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Mr. Burke

Architecture & Design

Resorts World Sentosa: Breaking Barriers in Resort Design

By Patrick Burke, Principal, Michael Graves Architecture & Design

To remain profitable and attract new visitors, today's resorts need to offer an extensive range of options for recreation and entertainment.

The 121-acre Resorts World Sentosa was created in response to the popularity of gaming in Asia, highlighted by the explosive growth in Macau. The Government of Singapore saw an opportunity to enhance its tourism industry by permitting the development of two casino resorts. However, in order to obtain the right to build the casinos in Singapore, the Government required the gaming operators to add to Singapore's tourism offerings. The first to be bid, Marina Bay Sands, in the Central Business District of Singapore, had to include a major convention center. The second casino to be bid for, Resorts World Sentosa, on the holiday island of Sentosa, had to include a family destination with amenities like amusement parks, food and beverage outlets, retail shopping and entertainment.

Each of the casino projects were awarded through an international developer competition. For Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), the winning team was led by a Malaysia-based developer with Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MGA&D) as master planner and design architect in partnership with Singapore-based DP Architects as co-master planner and executive architect.

Resorts World Sentosa, on the holiday island of Sentosa, includes a family destination with amenities like amusement parks, food and beverage outlets, retail shopping and entertainment.

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Resorts World Sentosa

Cruises + Casinos = Increased Revenue

The site for the resort is on Sentosa Island, across from Keppel Bay and the cruise ship marina. The growing international market for both resort and cruise vacations presented an exceptional opportunity for the developer, which also owns one of the largest cruise ship companies in Southeast Asia. Star Cruises is able to include a stay at Resorts World Sentosa as a package deal, guaranteeing a steady stream of visitors and revenue for RWS.

The design team needed to ensure that the project would be financially successful. Following a careful assessment of the market conditions and client requirements, coupled with an understanding of the character and climate of the local area, MGA&D developed a master plan for the resort featuring architecture specific to this geography and provided a design road map that would prove to be rational and practical, facilitate construction and minimize construction costs.

Multi-stakeholder Collaboration

Resorts are increasingly complex projects with a range of cultural, economic, social, geographic, climatic, and at times, political factors influencing their design. There were multiple aspects to the site at Resort Worlds Sentosa that would require coordination among different areas and across teams.

From day one, the design team sought to understand the spatial implications of the local regulatory environment. For instance, in Singapore, the government levies a fee for Singapore residents to use casinos in an attempt to deter locals who may be least able to afford gaming, while foreign tourists can enter free of charge. This regulatory factor has an impact on design decisions, as the entry needed to include a processing area, without diminishing first impressions.

The design team worked in close collaboration with the Singapore government, particularly regarding the interior design of the guest rooms. The designers created an innovative solution to balance the guest room size and optimize the public activities and guest experiences while staying within the government-mandated GFA (gross floor area) maximum for the overall project.

As new development throughout Asia has become very dense, governments are increasingly exercising great care in land use decisions. Developers need to understand these conditions and, more importantly, the market for their projects. Consequently, architects need to think carefully about the appropriate design for a place in a way that will provide the developer with the most value for their design dollar.

Design Decisions to Attract Target Audiences

From the master plan to interior design, furniture and fixtures, housewares, artwork and graphic design, the design team employed a rich architectural vocabulary with a strong nod to history, utilizing an artful blend of color, texture and materials throughout the 3.5 million square foot resort.

Particular attention was given to the relationship of landscape to structure, responding to the island's unique climate and character. A visitor approaching the island first sees the vaulted and domed green roofs of the tallest hotels against a backdrop of tropical forested hills.

With miles of white sand beaches, and forests that are home to a vast array of wildlife, Sentosa Island is far removed from the highly urbanized and ultra-modern hub of Singapore. Pathways meander to connect small, village-like outdoor areas. Because of the tropical climate and the GFA restrictions, the design maximizes the use of outdoor spaces which feature a wide variety of restaurants and shops. Strategically placed eco-cooled loggias and arcades mitigate the effect of high summer heat, humidity and tropical rains, offering naturally cooled gathering spaces, in what otherwise might have been just a place to pass through quickly.

The resort targets a range of visitors - including families, gaming audiences, VIPs and hotel guests - requiring the design team to leverage all available space. Visitor preferences informed design decisions. Examples can be seen in the use of red and gold (colors of good fortune in China) in the casino areas geared toward high-end gamers from China, or smaller rooms for guests coming off the cruise ships who would spend most of their time out of their rooms in the casinos, theme parks and shops. Because the client owned both a cruise line and a theme park, the designers had been briefed about the demographics for this project, which enabled the team to better anticipate many of the needs and desires of potential visitors.

The designers created an innovative solution to balance the guest room size and optimize the public activities and guest experiences while staying within the government-mandated GFA (gross floor area) maximum for the overall project.

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Sentosa Guest Room

Timing is Everything

The team won the competition in December of 2007, and the first phase of the project opened by Chinese New Year of 2011. The team was able to realize the aggressive project schedule due to several factors. Since the project began as a competition that required multiple models and drawings be developed with close client collaboration and support, upon winning the competition, the team was able to launch the project with a highly articulated design concept.

Operating in two time zones - with MGA&D located on the East Coast of the United States and DP Architects located in Singapore - the project could be designed around the clock. With participants on both sides of the globe, one part of the team could work while the other slept. Questions could be sent at the end of the day in one location and answers would arrive by the next morning.

To further facilitate the design process, specific design teams were assigned to each building in the complex. Regular video conferences incorporated document cameras allowing the designers to create drawings during a meeting, ensuring coordination among the teams and their sub consultants.

The casino operator's main interest was to get the casino up and running as quickly as possible, but 50% of the "public amenities" (hotel, restaurant, theme park) had to be open before the casino. The ability to fast track a project of this magnitude depended largely on communication and trust among the design team. However, with a complex array of design, development and regulatory interests, ongoing communication with the client and governmental agencies was essential to finishing in such an unprecedented time frame.

Details Create a Unique Destination

MGA&D's trademark mixture of contextual elements with modernism unifies the potentially disparate elements of the resort. Each hotel is intended to appeal to a particular clientele. A collage of materials, color, details and interior design give each a unique look and feel. If there was one overarching aesthetic, it is homage to the great resorts of the 20th century.

Crocksford Tower, the most exclusive hotel at the resort, is a celebration of grandeur, recalling 20th century luxury ocean liners. A rich color palette of red, gold and royal blue alongside the use of makore and zebrawood set the tone of opulence. Wood veneer walls and dark wood banding contrast with alabaster pillars. This sense of luxury is carried throughout including wood inlaid furniture and custom-designed table lamps.

A city-within-a-city, the resort features six hotels, offering a total of 1,840 rooms; a large casino; a convention center, including a 7,000-square-meter ballroom, conference and meeting facilities; a multitude of theaters and entertainment facilities; a maritime museum, a large marine animal park and water park; a world-class spa and extensive retail stores and restaurants.

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A City Within a City

Resorts World Sentosa's other hotels, including the Hotel Michael, named after Michael Graves, along with the major attractions: casinos, theaters, a maritime museum, a luxury spa, over 100 restaurants and shops, are all differentiated by design. Entering the island is an opportunity to escape the world and leave its cares behind. At Resorts World Sentosa, design delights visitors while the architecture elevates the experience.

Patrick Burke, AIA is a Principal with Michael Graves & Architecture & Design (MGA&D) and was the Principal-in-Charge and Lead Designer for the planning, architectural design and interior design of Resorts World Sentosa. Since joining the firm in 1982, he has led design teams for well over 50 projects, including the majority of MGA&D's work in the hospitality sector. Mr. Burke has also designed numerous, award winning cultural facilities such as museums and theaters, office buildings and training centers, courthouses, university buildings and residences. Mr. Burke received his architectural education at the University of Illinois, Chicago and at Princeton University, where he studied under Michael Graves. Mr. Burke can be contacted at 609-924-6409 or pburke@michaelgraves.com Please visit http://www.michaelgraves.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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