The TripleOne Somerset (Chinese: 新加坡能源大厦; pinyin: Xīnjiāpō néngyuán dàshà) is a high-rise commercial building and shopping mall on Somerset Road in Orchard, Singapore. The building was first known as Public Utilities Board Building (PUB Building) until 1995, and was later known as Singapore Power Building until 2008 when acquired by YTL Corporation Pacific Star. It currently houses the corporate headquarters of Singapore Power.

History

The PUB Building, located near Singapore's main shopping belt of Orchard Road, was built to accommodate several departments of the Public Utilities Board which had outgrown its office space in City Hall.

The building was the result of an architectural design competition. In July 1971, a contest to design PUB's corporate headquarters was launched. Of 23 submissions, four were picked by a jury headed by then PUB chairman Lim Kim San. The proposal by the now-defunct Singapore architectural firm Group 2 Architects (1970-1978), formed by Ong Chin Bee and Tan Puay Huat, won.

Built at a cost of S$32 million and to a height of 100 metres (328 ft), the PUB Building was completed in 1977. It was renamed to Singapore Power Building, after PUB's electricity and gas operations were corporatised to Singapore Power on 1 October 1995. The building was renovated in 2006. On 29 January 2007, PUB moved out of the building to join its parent ministry, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, at the Environment Building on Scotts Road.

Architecture
Design concept

In the 1971 design competition for the PUB Building, the other three finalists sought to project a corporate presence with imposing towers. However, Group 2 Architect's winning design, in the jury's words, allowed "natural form and function to achieve character and dignity" for the building. The 17-storey high PUB building borrows ideas from Gerhard M. Kallmann's 1962 Boston City Hall, also a competition winner, which was, in turn, influenced by an architecturally very important modern building, Sainte Marie de La Tourette (1957-1960) by Le Corbusier. Whereas in La Tourette and less so in the City Hall, there is an intrinsic logic in the handling of form, the approach for the PUB Building was mannerist.

Situated between Somerset Road and Devonshire Road, Group 2 Architects designed the PUB Building based on the concept of H-shaped block with a central service core and a naturally-ventilated lift lobby. The two parallel wings, facing north and south and of unequal height, are linked on the ground and first two floors by a wider transverse area and further up by the lift shaft and the access to each floor. Between the two wings is a landscaped courtyard.

Horizontal emphasis

The building's design proved that "corporate" need not mean "tall". Instead, the horizontal was emphasised in the design, rendering the building approachable and accessible, befitting PUB's role as a public supplier of gas and electricity. The horizontal emphasis of the building's façade is achieved with distinctive rows of vertical fins, arranged in a staggered manner that emphasises horizontal movement. These fins also serve as solar shading devices, which reportedly limit exposure to the sun by 60%. A secondary horizontal rhythm is established by grouping two or more rows of these fins in blocks.

The Singapore Power Building's defining architectural motif is its "inverted ziggurat" façade. The overall building is shaped to taper from cantilevered upper floors to deeply recessed lower floors, creating overhangs that help to shade the finless floors below, a logical solution to the tropical climate. Further attention to design in the tropics was provided with a generous shaded ground floor open-to-sky concourse. The shape, coupled with the step-down façade, makes the building congruent with the various departmental sub-divisions unlike in conventional office building floor plans, while simultaneously creating a unique structural profile. It reflected the actual distribution of office spaces required by PUB's departments at the time, with more space needed on the upper floors. Externally, the two long façades graduate irregularly in width and length by chamfered steps. These chamfered parapets at the ends soften the corners of the building. At the ends the length is emphasised and the various design elements of the façades are toed together visually by vertical projecions housing the staircase. The staggered façade provides views to the exterior, while offering voids in between that afford "breathing space".

One of the hallmarks of corporate buildings of the 1970s was the dedication of the ground floor to public access and use. The Singapore Power Building is entered via wide steps under columns that are three- or four-storeys high. By raising the building on pilotis, these columns provide a lofty feel for the naturally ventilated public lobby areas. From the concourse, which is decorated with wall-relief sculptures, steps lead to upper and lower public service areas, a cafeteria and carparks.

The original design of the Singapore Power Building was executed virtually without later alteration although it would later be surrounded by hotels, the Somerset MRT Station and shopping complexes. Its mechanistic expression complements the scale of development in this locality.

Structural framework

The structural framework of the building utilises a simple system of reinforced concrete beams and slabs, and was originally clad in square mosaic and rectangular ceramic tiles on its walls and columns. The building's foundation comprises large diameter bored piles installed in decomposed sandstone. Beams span an average 7.6 metres except at the main entrance where post-tensioned concrete beams span 15 metres. The auditorium is roofed over by 24-metre long steel trusses with a composite reinforced concrete covering.

Renovation

The Singapore Power Building was renovated in 2006, when Singapore Power chose not to redevelop its corporate headquarters. Instead, it opted to refurbish and reclad the building in silvery metal. When YTL Pacific Star acquired the building in February 2008, it was renamed to its present name. The new owner undertook a S$ 50 million renovation and added more retail space to the building by converting offices, a cafeteria, empty spaces in the lobby areas as well as the carpark and the auditorium. It now has 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2) of offices, 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) of retail space and a 5,000 square feet (460 m2) outdoor refreshment area. The complex now houses a FairPrice Finest supermarket and the first Applebee's restaurant in Singapore when the retail area opened in January 2010.