The Singapore Sports Hub is a spectacle for the city
DP Architects, Arup, and AECOM integrate a parcel of land ready to host Singapore's biggest moments
March 14, 2018
Written by Laurence Angeles
Images courtesy of Singapore Sports Hub and Arup
There are cities where the fingerprint of the planner can be easily recognized and there are cities that appear spontaneous and not designed. Singapore is neither. It is not spontaneous, but neither is the design pattern so obvious. Undefined, perhaps. It is one of the thriving models of today’s contemporary city and we can look through its moments to see why. Four years ago, people scratched their heads, amazed at how a small city-state like Singapore could host big scale events like the Youth Olympic Games and the Formula-1 Grand Prix night race. Now, such moments can be multiplied in one sprawling venue—in the recently opened Singapore Sports Hub.
Of course, one could ask why moments in the Sports Hub become a function of the city and not merely a function of architecture. In Singapore, design decisions are negotiated through multiple layers of development, not dictated. The layers could be as deep as political interests, but we may be able to tell what the city is doing by simply asking the questions one usually asks when a new spectacle is happening in town.
The Singapore Sports Hub is located in a 35-hectare waterfront site in the central south of Singapore. The Kallang and Geylang rivers surround half of the site. An expressway and a highway border the other half. As it isolated from residential neighborhoods and community centers, chances are, you will not get there by chance.
The success rate of such isolated places depends on how convenient it is to go there. The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore knows this too well—so well, in fact, that a map app in your smart phone will tell you that it only takes about 40 minutes by car if you are coming from the nearest city in Malaysia. Taking a taxi from Singapore’s Changi Airport will take less than 20 minutes, and just an additional 10 if you take public transport.
The access to public transport bound for the Sports Hub had been prepared as early as half a decade ago, highlighted by the Land Transportation Authority commissioning a new underground MRT station by competition. The multi-awarded Stadium Station, as it is called today, not only garnered attention of the national and international public towards the site of the National Stadium, but also bridged the demolition of the old Kallang Stadium to the construction of the new Sports Hub. As the design of the MRT station took cues from the curvature of the then existing Kallang Stadium, the new National Stadium that serves as the centerpiece of the Sports Hub retains that curvature, thus completing the transition from old to new.
Another leading agency in terms of planning and design, the National Parks Board has arguably performed even better in integrating the Sports Hub to the entire city state, quite literally. What used to be just edges and barriers between the paved developments and left overs portions of state land that includes dikes, concrete canals, highway buffers, have become the bucolic network that links even the remotest parts of Singapore to the central south where the Sports Hub is situated. These Park Connectors, while linking existing parks and large patches of greenery together, also provide additional networks of access for neighborhoods and districts. It serves as a neutral space for leisure, and a public infrastructure for machine-less transportation at the same time. With it, people just might come upon the Sport Hub by chance after all.
At the ground level exit from the Stadium MRT station, you will not miss the Singapore skyline view fronted by the Kallang River. It’s a bit confusing at first and appears to be a shopping, not sporting, district because global brands such as H&M and Forever 21 are more recognizable in the foreground than the sporting venues.
Facing the Kallang river, the panorama includes icons such as the Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer, condominium enclaves, hotel buildings designed in Brutalist manner, and the high-rise silhouette of the glossy financial center. On the left side of the site though are old buildings kept in their original state such as the Kallang Theater, Singapore’s largest cinema during the 70’s; the Leisure Park Mall that includes bowling lanes and an ice skating center; and the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the default venue for international performances. These existing buildings are integrated to the Sports Hub via covered linkways and car access.
Located in between the new sporting venues and preserved buildings are the Singapore Sports Museum and the Sports Hub Library. In what seems to be a truly Singaporean fashion now, a full-fledged mall serves as the hinge of the Sports Hub site. Fittingly named Kallang Wave, in reference to the synchronized wave cheer that spectators in the old Kallang Stadium would perform, the mall tries to relate the new with the popular local memory of the site.
It would also be critical to ask, “What does it look like?” The answer is straightforward enough—a big dome with venues around it. Apart from the mall, venues around the dome include two arena blocks for badminton, basketball, volleyball, netball, taekwondo and fencing. The wide range of purposes for which the many spaces are designed makes it Asia’s first integrated sports, leisure, entertainment and lifestyle destination.
Finally, people might ask, “How is it”? And most people would probably ignore the engineered utilitarian look and proceed to describe the navigational experience. The highlight is the raised concourse platform in simple form of a ring, a social plinth that subtly binds all the venues together in a seemingly effortless manner. A circumnavigation of the ring will give you a complete 360 panorama of the city and its not surprising to see part of the National Stadium dome opened towards the city skyline.
The gesture is a presentation of the polished Singaporean world. It also reveals the situation where the strength of the development is also its constraint. Perhaps the set-up for the Sports Hub is too perfectly synchronized that any basic silhouette of the National Stadium would still be imposing given its scale and setting. Further, the decision to assign a firm known for its engineering expertise to lead the design may have sealed the fate of the development from the start with regards to how far the design can go in terms of effect.
The Singapore Sports Hub is a well-engineered development in a well-integrated parcel of land ready to host huge, momentous events that will bring new memories for the city, even if Singapore’s neutrally refined character—for now—seems to have nothing to do with it.
This article first appeared in BluPrint Vol 1 2015. Edits were made for Bluprint.ph.
- 55,000-seat National Stadium with a retractable roof and comfort cooling
- 3,000-seat OCBC Aquatic Centre, expandable to 6,000 capacity for specific events
- 3,000-seat OCBC Arena, a multi-purpose indoor hall, scalable and flexible in layout
- 41,000 sqm of commercial retail space with integrated leisure waterpark and rock-climbing
- 18,000 sqm of office space for Sports Singapore and National Sports Associations
- Sports Hub Library, Singapore Sports Museum and Visitor centre
- Water Sports Centre for canoe, kayak and dragon boat athletes and enthusiasts
- Revitalised 12,000-seat Singapore Indoor Stadium
- Diverse range of community sport facilities including hard courts, skate park, fitness corners, jogging & cycling tracks, lawn bowls, beach volleyball court, etc.
- Over 3,200 car parking spaces in basement and multi-storey block.
- Masterplan DP Architects + Arup + AECOM
Sports Venues: Arup Associates + DP Architects
Retail, Leisure, Office, Museum, Library: DP Architects
- Engineering Arup
- M&E Arup + Squire Mech
- Landscape AECOM