Ole Scheeren’s DUO harmony

By Bong Xin Ying / EdgeProp | March 20, 2018 9:00 AM SGT
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Ole Scheeren, principal architect of his eponymous architectural firm, looked impeccable in a dark suit and crisp white shirt as he emerged from DUO Tower, part of an integrated development on Beach Road, which he designed.
The $4 billion DUO integrated development was completed last year by M+S, a joint-venture (JV) company set up by sovereign wealth funds Khazanah Nasional of Malaysia and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. DUO comprises the 49-storey DUO Residences, with 660 units, and the 39-storey DUO Tower, which contains Grade-A offices and Andaz Singapore, a 342-room luxury hotel. In the evenings, the development stands out in the skyline when its honeycomb shading system is lighted.
View of Bugis towards the CBD from DUO Tower (credit: Samuel Isaac Chua)
For Scheeren, the most important part of a development is its community space. Hence, the central feature of DUO is its landscaped plaza. “The intention had always been to create something beautiful and to give the space back to the public,” explains the 47-year-old. “It was never to create a gated community but an active and exciting urban centre.”
DUO Galleria features retail and F&B outlets, including Peruvian restaurant Tono Cevicheria, the Italian-inspired Erwin’s Gastrobar, as well as So France gourmet grocery and bistro. The entire development is linked to the Bugis MRT station, which is an interchange for the Downtown and East-West Lines.
Scheeren points to the two towers. “Look up,” he says. “With every step, something completely different happens — the towers seem to come towards each other and sometimes, they move away.” The two towers were designed with this harmonious, fluid movement in mind, as though engaged in a dance. It is symbolic of the relationship between the two JV partners, Singapore and Malaysia. The site that DUO sits on was one of the parcels that were part of the historic land swap deal between the two countries.
The two towers of DUO have a fluid architectural design (credit: Samuel Isaac Chua)
Besides fluidity in architectural design, what was important for Scheeren was the openness and connectivity between the two towers. To him, it was important to have a sense of space — whether moving from the central plaza to the lobbies of the office tower or the residential tower.
When DUO Residences was launched in late 2013, it saw strong sales. So far, the project is close to 97% sold. Only 20 units are available, with prices ranging from $3.8 million to $6.5 million, or from $2,200 psf. About 70% of the buyers are Singaporeans, according to an M+S spokesperson. The remainder are from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even the US.
The living area of a two-bedroom unit at DUO Residences (credit: Samuel Isaac Chua)
The living area of one of the show suites at DUO Residences (credit: Samuel Isaac Chua)
DUO is not Scheeren’s first project in Singapore. His maiden development was the 1,040-unit The Interlace, developed by a consortium led by CapitaLand. Completed in 2013, The Interlace is notable for its 31 blocks stacked in a hexagonal arrangement. The development won the World Building of the Year award in 2015 — the top prize at the World Architecture Festival.
In Bangkok, Scheeren designed MahaNakhon, a 77-storey skyscraper that is the tallest building in Thailand today.
He shot to stardom when he designed the iconic CCTV headquarters in Beijing while he was at OMA, or Office for Metropolitan Architecture. He left OMA in 2010 to set up his own studio, Büro Ole Scheeren. Besides the CCTV HQ, Scheeren also designed the Guardian Art Centre, a cultural complex in Beijing that was recently completed.
Scheeren grew up in Karlsruhe, a city in southwest Germany, before he left home at the age of 21. He has been in Asia ever since, but he hopes to return to Europe someday.
When it comes to architecture, Scheeren believes in developing a sense of space. “Architecture is not an abstract matter,” he says. “We craft places where ideas come alive, and which become an integral part of people’s lives. That’s what we hope to achieve with DUO.”
The view of the swimming pools from a 42nd-floor unit at DUO Residences (credit: Samuel Isaac Chua)

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