Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple
That looks can be deceiving is an understatement when you look at the new extension of the Wat Ananda Metyrama in Jalan Bukit Merah. Instead of traditional ornamental roofs, gold leaf inlays or intricate carvings, you see a futuristic, cube-like structure that's more luxury condo than place of worship.
But this contemporary facade is exactly what Singapore's oldest Theravada Buddhist tradition temple wanted from their designer, Czarl Architects. "The temple wanted a different look to attract younger devotees," explains Czarl's founder, Carl Lim, who also designed the extension.
The design, however, was not about trying to break new architectural ground. Instead, Mr Lim and fellow architect Anditya Dwi Saputra followed in Buddha's footsteps and sat under a Bodhi tree - which is planted in the grounds of every Buddhist monastery - for inspiration.
"We sat under it and looked up, and discovered various features of the tree, which we incorporated into the design of the building," says Mr Lim.
The five-storey building has a V-shaped plan, and is staggered on each level to make it look tree-like, with branches spreading out.
It houses a dining hall, a museum, a Dharma hall and meditation hall, as well as the monks' abode on the upper floors. Sky gardens, long planters are also incorporated into the design, which Mr Lim says "gives the illusion of an urban 'tree' building, one that offers a visual relief to residents nearby".
Triangular cut-outs in the facade are in fact windows. "We noticed that when sunlight streams through the Bodhi tree, the shadow cast on the ground is shaped like a triangle," says Mr Lim. "Hence, the shape of the windows."
While they look randomly positioned, the windows are actually angled in such a way as to catch the right amount of natural light as required for the interior space. "The constant changing and dramatic play of light and shadow through these windows can be best experienced in the prayer halls, reminding oneself that change and impermanence of life is the only constant."
An aluminium screen by the side of the building has leaf-shaped cut-outs, again inspired by the leaves of the Bodhi tree. The cut-outs are there for ventilation.
Mr Lim points out that the windows' and building's geometric shapes are inspired by traditional Thai temple architecture, such as its pitched roof.
This entry into the World Architecture Festival almost didn't happen. Mr Lim was undecided about nominating it for an award. "We missed the deadline, but by luck, the WAF office said their server was down, and so they were extending the deadline for another week. I guess it must have been a sign," he quips.