This fruitful garden attracts a butterfly, which stops to rest.

One important aspect of the brief was to achieve a design for the residential building that is adjusted towards three identified viewing corridors, and to orient the apartments to take advantage of such. It is the orientation of these viewing corridors that has shaped the architectural character of the building plan conceptually into a butterfly. The arrangement of each apartment denotes a butterfly wing and contributes to the experience of luxurious inner city living, whilst creating a connection to the natural green surrounding. We wanted the building to feel like an extension of the beautiful garden.

A render of Park Nova's outdoor gardens.
A render of Park Nova’s outdoor gardens.

(Related: British architect Thomas Heatherwick on the importance of nature and the human connection)

Park Nova sits on incredibly prime land in Singapore and many are keenly watching it. Do you feel a lot of pressure on your shoulders to deliver?

We felt a great responsibility, but we are excited about the opportunity. Park Nova is PLP Architecture’s first luxury residential building in Asia. It gives us the chance to combine our thoughts on how one should craft a man-made environment that supports urban lifestyle with the beautiful natural environment found on this unique and wonderful site.

It is not our priority to create an iconic design. We wanted to design a building that enhanced the happiness of the people living in it. We concentrated on creating a design that defines a lifestyle that is in harmony with nature and that advocates the benefits of well-planned high quality internal spaces connected to generous outdoor spaces.

The pandemic has led us to appreciate the importance of outdoor spaces. We desire to seek refuge in nature as a distraction from online screen-time and excessive zoom meetings. Our studio conceived Park Nova long before the world grappled with the effects of Covid-19. By marrying biophilia with a design that promotes health and well-being, comfort, and sustainability, we could create a unique building for Park Nova.

Park Nova's swimming pool.
Park Nova’s swimming pool.

(Related: Check out this old heritage Sri Lankan home in the Binjai Park enclave)

Your firm has a history of designing green buildings. What are some of the sustainability measures that your firm will put in place for Park Nova?

The comfort of the resident is important. For example, if the resident cannot open the door or window and generate natural cross-ventilation, then air conditioning will increase. Design becomes unsustainable when the spaces do not actively serve the enjoyment of the residents.

The greenery next to the bedrooms is visually expansive, creating the sense of living in a garden and breaking away from the traditional high-rise experience of urban living. This intimate relationship with nature increases comfort and improves the health and well-being of the occupants, whilst reducing consumption and overuse of electronic goods.

There is a strong compositional and environmental rationale for the generous undulating balconies. Undulating and alternating floor plates act as natural shading devices for residents when they are outdoors. The living rooms “flutter” outwards onto the balcony and when the doors completely open, there is a merger between the indoor and outdoor spaces. The greenery tempers the air to create natural ventilation.

Each lush green planter acts as a sunscreen through the shielding capacity of leaves. This process reduces the absorption of solar radiation, which subsequently reduces the heat transfer into the building. The collection of planters forms a garden that lowers the perceived range on the building’s perimeter by actively absorbing carbon. It’s important in Singapore where extreme temperatures necessitate air conditioning.