Sleepy Queenstown, one of Singapore's mature estates, has received a new injection of life with two iconic Build-To-Order (BTO) projects: SkyVille @ Dawson and SkyTerrace @ Dawson.
Towering over the old Housing Board (HDB) blocks in the neighbourhood and filled with clever design features by award-winning architecture firms, these flats are the face of new-generation public housing that emphasises flexibility, greenery and good living.
Versatility can be seen in the mix of units in these buildings, which include studio apartments and five-room flats at SkyTerrace @ Dawson.
Over at SkyVille @ Dawson, instead of the standard cuboid layout of flats, owners can choose from three configurations to suit their own decor plans and tastes.
Here, homes are column- and beam-free, so that the spaces can be easily changed and customised. The design also helps HDB reduce material wastage as it does not build rooms owners do not want.
Units at these two Dawson properties range in size from 37 sq m for a studio apartment to 122 sq m for a loft unit or a unit with a balcony. When these flats were first launched for sale in December 2009, the apartments' starting prices were from $112,000.
The developments also have a green focus, being part of a larger "housing- in-a-park" concept HDB hopes to roll out to other estates.
Sky gardens at various levels now replace traditional void decks. At SkyTerrace @ Dawson, which has five towers ranging from 40 to 43 storeys, these gardens are linked through bridges, which are themselves filled with lush greenery.
HDB's chief executive officer Cheong Koon Hean says the "housing-in-a-park concept" in Dawson will be worked into future projects. For example, projects in Punggol such as the Waterway Terraces project will have waterfront living and cascading roof gardens inspired by terraced rice fields.
She adds: "Overall, our new HDB estates will be greener and more garden- like, with lusher landscaping to provide a conducive living environment for residents."
These new concepts and ideas such as the park-like environment and sky gardens will also be implemented in other towns such as the upcoming Bidadari, Punggol Northshore and Tampines North.
The Dawson projects have generated much interest following Pinnacle @ Duxton, Singapore's first 50-storey public housing project in Cantonment Road. The award-winning development was completed in 2009.
Residents of both SkyVille @ Dawson and SkyTerrace @ Dawson are starting to collect their keys.
One of them is marketing communications manager Marie Li, 32, who is now renovating her four-room, 32nd-floor flat in SkyVille @ Dawson.
She says: "Queenstown might be an old estate, but these flats make it feel like a new town. It looks like a condominium, but it's not fenced up. It's very welldesigned."
The cool, modern features at these new buildings are the work of two private architecture firms.
SkyVille @ Dawson, which has three blocks, was designed by award-winning local firm Woha, which has done numerous high-profile projects such as the School of the Arts, Parkroyal on Pickering hotel and the Stadium MRT station. This is the company's first public housing project.
Woha's co-founder and architect Richard Hassell, 48, was inspired by the notion of a village, a throwback to Dawson estate's early beginnings as Boh Beh Kang village, which had about 300 Chinese families who lived in two- and three-storey attap huts at the foot of Hong Lim hill.
In SkyVille @ Dawson, there are 12 "villages", each comprising a sky garden and shared by 80 homes.
There is also a roof garden on the 47th floor, which has a 400m jogging track and a spectacular view of the city.
Mr Hassell describes the layout as "popping open" the regular HDB rectangular blocks to create a diamond-like structure when viewed from the top.
This allows the architects to design homes that can have their privacy.
For example, unlike older HDB flats with common corridors, there are no windows for passers-by to look into as the design is no longer linear. Residents can meet their neighbours when they head to the sky gardens.
Mr Hassell says: "Even as everyone wants his own private space, these common areas will encourage people to interact. We've placed outdoor furniture around the space so they can head out here to read a book or hang out."
The project is also big on green features, with more than 1.5ha of public gardens. Old raintrees were also kept and incorporated into the landscaping.
Apart from plants, the common areas, lift lobbies and access walkways are all naturally ventilated, while solar cells on the rooftop power lights in the common areas. A swale - a gently sloping, water- harvesting ditch - treats storm water before discharging it to the storm-water system. There is also a rubbish chute for organic and recyclable waste at every apartment block.
Art and heritage have also been woven into SkyVille @ Dawson's design. On the ground floor, murals by comic artist Troy Chin depict life in Queenstown from the 1950s till now. Pictures include children eating ice balls and fishing in small streams.
The aim was to show how the estate has changed through the years, says Mr Hassell. "It was about finding the right images, those memory triggers, for those who remember the area from those times. Now, instead of children playing among lallang fields, they play on the steps here."
Across Dawson Road is SkyTerrace @ Dawson, a five-block estate designed by multi-disciplinary architectural practice SCDA Architects. The firm is responsible for iconic projects such as the National Design Centre in Middle Road and the Soori High Line, a luxury condominium in New York.
For this project, SCDA used black and grey paints on the blocks with white outlines for each unit. This is an anomaly for HDB flats, which usually have bright colour combinations on their facades.
SCDA's principal architect Chan Soo Khian, 52, says the darker colours make the estate's greenery stand out and the white outlines highlight the development's unique flat configurations.
The buildings look like an homage to the Tetris game, where L-shaped units fit snugly with rectangular ones in what is called a "paired unit". A paired unit consists of a four- or five-room flat connected to a studio apartment via stairs and an internal door. The studio and the flat have separate entrances.
SkyTerrace @ Dawson has 65 paired units, while the rest of the development are three- to five-room flats.
On the paired units, Mr Chan says: "These are like hotel rooms which have connecting doors - you are in different rooms and get your privacy but yet you are close by."
The studio apartments are fitted with elderly-friendly features such as grab bars and pull cords for them to alert neighbours if they need help.
Continuing with the greenery from its sister development, SkyTerrace @ Dawson also has six sky gardens.
The buildings contain eco-friendly features such as using water-saving drip irrigation methods to water the plants and solar energy systems to power lighting in common areas.
To soften the harsh lines of the multi- storey carpark, which sits on the first few floors of the development, the architects have designed cascading green terraces for the parts that face the main entrance.
On the other side, a sloped, landscaped pathway beside the multi-storey carpark allows residents to walk down from the roof garden to their cars parked on the various levels.
An amphitheatre, which can be used for outdoor movie screenings, is still being built.
For its work, SCDA received an honourable mention in the Future Residential category at the 2013 World Architecture Festival and got the Highly Commended award at the MIPIM Architectural Review for Future Project Awards the same year.
Married couple Calvin Tang, 47, and Amy Chang, 44, are looking forward to moving into their first home at SkyTerrace @ Dawson. Aside from the convenient location, they can live with Mr Tang's parents in their paired unit when they move in later this year.
Mr Tang, a social worker, says: "It's quite a refreshing concept for HDB. You hardly get high ceilings unless you buy a maisonette. And to pair it with a studio apartment is a great idea. My parents get the privacy they want and they are living nearby enough for us to look after them."
Shades of iconic residential project in Bishan
Habitat 67 was a groundbreaking residential project in Montreal for Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie.
The iconic construction featured taupe concrete "boxes" of various geometrical configurations stacked on top of one another.
In 1967, it launched Safdie, then an architecture student, to fame and an illustrious career designing large-scale properties, colleges and museums.
Last year, he was appointed the architect for Jewel Changi Airport, a mixed-used development which will have retail, lifestyle and dining elements, and will be the central hub connecting the airport's three terminals.
Now, Singapore will have a version of the iconic development that started Safdie's journey: a renditon of Habitat 67 as a condominium in Bishan Street 15 called Sky Habitat.
The two 38-storey towers, with 509 units in total, are jointly developed by CapitaLand Singapore, Mitsubishi Estate Asia and Shimizu Investment (Asia).
Safdie worked with local firm DCA Architects to carry out the design, which plays on the idea of open-air terraces, like those of tiered hillside rice plantations.
More than 70 per cent of the property is covered in greenery, with trees and plants covering the walls and dotting the spaces among outdoor event areas, swimming pools, a tennis court and walking paths.
To encourage residents to grow their own plants, the developers added planter boxes to units which have terrace spaces.
The two sloping towers are linked by three sky gardens on the 14th, 26th and 38th floors - each weighing about 600 tonnes.
The two sky gardens on the 14th and 26th levels have sitting areas and water features.
But the highlight is the infinity leisure pool on the 38th floor that offers a stunning view of central Singapore.
One of the tallest swimming pools in a condominium here, it mirrors Safdie's other creation, the Marina Bay Sands, which also has an 150m-long infinity pool on the 57-storey roof.