The New Toni Areal is a mixed-use, hybrid building designed by architects EM2N. Situated in a former industrial site, it aims to revitalize the area by incorporating a university campus, housing, spaces for cultural events and commercial facilities into what used to be a dairy plant. These functions, especially the university, serve to increase the vibrancy of the area by creating many opportunities and interfaces for exchanges between its users. The restoration works are based on a minimum intervention on the building’s original industrial character. This possibly promotes recycling and gives the public some semblance of the area’s history.

Image from http://www.em2n.ch/projects/tonisite

Overview of uses

Image from a+t Hybrids II.

Since the scale of the building is so large, the project was treated with an urban point of view. A vertical public boulevard (likened to roads or squares in the urban fabric) runs along the building and integrates it with the city. Several access points to and public spaces within the building and the internal boulevard also maximize integration with the city network.

Image from http://www.em2n.ch/projects/tonisite

The vertical boulevard also serves to communicate the identities of the single uses located along it. The identities of the single entities are formed in relation to this boulevard, making it possible to create addresses throughout the building and hence enabling way-finding.

The exceptional dimensions of the structural elements and spaces within the building allow for flexibility, which is crucial so that the building can react in a manifold way for future necessities.

Flexibility

Image from http://www.em2n.ch/projects/tonisite

The richness of the new Toni Areal lies in surrounding the university campus with small organisms that add vibrancy and diversity to the establishment. The integration of social and commercial needs with housing could potentially lend much activity to the area. The vertical boulevard being likened to an internal street gives respective uses identity and addresses, and is frequently punctuated by terraced inner courtyards, which let light in and accommodates flexible uses.

In view of Singapore’s land scarcity, the exploration of vertical, compact hybrid solutions in our local housing context may bring about more possibilities. “Raymond Hood, in the 1930s, developed the idea of combining offices, apartments, businesses, hotels and theatres in a massive volume, in a way that all daily activities can take place in one building.” Such organisation may increase the chance of interactions between inhabitants and users and hence enhance community bonding within a vertical structure. For instance, the terraced inner courtyards could be likened to the void deck space in Singapore’s HDB buildings and could be interspersed vertically to encourage informal gatherings and interactions. The void deck and corridor spaces in our local context could also be thought of as a vertical boulevard and developed further to introduce a diverse range of experiences for its users. Albeit the fact that a university campus is the main focus of the Toni Areal, in considering community housing in Singapore we can draw inspiration from the richness of this urban development. However, while aiming for a self-sufficient organism in which all needs are localized, it is also vital that the community is integrated with the city and perhaps other communities.

With reference to:

  1. a+t. (2008). Hybrids II. Low-Rise Mixed-Use Buildings.
  2. Archdaily. The New Toni-Areal in Zürich West. <http://www.archdaily.com/303982/the-new-toni-areal-in-zurich-west/>.