Kerzner International and CapitaLand have announced the appointment of world-celebrated architect Frank O. Gehry as principal architect and designer for their joint Integrated Resort bid at Sentosa Island in Singapore. Gehry, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, regarded as the “Nobel Prize” of architecture, and the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects, has achieved legendary status for his landmark creations, the most notable being the world-famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The museum represents an amazing construction feat and has encouraged significant visitation to the destination. Since opening in 1997, 8.1 million people have visited the museum, and in the 2005 year, the museum generated economic activity worth S$376.1 million, helping to maintain 4,900 jobs during the year.
Gehry’s work has been described by the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury as: “Buildings that lift the spirit with revelations of how the seemingly ordinary can become extraordinary by acts of imagination that turn the known into new configurations that engage the mind, the eye, that explore unexpected definitions of use and style.”
Reputed to be among the most deeply engaged architects of this century, particularly in testing out new materials and design technologies, and enamored with the architectural process of conceptualizing, mark-making and model-building, Gehry considers context as an important factor in his work.
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, one of the most sophisticated outdoor concert venues in the United States, has a highly sculptural design element with enormous billowing ribbons of stainless steel, designed by Gehry not just for aesthetics, but to focus sound out from the stage so that the audience members are drawn in to feel a part of the total concert experience, even if they are sitting 400 feet (120 m) away. The pavilion has been a success and concerts in 2005 have averaged near-capacity attendance and the 2006 season memberships have been sold out for the first time ever.
When asked of his plans for Sentosa, Gehry said, “Singapore is a unique and diverse society in a very beautiful setting. Singapore’s experience in planning and in the management of the environment is exemplary. The site at Sentosa is like a jewel that needs to be treated gently and respectfully and I am honoured to be participating in this project. I have been here before and have lectured here. I have also known Sol Kerzner for a long time and am delighted to have a chance to work with him.”
Of the Gehry-Kerzner collaboration, Sol Kerzner said, “We envisage for Sentosa a creation that will bring the world under its spell - it will be Singapore’s icon, establishing Sentosa as a significant family destination resort. We consider having Frank join us as architect for the project a great coup.”
Sol Kerzner, founder and Chairman of Kerzner, and winner of the HICAP (Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific) Innovator Award in 2004 and numerous other industry awards transformed the national tourism economy of South Africa when he built Sun City. Subsequently, he reinvigorated tourism in The Bahamas with the creation of the legendary and successful Atlantis, Paradise Island, a 2,317-room resort integrated with a casino and the world’s largest open-air, man-made marine habitat. The resort is undergoing its third phase of expansion, and when completed next year will have over 4,000 rooms including its timeshare development, an expanded waterscape and a new dolphin experience. In its target North American market, the Atlantis brand is second only to Disney as a warm weather destination. Also currently under construction by Kerzner is Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, a US$1.5-billion (S$2.4-billion) development that is the major attraction on The Palm, Jumeirah. Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai will be the largest destination resort in the Middle East, incorporating a waterscape experience twice as large as the water park expansion currently being developed at Atlantis, Paradise Island.
Despite the sheer size of the projects that Sol Kerzner creates, he keeps a close eye on details to find new ways to add value for family-based customers, and to keep each Kerzner product constantly renewed and refreshed and at the highest end of the market. In addition to building one-of-a-kind casino properties, Kerzner has developed and operates, under the One&Only brand, a portfolio of landmark luxury resorts, famous for their unique designs and extraordinary experiences. Having conceived and developed destination resorts and hotel properties in exotic locations such as The Bahamas, Mauritius, Dubai, the Maldives and Mexico that have served as catalysts of tourist visitation to these regions, Sol Kerzner now brings his vision to Singapore.
Said Liew Mun Leong, President and CEO of CapitaLand Group, “We are more than proud to have two top international talents for our Sentosa bid. The visionary and entrepreneurial Sol Kerzner has won international fame for the creation of world-class, family-friendly thematic integrated resorts that have significantly uplifted the tourism receipts in the locations in which they were built. It could be said that his Sun City resort contributed almost single-handedly to the spurt in tourism in South Africa. Similarly, he boosted tourism in The Bahamas through his Atlantis, Paradise Island resort. He is now developing a second Atlantis-branded destination resort in Dubai, and for his first work in Asia, he is extending his visionary conceptual track record to Singapore, in what may lead to his best work yet.
“Frank Gehry, on the other hand, is one of the leading lights in architecture, whose work other architects in this century talk about. Being his first major project in Asia, Frank will do Singapore proud. He is likely to put Sentosa on the global tourism map, in the way he created Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attract millions of people to travel halfway around the world to visit Spain. With them working on the bid, we are confident of delivering a compelling integrated resort development proposal for Sentosa - one that is aligned with the Government’s tourism objectives, with strong appeal to both international visitors and Singaporeans.”