Shorefront Penang

RT+Q Architects with S.M. OOI Architect

On the only available sea-facing site in Georgetown, Penang, the client wanted a design that could sell at record prices. As Penang is a UNESCO World Heritage City, the site is subject to stringent planning guidelines. For instance, there is an 18-metre maximum-height limit, and requisite setbacks from roads and sea. As such, the design challenge was to strike a balance between economic viability and good architecture. The result is an ensemble of low-rise buildings and intimate spaces that maximise views and privacy. In terms of style and language, the design approach was a counter-intuitive one – to make the architecture of The Shorefront as different as possible from the mock-classicism of its ‘heritage’ neighbour, the famous E&O hotel.

Views sell; sea-views even more so. To fulfil the ‘all-units-must-have-sea-views’ mandate of the client, the design solution for this narrow and restrictive site was to create three long (parallel) strips of buildings oriented perpendicularly to the coastline and access road to the south. Units are designed in a ‘double-facing’ manner to maximise oblique views both towards the sea and to the city, and to capitalise on prevailing tropical winds and ventilation. This layout guarantees views.

As the site is narrow and irregularly shaped, the residential units are laid out in an ‘alternate-facing’ manner. No two adjacent units share a common frontage. This arrangement maximises privacy. To ensure exclusivity, all units are also designed to enjoy private elevator lobbies. The design of the landscaping and public areas deploys water courts for ambience and mood. The tranquil waterscape unites the site and the sea, and creates intimate spaces for reflection and recreation.

In this project, RT+Q Architects attempted in their own way to address issues common in high-rise living: the need for frontage and the lack of privacy. As developers pack units within a development, the living environment within becomes compromised. While full use is made of the sea-facing and city-facing advantages of the Shorefront Penang site, the architects created vistas of water and greenery in between the blocks. The negative spaces between the blocks become the feature. When residents come home to Shorefront, they can enjoy a little tranquility within the bustling city of Penang.

Photography: Masano Kawana, Albert Lim