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POPULATION growth forecasts indicate that by 2050, the world’s population will increase to 10 billion – Singapore’s population is already six million and will continue to grow. Another aspect of this tremendous population growth is the fact that more than 50 per cent of the world’s population today live in cities, and this number will continue to increase to 70 per cent in the next three decades.

In urban situations, this growth in population can only be accommodated by more high-rise buildings. In other words, by increasing urban density skyward. This is particularly true in Singapore, a country with limited land area but is nevertheless determined to preserve green spaces and open areas for its citizens. The answer to these seemingly conflicting objectives lies in high-density developments.

Unlike cities such as Houston, Los Angeles and even Sydney which are examples of major cities that have a dense and small city centre but a sprawling outer city, Singapore does not have the luxury of space to follow suit. In those cities, high-density developments maximise the use of existing infrastructure within the city, thus allowing more spacious developments in areas beyond the core centre.

Still, keeping Singapore green has been a prerogative since the small city-state became independent. In 1967, when Lee Kuan Yew was prime minister, the vision of Singapore as a garden city was established. This truly forward-looking vision has now come to fruition with the building of the award-winning Gardens by the Bay as well as Singapore’s Botanic Gardens, which has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. These are just two examples of Singapore’s truly outstanding efforts in establishing green spaces throughout the country.

When I was given the opportunity to design Marina One, a building that symbolises the collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore, I realised that with this project, I could illustrate my idea of what a mixed-use building can do for densely populated cities. We recommended a project with a very strong green centre that can still be a living, breathing centre in 20 years when everywhere around Marina One and beyond is built up. That is how we came up with the idea of building a sort of conglomerate of buildings. They are still recognisable as four buildings but are naturally related to one another both architecturally and materially. The buildings form a very strong figure around a common centre, which we fondly call the Green Heart. Singapore has a mission to transform 80 per cent of its buildings into green buildings by 2030 , and I wanted to create a development that could push the envelope of green architecture.