ONG&ONG’s winning competition entry for the Singapore Red Cross House celebrates the organisation’s rich history and lifelong legacy of altruism and philanthropy. Olha Romaniuk writes.
Attempting to reinterpret history from a contemporary perspective is never an easy feat. However, for the design competition that sought to redevelop the Singapore Red Cross House earlier this year, the design team at ONG&ONGdid just that with a winning design proposal that addressed the main historical and programmatic considerations of the brief, updating the Red Cross House with a fresh, new look and addressing its historical legacy along the way.
For the SRC – an organisation with a seventy-year heritage and history rooted in local and international humanitarian efforts – the design team at ONG&ONG faced a twofold requirement that demanded a preservation of the original Red Cross House structure and an introduction of a new building within the existing site. The final design, more than just blending the old and the new, had to reflect the spirit of the organisation and meet and anticipate the current and future needs of the Singapore Red Cross.
According to the ONG&ONG SRC redevelopment design team, “The original SRC House, together with its classically iconic façade, needed to be maintained and incorporated into the new grounds. SRC also required a new building in order to expand its repertoire of services and capabilities, where a revamped site would provide state-of-the-art facilities in a modernised setting, catering for the present needs and requirements of the SRC, while keeping an eye on possible future expansion.”
As part of the design proposal, ONG&ONG’s design team introduced a new building that took full advantage of its site, while referencing SRC’s nostalgic and rich past, and its existing building’s surrounding context. Thus, the team proposed to restore the original Red Cross House building to its initial 2-storey form and convert it into a space for the Red Cross Academy and a thrift store, adding a new 10-storey office tower and connecting the existing and new structures via a landscaped plaza and a detached office lift core.
The new and the old buildings convey the history and legacy of the Singapore Red Cross in a variety of ways. The tower is unmistakably indicative of its organisation from the very first glance – the north and south façades feature the Red Cross’s colour scheme in a composition of concrete geometric fins, folded like paper planes and forming the organisation’s distinctive logo. Meanwhile, the original structure reminds of its days of glory, with a restored shape and proportion that recalls the building as it used to be decades ago.
The ONG&ONG team bridges the original building and the new tower with an elevated event plaza, creating a physical transition via a detached office lift core that connects with the event space. “Beyond bridging the internal spaces of both the original and new SRC structures, the plaza not only provides the means and space for any number of SRC initiatives and engagements, but also allows the institute to easily and efficiently accommodate an increased number of people and volunteers,” says the design team.
In fact, it is the consideration for the volunteers and the people behind the Singapore Red Cross’ mission of selflessness and altruism that drives much of the design of the SRC House project. ONG&ONG’s overall design strategy emphasises its WELL Building Standard and systems, reaching for an optimisation of a built environment that would sustain the health and livelihood of the buildings’ users through well-ventilated, well-lit spaces that promote overall wellbeing.
“Taking into account that many of the new SRC House’s inhabitants and end-users would be there in the spirit of volunteerism, health and wellbeing were definite points of emphasis for us when approaching the SRC redevelopment project,” concludes the design team. “These design standards represent a holistically modern approach to health – with all amenities and facilities, even lighting and air quality, all geared towards nurturing and sustaining the buildings’ end-users.”