Continuing the theme of restoration and intervention in historical buildings, the design of the six-star Capella Resort brings together old and new in a tropical context. This retrofit project integrates two Tanah Merah military buildings – dating from the 1880s and built as recreational spaces for officers – with a new hotel, villas, extensive event spaces and a spa. Malay for ‘red earth’, Tanah Merah is a reference to Singapore’s lateritic soil, whose colour is reflected in the terracotta roofs of the region’s colonial architecture. The approach has been to highlight the old, drawing on the existing buildings’ proportions, shading devices and colour palette, while locating the new suites and villas within a tropical sanctuary.
Sentosa lies close to the southern coast of Singapore Island and has a rainforest climate, with high levels of humidity and rainfall. Reinterpreting elements of the colonial vernacular, the scheme’s design offers a similarly climatic response: deep, sheltered walkways resonate with the nineteenth-century colonnades; the roof canopy extends to provide protection from the rain; and the facade is enclosed by a unifying skin of horizontal brises soleils, which take the form of large earth-toned screens. The original white stone structures have been restored and form the gateway to the resort.
The hotel extends from each side of the existing buildings in an unbroken plan that curves around a garden courtyard. The top of the new building is level with the tall pitched roof of the Tanah Merah, yet its canopy has a shallow curve to encompass an additional storey and drain rainwater. Concentric rows of villas and pools follow the contours in three waves, stepping down the sloping site. They are screened within the resort’s dense gardens, which are planted with more than 5,000 trees. While the exterior treatment of the villas is restrained, they feature dramatic double-height spaces with glazed walls that frame sea views.