CapitaSpring, Singapore

Image: Raphael Olivier

Intended to be a new urban oasis in the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District, the CapitaSpring building is a remarkable blend of architecture and greenery. Lighting design firm Nipek sought to use light to enhance both the building itself and its verdant plant life.

Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), in collaboration with Carlo Ratti Associati, CapitaSpring is a mixed-use high-rise commercial building situated in the Central Business District (CBD) of Singapore that includes offices, serviced apartments, a Hawker Center, restaurants, and public spaces, including two gardens and an observatory deck..

Standing at 280-metres, it is one of the tallest buildings in Singapore, and was designed to redefine and elevate workplace and living standards, while adding an elegant new landmark to the skyline.

Intended to offer an oasis in the heart of the bustling financial district, the 93,000sqm, tech-integrated and verdant skyscraper has transformed the site of a former car park complex, built in the 1980s.

The building’s exterior façade consists of vertical elements that are pulled apart to allow glimpses into pockets of greenery at the base, core, and rooftop. This dynamic interplay of orthogonal lines and lush plant life is presented in the contrasting textures of steel and glass, interweaved with tropical vegetation.

On entering the building, visitors are met with a public rainforest plaza, and the City Room – an 18-metre-high, open public space at the foot of the tower. At the core of the building, between the hardscapes of the offices and the residences, are four connected levels of “organic softscape”, called the Green Oasis – a 26-metre, open air garden for work, relaxation, exercise and events.

The lighting design for this monumental new building was delivered by Singapore and Japan-based lighting design firm Nipek, in collaboration with building owner CapitaLand

Nipek’s scope for the lighting design covered all parts of the project, from the exterior façade and landscape, to public spaces, office lobbies and other common areas. Takahisa Yamaguchi, Associate at Nipek, explained further: “The lighting design team was tasked to provide timeless, elegant, and energy-efficient lighting schemes for the project.

“For the façade lighting, after many rounds of studies and exchanges of ideas with the architects, the lighting concept of ‘focusing on the greeneries as the project’s unique feature’ emerged. It was to celebrate the Oasis in the heart of the city.”

A key part of this urban oasis is the abundant greenery visible within the façade of the building. As such, Nipek sought to use light to highlight this unique feature of the building.

Yamaguchi continued: “The greenery visible through the openings in the façade is an iconic element of CapitaSpring. The façade lighting focuses on highlighting this greenery, which can be found in the form of green pockets on the lower floors and the Green Oasis.

“Lit trees at night express the uniqueness of the façade, and the greenery in the crown contributes to the beautification of the CBD skyline at night.”

Inside, public spaces embedded in the office tower provide a relaxing environment for office workers, with light and shadows on the floor and ceiling created by illuminating trees, but also create an inviting atmosphere that feels like being outside, while being inside the building.

To bring this concept to life, the type of lighting fixtures, and particularly the colour temperature of said fixtures, was carefully chosen. This was of particular importance when it came to highlighting the façade details. “The key matter was how to make the green pockets on the façade stand out against the background interior lighting without making them obtrusive,” Shigeki Fujii, Principal at Nipek, said.

“It was difficult for the trees embedded in the façade to stand out at night from the deep green trees typical of tropical Southeast Asia if simply illuminated with usual white light. Therefore, we came up with the idea of mixing pastel green coloured lighting with 4000K white light to emphasise the green in a subtle way. It was almost to create an illusion that the greens are livelier and fresher after dark with a lighting trick, without making it too obvious.”

As part of the façade lighting approach, one of the major considerations for the lighting design came with the podium level and parking floors, and how their night-time appearance would impact on the overall look of the building; the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the Singapore government agency responsible for urban development, required that the lighting at the car parks on the podium levels would not negatively affect the visibility of the building façade at night. “Because the car park levels are surrounded with perforated façade panels that can become almost transparent at night, it could allow passersby to see the ceilings of the car park levels from the nearby streets,” Fujii continued.

“It was therefore necessary to consider whether the entire façade of the podium would appear evenly illuminated and not adversely affect the green pockets. The aperture ratio of the façade screen was precisely designed by BIG; an actual scale mock-up was made and Erco’s excellent glare control downlights installed in the parking lot. The fixtures along the façade are shielded on one side, and are not visible from street level outside.”

A core focal point for the building’s interior is its vast, 18-metre-high lobby space. The sheer volume of such a space presented a lighting challenge to Nipek, but Yamaguchi explained how this enormous space was brought to life. “The challenge was to showcase the high ceilings and different materials on the wall surfaces,” he said.

“The striking polished red travertine walls are lit from above by Erco’s linear wall grazer fittings concealed in the ceiling coves. The board-formed concrete panels on the core walls are entirely illuminated by Erco’s high-ceiling wallwasher downlights, so that the entire wall can b e seen from outside the lobby. These considerations, along with the contrasting brightness of spotlights on the floor, create a sophisticated and modern office lobby.”

Topping the building is the Sky Garden – the tallest publicly accessible observatory deck in Singapore. The 51st floor garden offers a panoramic view of Marina Bay, and also doubles as Singapore’s highest urban farm, producing fresh produce for the building’s restaurants. Lighting here was kept at a low level so as not to disturb the viewer’s perspective of the city’s nightscape, reducing light pollution in the process. To keep continuity from the car park level façade, there are pockets in the rooftop façade where trees are highlighted. Elsewhere, the minimal lighting comprises strip lights integrated into planter kerbs, and decorative bollard lights. The pathway and landscape are also rhythmically illuminated, contributing to a pleasurable walking experience.

CapitaSpring has achieved the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) Green Mark Platinum rating – one of the highest green building ratings in Singapore, as well as the BCA Universal Design Mark GoldPLUS Award for its landscaping. Yamaguchi explained how lighting helped to contribute towards these ratings. “It was necessary to reduce overall power consumption for the lighting fixtures in the project, but at the same time, it was necessary to create the lighting environment expected by the client.

“To achieve this, a comfortable contrast was created by clearly defining areas and elements that should be illuminated, and those that should not. This not only reduced the number of lighting fixtures and their power consumption, but also emphasised the lighting concept by providing visual contrast.”

Fujii added that throughout the design process, Nipek worked in close collaboration with BIG. “We were given freedom, but they did not just leave us to it,” he said. “Instead, they were great collaborators who gave us clear visions and inputs. We worked in tandem with them to determine how the lighting fixtures would fit within the architectural language.”

In close collaboration with the architects, this remarkable project quickly became a new landmark in Singapore, grabbing the attention of people within the city. Reflecting on the project, Yamaguchi shared his thoughts on the overall design: “The lighting of the trees with a mixture of white and the green colour from the optical lenses accentuates the liveliness of the trees more than expected, and the shadows of the white and green leaves that appear on the soffit create an interesting look.”

He concluded: “The lighting not only provides the necessary brightness for the space, but also emphasises the architectural concept by creating visual hierarchy at night with the lighting design.”

www.nipek.jp