A tropical retreat on the banks of Singapore’s fashionable Sentosa Cove, the aptly named Sanctuary by the Sea seamlessly integrates modern architecture with marine scenery
Founded in 2005 by New Zealand native Greg Shand, his eponymous firm has spent the last decade establishing itself as one of Singapore’s leading design consultancies. Shand and his multi-national team of architects and interior designers are perhaps best known for their cluster of minimalist, yet sophisticated properties on Sentosa, the city-state’s popular island resort. In recent years, Robert Greg Shand Architects has embarked on a number of innovative projects from boutique hotels in Bintan to lakefront residences in Yangon, all of which incorporate “low-maintenance, unpretentious and sustainable architecture.”
Here, Shand talks about his influences, ethos and how the team conceived Sanctuary by the Sea.
As an architect who learnt his trade in Japan, how do you feel this moulded your influences and techniques, and do you continue to turn to Japan when inspiration is needed?
My first job was in Japan where I studied the language and architecture, so I was very immersed in Japanese culture and design. Regardless of style, all my projects share a certain aesthetic: the essence of simplicity, attention to detail and use of natural materials and textures. My ultimate focus is the user experience of the space, rather than creating grand architectural edifices.
I do revisit Japanese design and architecture from time to time, but I think every project is driven by the site, context and client. The Japanese penchant for minimalism can be seen as quite impersonal, so I try to distil the essence of Japanese design through a filter of my own western architectural values and those of my clients.
You count a number of Sentosa Bay properties in your portfolio. What sets this property apart from others you’ve worked on in the area?
I have designed a total of 21 houses in Sentosa Cove, and this house was one of my first. The homeowners wanted a tropical resort-style house befitting the waterfront location, but were adamant that it should feel like a family home, not a hotel. The house sits on an end plot so I could open it up to a common landscaped garden on one side. Working with a site that offered views only to the rear and one side meant we had to create interest within the house, which we did through the use of double height spaces, water features and landscaped roof gardens. It was also apt that the clean aesthetic of the architecture alluded to the owners’ Buddhist belief.
Water and the tropical surroundings clearly play a significant role in the design and aesthetics of the property. How did you go about integrating the surrounding landscape with the interior?
One of the key concepts that permeates all our work is the integration of nature and landscape. For this property, we wrapped the public spaces with water (there are five ponds and a swimming pool), including a reflecting pond within the house in the entry hall. The pond at the entrance flows over a textured wall to the pond in the basement, creating a shimmering wall of water which can be seen from the entertainment room in the basement. For the upper floors we created roof gardens, and there is another pond on the roof to keep the below room cool.
Tell us about some of the property’s other standout features.
There are distinct zones within the house where the family can enjoy activities in private, away from the common living and dining areas. The basement houses an entertainment/multimedia room and looks out onto a water feature wall and pond, while the uppermost floor comprises a master bedroom with walk-in dressing and ensuite bathroom looks out over the Singapore skyline.
In terms of techonology, the house features a ‘Lutron’ intelligent home automation system that controls all the lighting and air-conditioning, and a ‘Kaleidoscope’ On-Demand video system that allows all rooms to access movies on-demand.
We also incorporated some interesting materials in the house. For the floor of the living, dining and entrance areas, we chose a textured dark grey granite that is non-slip, helps reduce glare and lets the teak and off-white furniture in these spaces stand out. The wall next to the staircase is made from rusted steel that has been coated with a sealer to achieve a desired patina. This juxtaposition of materials and textures draws on the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi (beauty that is imperfect, incomplete and impermanent).
Tell us about some of the other projects you are currently working on in Singapore and further afield.
We just completed our largest project to date, the Indian Heritage Centre, a museum in Little India for the Indian community in Singapore. The Centre, which has permanent and special exhibition galleries, and community activity spaces, will open in April 2015. The design is inspired by the baoli, a traditional Indian stepwell that is the lifeline of water for village communities in India.
We continue to design large bespoke houses and residential developments in Singapore. Recently, we were commissioned by Walker Group (one of Australia’s largest private developers) to design their Premium Collection of seafront bungalows in Malaysia’s Senibong Cove.