SINGAPORE: Guest rooms in treehouses shaped like seedpods, elevated walkways snaking through a forest canopy and interactive guided nature walks - these are some features the new Mandai eco-resort will offer when it opens its doors in 2023.
Speaking at a media conference at the Singapore Zoo on Thursday (May 23), luxury resort operator Banyan Tree Holdings’ CEO Ho Kwon Ping said that visitors at the 338-room resort will enjoy “unprecedented access” to nature during their stay.
“Because so much of this has been planned sensitively, our guests will come and realise that it’s not an urban hotel in the middle of Mandai park,” Mr Ho said. “It is an experience where they will have unprecedented access to nature in all little ways.”
This is Banyan Tree's first resort in Singapore; the company has 47 other hotels and resorts around the world.
Banyan Tree will operate the resort, which will be owned by Mandai Park Holdings, which manages wildlife attractions such as the Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park.
The design of the resort will be helmed by local architectural firm WOW Architects.
One of the aspirations of the project was to have the building and the landscape "become one", WOW Architects' managing director Wong Chiu Man said.
This means minimising the impact the resort complex will have on the environment. As such, the resort will only occupy previously disturbed areas within the 4.6-hectare site which currently houses the Singapore Zoo’s back-of-house facilities.
"We have more or less completely kept the rest of the forest intact," said Mr Wong. "Where we have inserted elements such as the treehouses, they have been inserted in such a way that we have scarcely cut down any trees at all."
BRINGING GUESTS CLOSER TO NATURE
When completed, the development aims to become the first Super Low Energy resort in Singapore - with its design incorporating energy-saving measures including the use of natural ventilation as well as solar panels.
Extensive planting will be done on the roof and facade of the resort buildings, and more than half the trees on the site will be retained.
Wherever possible, the resort will be elevated several metres above the ground to allow native wildlife to move across the site.
Guests will also be able to choose to stay in 24 treehouses designed in the shape of seedpods, and participate in behind-the-scenes programmes, guided nature walks as well as hands-on activities. There will also be camping opportunities, said Mr Mike Barclay, group CEO of Mandai Park Holdings.
"Right from the beginning, WOW Architects impressed us," Mr Barclay told reporters. "They showed a deep and fundamental understanding of the design brief and they were on the same wavelength as us - they understood what we were trying to achieve."
"When we got together, we decided that whatever design we came up with, we need to immerse people in the rainforest," added Mr Barclay. "That must be fundamental, we need to have a very light touch on the site and we also need the resort to celebrate sustainable best practices."
The Mandai precinct is undergoing a rejuvenation project, which will see the relocation of Jurong Bird Park and the development of a new Rainforest Park in the same area as the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.
"We want our guests to come to the resort and have a conscious stay," said Mr Barclay. "We want them to be conscious of the rainforest all around them, we want them to be conscious of how it's best to interact with plants and animals, we also want to leave them with some consciousness about how we can lighten our touch on the natural world."