In a city renowned for its green cover and public spaces, the opening of a new park may seem as exciting as bringing sand to the beach; yet the new Lakeside Garden, a 53-hectare public park deep in the country’s heartlands, is a big deal. It is the first iteration of Jurong Lake Gardens, a network of green spaces surrounding Jurong Lake that joins the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay as Singapore’s third national garden.
In addition to Lakeside Garden, Jurong Lake Gardens will eventually include the renovated Japanese and Chinese Gardens, along with a future Garden Promenade to the east, and is cast as the people’s garden, your friendly neighbourhood park in the ‘burbs. Yet as Singaporeans know all too well, no district is safe from the city’s perpetual reinvention—not even the suburbs. As part of Singapore’s plans to decentralise development and relieve pressure on the city centre, the Jurong Lake District is designated as a future regional business district (and potential transit hub: if the proposed Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail project is revived, it will terminate in Jurong). When this plan is realised, Jurong Lake Gardens will be at the centre of the action.
The design of Lakeside Garden, by CPG Consultants (CPG) and Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl (RSD), was completed before the development of the Jurong Lake District master plan. The park is planned, however, with the future in mind. Connections to the adjacent parks are maintained, access to Lakeside Garden is streamlined, space is set aside for a people mover system (PMS) and future connections to networks such as the Round Island Route.
Before it was a neighbourhood park and a national reservoir, Jurong Lake was surrounded by freshwater swamp forest. Although much of the swamp was lost to development over the years, and a concrete edge had been built around the lake, a biodiversity audit undertaken at the beginning of the project found 131 different species in Lakeside Gardens alone. Conducted by Subaraj Rajathurai, a well-known local wildlife consultant, the total count includes 85 species of birds; 14 butterflies; 12 mammals; nine amphibians; seven reptiles; and four odonates (dragonflies and damselflies).
While limited in their treatment of the water’s edge, CPG and RSD have still managed to integrate water features throughout the park. The topography and path levels are designed to accommodate a one-in-50-years storm event and future sea level rise, while 4,750 metres of swales and streams collect runoff from the entire catchment of the park, slowing the water down and filtering nutrients as they channel it into the reservoir. A small amount of runoff from the surrounding residential estates undergoes the same process through the Neram Streams. Here, an existing concrete drain cutting across the site was naturalised. This split the flow into a delta-like formation of streams, meandering through islands of vegetation. The banks of the streams are steep, with the capacity to handle a one-in-10-years storm event. The rocky stream beds are slowly being colonised by riparian plants, and one particularly lush stretch of the stream has been adopted by a research group from NParks, with support from the Temasek Foundation, for a study on vector-repellent planting.
The water play area allows children to become comfortable with water; they can splash in the small cascades over the stepped platforms that bring the water in; watch as the tide rises and then recedes; get messy in the sand play; and watch it seep through the sand to the eco-ponds, where several species of fish have found their way in.
The park is anchored by three key community amenities: PAssion WaVe @ Jurong Lake Gardens in the north; Garden House bordering the grasslands; and the ActiveSG Park, whose outdoor pool overlooks the Neram Streams. The integration of architecture and landscape was central to the design intent. PAssion WaVe, for example, is highly permeable, sitting lightly on the edge of the lake to enable views and access to the lake. Greenery climbs the façade, and the ground floor is designed to accommodate flooding in a severe storm event (viewing decks, offices and facilities are all elevated onto the second floor).
Elsewhere, this integration is used to conceal function, such as at Clusia Cove where the water treatment system is concealed under a planted ravine, and the public amenities block is built into a landscaped mound, with a sweeping roofline articulating the topography. Garden House, a restored bungalow, is the exception, following its own distinct architectural style. It is used for events, beginning with the first Singapore Garden Festival Horticulture Show in April, and its grounds are home to 300 allotment plots for gardeners from the neighbourhood.
In many ways, Lakeside Garden has been lucky from the beginning. As the first iteration of the Jurong Lake Gardens, it brought a new focus to the potential of the district; and as the various stakeholders in the project realised its significance, the design was able to expand and achieve more than initially planned.
With the popularity of Lakeside Garden and the enhancement of the Chinese and Japanese Gardens in progress, Singapore’s western suburbs are a space to watch.