Bienvenue NouvelAn award-winning architect puts his stamp on Singapore

If you’ve ever strolled the airy, light-filled halls of the W Hotel in Dubai, boarded a flight from dreary Narita’s polar opposite, Kansai Airport in Osaka or taken a meeting at Barcelona’s Torre Agbar — which puts the Gherkin to shame on the distinct scale — then you’ve had the pleasure of strolling a Jean Nouvel building. The French Pritzker Prize-winning architect has made a name for himself over the course of a 40-year career for his consistently innovative, boundarypushing and intensely creative structures. After working in the United States, Spain, the UAE, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia and his native France among several others, Singapore will be the first Asian location to boast a residential development designed by Nouvel.

Fittingly named Le Nouvel Ardmore and developed by Wing Tai Holdings, the new property (previewing now and scheduled for completion in December 2014) is located, not surprisingly, at Ardmore Park. The area is known for its embassies and international schools, and is walking distance from Orchard Road and all its well documented shopping, dining and entertainment, as well as a short drive to Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa. LNA is also on the last plot of land that will available for freehold ownership for at least a decade in the prestigious district. According to Edmund Cheng, deputy chairman of Wing Tai Asia, getting a hold of the land was the result of a perfect storm of circumstances.

“It is not just price but the opportunity to be able to find a piece of land … A few years ago, there was an opportunity when the existing building in this location was going on sale, on block sale,” says Cheng of rare plot at Ardmore. “There were so many people, more than 10 developers, chasing the property. Almost every big developer was going for it. We spent much of our time working on it.” Cheng and his partners at Wing Tai came up with the idea that would eventually become the new development and won the tender. Now, as Cheng sees it, “We are creating history.”

The Nouvel collaboration came about when real design planning began, and Wing Tai set out to look for an architect that could give the prime location a suitably iconic structure. Knowing Nouvel’s penchant for just that type of architecture and being one of a select few in the industry Wing Tai hadn’t worked with sent Cheng to Paris and then Nice, chasing Nouvel for an introduction. It turned out to be a fruitful trip. “I actually spent a lunch with him. At the time, I talked to him about his philosophy and shared with him our philosophy and whether we could find a common ground. And he agreed to do the work for us,” summarises Cheng. “He came to [Singapore] with his staff and all the partners. It was his first time to Singapore. He found all the green in everything. He was really amazed. At the time there were a lot of plants but they were very much an added-on kind of thing. It wasn’t an integrated kind of approach. So we talked about how we could fill the building with nature.”

Comprising 43 units on 33 storeys, LNA is defined by its alternating grid design and its strong incorporation of greenery and natural elements in the living spaces, the zenith of which is the 26 and 27th storey Observatoire, an al fresco recreational space (the pool is here) with unobstructed views of the city. Interiors are by Atelier Ikebuchi (Hong Kong’s The Westminster Terrace). The property breaks down as 34 4,000-square foot fourbedroom suites, 8 four-bedroom duplexes that range to over 5,300 square feet and a single 14,000-square foot penthouse. In typical Nouvel fashion, the architect set out to challenge conventional ideas of apartment living by creating a series of what are effectively elevated bungalows. Only two units are on each floor and each has its own unique view.

“We want to ensure that every unit has a good view as well as allow each home to be part of nature. So you can see that this architecture is actually rotating as it goes up to where it has sky terraces. [It] goes up so that every few units will have a balcony that allows you to see the view,” says Cheng of Nouvel’s final design. “The design of the building outside also allows for a different kind of variation. The look of the building from every direction is very different. Whether it is sunset or at dawn, the building will have a different image. Jean Nouvel was able to achieve that.”