Parkroyal Collection, Marina Bay, Singapore

29th April 2021

At Singapore’s Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay, Light Collab has used light to breathe new life into the vast atrium space, creating an energising space both for guests, and for the abundant plant life.

The recently-renovated Parkroyal Collection, Marina Bay (formerly known as Marina Mandarin) in Singapore has seen the remaking of neo-futurist architect John Portman’s spectacular hotel. Originally built in 1987, the existing hotel has been transformed, with its vast atrium now filled with plant life and vibrant light, thanks to a new lighting scheme designed by Light Collab.

On entering the hotel, guests are greeted by an abundance of lush greenery, most notably a 13-metre green wall, and cascading planters that create a scenic, 180º view of a forest. The journey into the hotel also includes entering a glass lift and, on reaching the fourth storey, crossing a gently lit bridge, flanked by more greenery, to the reception desk.

Light Collab became involved in this re-lighting project after the client recognised the need for a lighting designer, due to the complexity of lighting up the newly introduced greenery in a space with little natural light, along with the new interior design scheme.

The challenge for Yah Li Toh, Principal of Light Collab, was to introduce layers of light into the impressive atrium space, working with limited existing lighting points, integrating the new and old elements, as well as effectively illuminating the trees and planting scheme with healthy, biophilic light.

While grow lights are definitely needed to support the growth of the garden, achieving certain technical requirements of photosynthetic active radiation levels, the general concern was how the exposed grow lights would co-exist with the general lighting and impact on the desired ambience for the hotel.

Toh explained further: “The architect had a vision of bringing the garden indoors, so we did a site study and measured the amount of daylight and PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) available at different times of the day, and unfortunately we realised that there was little PPFD that would be able to sustain the life of the plants and trees – the PPFD measured as little as 2-6 µmols/sqm on average in the proposed plant positions, while the botanist recommended levels of a minimum of 150-200 µmols/sqm, after conditioning the plants to require less daylight, in comparison to outdoor conditions of more than 1,000 µmols/sqm. There was also a limited time of exposure to daylight too.

“Although in Singapore, there are examples of green walls with plants and ferns being lit by grow lights, this is the first time that trees were planted in an atrium with very little daylight – as little as 2 µmols/sqm – and where the plants would be very visible to hotel guests from all angles at all times. The higher the output of PPDF, the higher the light intensity naturally. This meant that we needed a strong concept to work with the grow lights – they needed to have very controlled optics, with optimum PPFD output so as not to ruin the ambience of the hotel, focused enough to optimise growth on the trees and shrubs, and also co-exist well, look good, natural, and not give out the purple hue commonly seen in grow lights. We also studied and tested many brands of grow lights available, and the cost and performance differs greatly.”

The overall lighting concept was to enhance and complement the built form with the soft forms of nature. To do this, Light Collab therefore sought to use very controlled optics, the highest PPDF per watt, high R9, colour rendering and tunable white solution of the grow lights; by keeping the colour temperature at 3800K during the day, it creates the feeling of being in a forest in daytime, while in the evening, the temperature reduces down to 3100K, transforming the space into an atmospheric gardenscape. Lighting levels change throughout the day, responding to the natural lighting environment and the needs of the greenery. The grow lights also double up to form part of the overall scenes and ambience of the atrium, which was originally too dark before the renovation, while also supporting plant growth.

Complementing the grow lighting for the plant life, Light Collab also developed the interior architectural lighting for the common spaces of the hotel. This has been designed to enhance and highlight the ambience of the space, as well as elements of the interior architectural features, to create more focus and emphasis on the gardenscape. Light Collab’s lighting design incorporated the overall lighting in the reception, atrium space, as well as the landscape lighting. Lighting in the dining areas was also designed at ambient levels, allowing the greenery to take centre stage.

The key architectural considerations for the new lighting, Toh explained, were to “respect John Portman’s original architecture, and the new interior elements, features by FDAT Architects and the landscape content by Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl”. 

Respecting the original architecture meant, for Toh, working around the huge, curving atrium space. Illuminating this vast space proved to be a challenge, but it was one that she relished. “In addition to the complexity of the 360-degree view, the growlights and plants, the upper guestroom corridors still had the original lighting strategy, which was implemented in 1987,” she said. “Some of the features were retained, such as the corridor lighting, which was kept darker so as to not gain too much attention. But the form of the atrium also posed challenges for light mounting options. It was interesting to try and work with the new elements, while respecting and balancing the existing elements.

“For the rest of the hotel, we also tried to balance the focus and bring attention to the atrium and the gardenscape,” she continued. “For example, in the all-day-dining restaurant, there were also special interior design features, but it was also about the view and the connection into the atrium. The interior design heavily used mirrors, reflective materials and curves, which all required careful integration.”

Throughout the project, Light Collab worked closely with the interior designers, along with the rest of the design team, to ensure that the lighting became synonymous with the wider design scheme. “For certain features, the other design consultants had an idea of how it should be lit, but it mostly required a vision to tie the concept together. There was a constant communication back and forth, and we hoped to be able to bring new perspectives to the space that the interior designers may not have thought about.”

Hanging in the centre of the atrium, suspended high above the plentiful plant life, is Orchidea, a sculpture created by American artist Richard Lippold. This sculpture was not previously lit with much consideration, instead just illuminated with some floodlights that had been in place since the 80s. Toh sought to use light as a means to breathe new life into the sculpture and make it the key focal point of the space. “We tried to bring new perspectives on how light can interact and bring life to the sculpture,” she explained. “Being metallic, it presented opportunities to create a shimmering effect.

“We used four narrow beam spotlights to highlight the sculpture, so that when the metallic parts move, they also create an interesting shimmer. We were limited though by the available positions to place fittings in the atrium without being too obtrusive and glaring to the hotel guests from various viewing points.”

In bringing new light to the Orchidea, Toh was presented with the opportunity to transform the sculpture into an integral feature of a light art show, interacting with its metallic forms and bringing extra life to the atrium each evening. The show, which runs hourly from 7-9pm, sees the atrium shift from a gardenscape into a futuristic space of light and sound, bringing out the artistic playfulness of the architectural elements within the atrium space.

The two-and-a-half-minute show has been designed to engage onsite volumes and planes with the Orchidea, enhancing the interaction of light and space with the suspended wires and geometric forms soaring through the atrium and engaging the space as a whole, further bringing out the mood of euphoric futurism and spiritual aspiration.

The combination of the artistic lighting for the Orchidea and the grow lighting for the plant life meant that this was a unique project for Light Collab, with a wide variety of challenges and hurdles that needed to be overcome. However, Toh explained that, with the support of an understanding client, they were able to comfortably overcome these challenges.

“It is the first project that we have completed where grow lights are used on trees in an interior space where there is not much daylight. The challenges are different, as we had to use artificial light to try and ensure the survival of the plants and trees, so my team and I felt a huge responsibility for this,” Toh explained.

“When we first conceived the idea of the various scenes in the atrium changing throughout the day, transforming from a “forest” to a “garden”, we also went further and looked at how we can possibly bring together all the elements in the atrium, together with the setting, the greenery, and the Orchidea sculpture, how we can transform the atrium with special scenes so that in this interior space, there is opportunity for variety, and things to happen. This is even more important, since there is no view out from the enclosed atrium, except for the skylight. Thus we felt it was important to create changes in scenes, to break the monotony at intervals. The client was very supportive with all of our ideas, allowing them to become reality.”

Since the project was completed last year, Toh has seen a swell of positive reaction to the new lighting within the hotel and how it serves to complement the overall space. She said: “We were excited and curious to see how people would react. Overall, we were delighted to see people taking photos and posting on social media, saying that it looks great at every angle, without having to add filters.

“We also noticed that people would come out of their guestrooms, and restaurant-goers would come in to see the Orchidea light show. Guests in the atrium would start becoming curious about the transformation happening.

“Lighting has brought life to the atrium for the people, while also doubling up as survival for the greenery – it is the perfect bridge for both people and plant life.”

Pic: ND Photography