Desert Rainforest

Light Collab designed a biophilic lighting scheme to complement and enhance the lush greenery of the Singapore Pavilion.

For the Singapore Pavilion, architect WOHA and landscape architect Salad Dressing brought lush greenery to Dubai with a plant-filled, “three-dimensional garden”. Situated in the expo’s Sustainability district, the Singapore Pavilion’s thriving rainforest offers a botanical escape for visitors to the event. The lighting concept for the Pavilion was developed by Singaporean studio Light Collab, which supported the overall vision of the architects for a vibrant, green space, creating a biophilic scheme that would complement the abundant greenery.

On entering the pavilion, visitors can embark on an experiential journey up a ramp to enjoy the scenery of the rainforest, with different experiences throughout the day. During the day, visitors are given the feeling of entering a rainforest with daylight filtering through the trees. At night, the intent is to “evoke the spirit of the forest”, by revealing the spectrum of light that is specific for the growth of the plants. These particular segments of the spectrum are elevated after dark, meaning that visitors enter into an environment that encourages the regeneration of the forest.

The pavilion is constructed around three huge, plant-covered cones that contain a series of exhibition spaces, with the pathways meandering in between these cones. Following the pathways through nature-inspired scenes, concealed lighting serves as a guiding light, gently illuminating the way forward. A layer of grow lights above the hanging gardens supports growth and doubles up as a layer of environmental lighting, creating an artificial sky. Grow lights in narrow beams also support the growth of the plant-life on the cones.

These grow lights are also carefully tuned to allow for double usage – both supporting the growth of the greenery with high photosynthetic photon flux output and doubling up as architainment lighting with special colours for an immersive, biophilic environment that highlights different parts of nature and plants.

During the day and early evening, the environment appears to be a natural one, with warm colour tones, but this gradually shifts to various modes after dark, revealing different spectrums of light and dynamic lighting scenes. Fibre optics are also further deployed to create luminous “fireflies”. Additional landscape lighting further supports the overall lighting, enhancing various elements such as the water features, trees, and other green features.

With such a strong focus on greenery and biophilia, Yah Li Toh, Principal of Light Collab, worked very closely with the architects to ensure that all design elements were in sync. “As the theme was on sustainability, with a net zero target, we also worked closely with Transsolar Klima Engineering on energy usage,” she explained.

“Studies of the sun’s path were done, and solar tubes were introduced to reduce the demands on artificial lighting. At first, we were only commissioned to plan the lighting for the architecture and landscape. But subsequently, we expanded our scope to include a light show using the lighting fixtures installed.

“WOHA was very particular about design and has a great eye for details and vision, thus we were able to execute difficult details such as a curved handrail lighting, using a continuous LED strip.” The special “Biomorphosis” light show lasts for three minutes and is presented periodically every hour. During the show, all components of the landscape lighting come together to elevate the breathing rhythm of nature in a celebration of life.

Given the abundant greenery of the space, Light Collab had to work hard to develop a lighting scheme that would support the biophilic design of the space – especially in areas like the hanging gardens and deep between the cones, where daylight would not reach during the day. “To support the biophilic design, we also explored the use of architectural and horticultural lighting,” Toh continued. “The special horticultural lighting was custom made for the light show too. “We were conscious to have grow lights only in areas where daylight is less sufficient. It was a balance between the needs of the people and the nature, while also transforming the nature into another realm at night.”

While the pavilion has a very strong emphasis on biophilic design, Toh has previous experience in this regard, having created a beautiful biophilic lighting scheme for the Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay in Singapore. However, she explained that the concept for the Singapore Pavilion was actually developed first, before the Covidenforced delays meant that it was pushed back.
“We started our research and use of grow lights in early 2019,” Toh explained. “However, due to the pandemic, the project was delayed for a year, and the Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay was completed earlier.

However, with the completion of Parkroyal Collection in December 2020, we had time to observe the reaction and the effectiveness of the grow lights, and it gave us assurance that the horticultural lighting specified would work, which gave us more confidence. “However, as Dubai is in the desert, trying to get plants from Singapore to survive is quite a feat. But due to the amazing design from the team, and the climate control strategies, they all worked together to improve not only the human comfort, but also the survival of the plants.”

Project Details:
Singapore Pavilion, UAE
Lighting Design: Light Collab, Singapore
Architect & Creative Design: WOHA, Singapore
Landscape Architect: Salad Dressing, Singapore

arc Magazine 125 DEC/JAN 2021/22 Page 86-89
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