Floating homes are feasible in Singapore, according to architect Michael Potter

Wilkinson Eyre Matthew Potter

As one of the world’s leading architectural practices, Wilkinson Eyre has designed many highprofile projects. Notable projects include the Guangzhou International Finance Center in China (one of the tallest buildings in the world) and the reuse of King’s Cross Gasholders into apartments.

Its managing director for Apac, Matthew Potter, shares his views on the global design landscape and architectural issues in Singapore.

What are the unique challenges facing the built environment in Singapore?

Climate change and associated sea level change present unique and unprecedented challenges the world over. Sea level change is a particular issue for the island state of Singapore and applies more pressure to already constrained land use. Singapore has already set the world standard by increasing its density, while simultaneously increasing greening, and I think there are fantastic opportunities to explore the occupation of the water’s edge that are safe, functional but intensely liveable and retain a close and varied relationship with water.

Are floating homes a feasible option here?

Definitely. The water’s edge becomes an incredibly valuable and interesting zone in the context of land shortage and rising sea levels. Floating structures (not only homes) are certainly feasible but probably only part of the puzzle. There is some interesting work being done with individual houses, but I think it gets really interesting when it becomes a collection of houses, a cluster or even a village with all the other things that a community needs – from shops to work spaces, even playgrounds.

(READ: Ole Scheeren, the architect of The Interlace, World Building of the Year 2015)


Wilkinson Eyre Matthew Potter about Singapore

In high-density cities, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, what do you think the approach towards housing should be?

Going up is always better than going down. Going small is sometimes inevitable, but and active public realm. Housing is a complex issue and there is no set equation. Every individual project or development needs comprehensive site studies before the design is determined. The question is less what it looks like and more about whether it its purpose and liveable.

How do we balance preservation of cultural heritage and making way for new buildings?

I think the preservation or adaptive reuse of the existing urban fabric is going to be an increasingly important issue. Important questions to ask before such endeavours should include and allow for all options – from re-use, refurbishment and change of use to demolition – to be considered. Infrastructure should be developed alongside future city planning that looks beyond the next five to 10 years.

(READ: Ann Siang House: A chic new boutique hotel housed in a heritage shophouse)

Written by Lynn Tan.