Park + Associates imbues shophouse living into Parq Bella in Joo Chiat
Mention Joo Chiat and one of the first things that comes to mind are the shophouses that line the vibrant enclave. No wonder then that when Park + Associates was tasked to design a condominium located there along Tembeling Road, its response was to take inspiration from the building type. The outcome is Parq Bella, a five-storey, 20-unit boutique development that will appeal to young families with a penchant for all things sophisticated and elegant.
Eschewing Corinthian columns, corbels and plaster ornamentation on the façade, the architecture is instead a geometric composition across the first four floors. When it gets to the highest level though, the roofline becomes irregular and undulates from front to back and side to side. In fact, none of it is overtly shophouse-like – but that is the way Lim Koon Park prefers it.
The Founder and Principal Architect of Park + Associates, his priority lay in ensuring Parq Bella stands out, but without being too modern or traditional, “That it is in a heritage area rooted in Peranakan-style shophouses influenced us in coming up with the architectural expression and the more intangible part of the living style. By making reference to the past, there are many ways to capture that feel, and this is our way of doing it differently.”
Same same but different
For starters, the frame of the condominium is embellished with lines that incise into or extrude from the beams and columns in varying thickness across the façade. This articulation of the form, much like the shophouses have, is reminiscent of a period where design and building was slower, more deliberate and much more detailed.
Lim draws attention particularly to the section where the top of the first storey meets the second level, “Where the column is expressed, how the beam joins the column and how this tripartite arrangement of where the two floors meet are very well thought through. It’s not a simple, monolithic, concrete frame, so the building is less imposing.”
On the other hand, he was adamant about replicating the decorations on the shophouses in Joo Chiat, saying it would be “too dressy”. Instead, his solution is a distillation of the mouldings – or a gentle abstraction of the original if you will – that is also much more cost efficient for the developer.
There is nothing regular about all four faces of the building either, where the width of the fenestrations, portals and balconies seem to differ from one to another. Likewise, this was a cue from the modular nature of shophouses, which tended to change depending on the residents. “It’s that randomness we’re trying to capture,” he adds.
The architectural language deviates at the highest floor though – another deliberate move on his part. It was not unusual for shophouse owners in the past to build extensions on the top as their families grew in size and wealth and this was the spirit he was attempting to capture, “We are trying to make it appear like an addition to the building, giving it a more crafted nature and organic feel. I think it comes through to be quite distinct.”
This is made even more obvious by the colour change. From the front, the “extension” is in grey, contrasting strongly against the white used on the lower floors. This dark tone flows onto the rear façade and wraps it almost completely, save for a section in the middle that echoes the front. Lim explains it as “a three dimensional consideration” to ensure continuity.
“Capturing the spirit of the shophouses goes beyond just expressing their tiled roof. It is more the composition and details that go into the various elements,” he says.
Like living in a shophouse
Although Parq Bella is a condominium, it did not deter Lim from wanting to infuse the shophouse lifestyle into its architecture. The most obvious way it is done is through the provision of communal spaces, in spite of a tight rectilinear site of only 15,883sqft.
While he could have dedicated the entire ground floor to be a carpark, he instead allocated space for a function room, communal kitchen, barbeque pit and lap pool. He hopes residents will meet and mingle there to inspire a sense of community.
“We notice that neighbourliness has been lost, especially in Singapore. We don’t know our neighbours, or interact with them. It’s the shophouse spirit that encapsulates neighbourliness, so we try to encourage a bit of that.”
Other details that attention was paid to include giving residents a sense of arrival, with a well-planned pedestrian entrance encompassing a garden and porch. Ample landscaping along the site perimeter screens curious eyes, affording privacy as much as possible. There is also a parking bay for bicycles that is larger than usual. With the Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network an eight-minute ride away, this will be a much appreciated feature.
The apartments themselves are noteworthy for being more sizable, as requested by the developer, since it hopes to attract families. Units start from 926sqft for a 2+1 bedroom and go up to four bedrooms (1,787sqft).
The fittings are neutral in tone and style for residents to dress up – such as with Peranakan tiles – or down, according to their preferences. A highlight is the screen on the balcony designed to mimic foldable timber shutters. Made from aluminium, they are the only retro element in the project that has been careful to avoid them.
Says Lim, “We have tried to do what we think is desirable architecturally, but also adds some value to the micro context, while being something that we enjoy crafting.”
From the looks of things, it sure looks like he has succeeded.