Engineer behind iconic Ascott Raffles Place Singapore wins Design and Engineering Safety Excellence Award
Thursday 2, June 2011
The engineer behind the transformation of Southeast Asia’s tallest building in the 1950s into a premier serviced residence in Singapore’s bustling central business district has been presented one of the country’s top accolades in the built environment.
On 19 May 2011, Mr Lai Huen Poh from RSP Architects Planners & Engineers received the Design and Engineering Safety Excellence Award from Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA). The award recognises professional engineers who developed excellent design solutions that overcame challenges while maintaining a high standard of safety for their projects.
Mr Lai had been commissioned by the world’s largest owner and operator of serviced residences, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), to undertake a S$60 million restoration effort to transform the former Asia Insurance Building (an office tower) into the landmark Ascott Raffles Place Singapore. The challenge for Mr Lai, his teammates which included Design Architect Mr Seah Chee Kien, and Ascott was to carefully plan and execute a drastic change to the layout of the office tower to fit residential suites while conserving its original heritage features.
The building’s two separate lift cores were moved to a central area and more elevators were added for convenient access for residents. Previous office wall partitions were demolished and their remaining space reconfigured for living. Further additions include a new driveway and an infinity swimming pool. The building’s structure was also further reinforced to take additional weight.
The building’s external façade, clad in 20,000 pieces of premium travertine marble, constituted a major part of the restoration work. As the marble were loosening and had lost their shine, they were hand secured and polished to restore their luminosity.
Other heritage features of the building that were conserved include the original steel windows with brass handles and a brass mail chute designed by James Cutler, the original American inventor of the mail chute. As the original window glass was thin and provided little thermal and sound insulation, over 1,000 of these glass panes were replaced with laminated glass. The mail chute was polished and relocated to the lift lobby of Ascott Raffles Place Singapore where residents can now drop in post cards.
Today, guests stepping into Ascott Raffles Place Singapore are often dazzled. Amidst the taller behemoths of Singapore’s central business district, the property stands out as a historical giant that is a hallmark of Ascott quality. It now houses high-level businessmen, senior executives and discerning travelers in luxurious comfort. The serviced residence offers 146 exquisite apartment units with an impressive range of facilities including meeting rooms, WiFi connectivity and a fully-equipped gymnasium.
The serviced residence offers convenient access to a variety of restaurants, cafes, pubs and shopping outlets. The property is also near various attractions including the Singapore Flyer, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay and the Asian Civilisations Museum.
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