Transformation of Singapore’s old industrial harbour | Corals on Keppel Bay | ICN Design

Along Singapore’s southern edge the deep water Keppel Harbour has been transformed from industrial docks into a stunning lifestyle district of waterfront residences, promenade and marina. For one long narrow plot, earmarked for upscale residential development, our landscape intent was to;

  • Utilise the water frontages, reconciling different and appropriate “public realm” requirements along the site’s three major boundaries
  • Provide a landscape with garden spaces to enhance the luxurious residences
  • Ensure a wide range of landscape spaces for multi-purpose activities for individuals and families
  • Retain some essence of the original site, docks and remnant ‘maritime engineering’’
  • Utilize the dock for improving the marine environment

Considering the rich history and evocative coastline of the harbour, We conceived a contemporary landscape for the new residence, referencing littoral forms and dynamics; the wind and water sweeping through the dock site. We imagined these forces eddying against the solid grounded residential towers creating forms and patterns in the ground sweeping around the residences. Implying the movement of the tides, while solid stone blocks stand out, recall coastal formations.

Marine-influenced materiality – social history expressed in art
The hardscape palette contrasts the revealed honey coloured heritage dock with the cool grey stone and steel of the external landscape finishes. The blend of natural grey toned stone promenades extends through the water pools with a visual transition of subtle varied hues in Sukabumi and Olivine granite. Rough-hewn blocks of granite stone punctuate the surface like islands inspired by the original rocky shore illustrated in an old 1922 Maritime Chart. This is expressed in the tumbling entrance water cascade.

Two hard-edged promenades wrap the residence. The Kings Graving Dock becomes a private waterfront terrace for residents to relish the exposed heritage of the old dock and sea, exposing the original weathered aggregate alongside a long granite seating edge. Adjacent, finely worked granite stone is retained and preserved dock “archaeology” of old dock-gate niches, capstans, and bollards remain in silent black iron and steel. The other water-front is shared, an esplanade along Keppel Bay, with broad radiating pavement patterns, expressed upwards into palm-lined gardens with layered hedging to allow glimpses yet maintain important privacy for residents.

Shoreline waterscape – a natural littoral environment of land and water
A coastal forest edge is formed on the leeward side, a garden of trees provides tranquillity and intimacy, a shady retreat for passive recreation and privacy from the street. Eventually, this will also establish a degree of screening from the late afternoon sun. Merging into the central garden, this landscape of water and aquatics is subtly layered with gracefully tall water canna set in tidal-like pools surrounding the clubhouse. Shallow water lounger terraces adjoin the swimming pool. Beyond these curved reflective pools, Pandans and Mengkuang Laut remind us of the natural coast with splayed olive-tinged fronds sheltering the aquatic sanctuary and adjacent apartments.

The green and teal tones constantly reflect the changing aspect, mood, colour of sea and sky. Distinctively wild Pandanus tectorius, and Licualas in the water, and clipped Tabernaemontana planting play against the wonderful tall grove of Agathis borneenis that defines the main arrival court and shades people as they arrive.

Corals by name, Coral by nature
The combination of muted colours, strong curving forms and textures in the landscape leads into the softer tones of the inner aquatic gardens before opening out again in expansive coastal lawns and seafront promenades. And true to name, within Kings Dock, new soft corals are beginning to flourish again in the clear dock waters, Assisted with additional cultivation, corals like Sarcophyton, Dendronepthya and Hydnophora and other types of sea-life are establishing, encouraging other marine fauna to call this new “aquarium” their home. A contemporary created landscape, of simplicity, raw beauty and sustained marine ecology.

Corals on Keppel Bay

Location | Keppel Harbour, Singapore

Landscape Architect | ICN Design
Design Team | Simon Morrison, Rachel Koh, KL Tay

Architects |
Studio Daniel Libeskind
DCA Architects
Engineers |
Tylin – Civil & Structural
Beca – Mechanical and Electrical

Text Credit | Simon Morrison
Photography Credit | Giuseppe Fanciullo; Simon Morrison;

About Damian Holmes 3226 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at