URA collaborates with Singapore Polytechnic to ideate landscaping for Singapore’s ‘identity corridors’

Landscape, Next-gen Design / 2024

URA collaborates with Singapore Polytechnic to ideate landscaping for Singapore’s ‘identity corridors’

June 20, 2024

Did you know that Singapore is in the process of co-creating its land use and development plan for the next 10 to 15 years together with the public1 through the Draft Master Plan 2025?

One of the public engagement activities is the shaping of five ‘Identity Corridors’ that has been outlined by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2022, building on their Identity Node initiative that was introduced back in 2002 to retain distinctive neighbourhoods.2 The five corridors are Thomson-Kallang (comprising Singapore’s north-south Transit Priority Corridor as well as the Kallang River); Historic East (from Old Airport Road to Geylang Road and Siglap and Bayshore areas); Rail Corridor (including the future Queensway node and the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station); Inner Ring (connecting city fringe districts); and Southern Ridges and Coast (Marina Barrage to the Southern Ridges). These areas are considered to serve as important anchors of activities and movement while also having rich heritage and identity. The public, communities and designers have been invited to share their ideas and actively shape meaningful public spaces as well as enhancing the human-scale infrastructure along these corridors.

Proposals from academia

As a part of the initiative, URA collaborated with Singapore Polytechnic’s (SP) School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE) for the Diploma in Landscape Architecture (DLA) course, where students could apply their theoretical knowledge towards design exercises situated in the Thomson-Kallang corridor. At various stages of the project, the students engaged with representatives from Land Transport Authority (LTA) and National Parks Board (NParks) to gain valuable insights and feedback. They also identified and addressed site challenges with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to ensure alignment with prevailing accessibility standards and industry best practices.

The following are two proposals from DLA’s 2024 graduating cohort, which has been exhibited at their end-of-year show on 8 March 2024. The projects’ primary goal is to improve walking and cycling infrastructure, promote a car-lite lifestyle, and ensure that the corridor’s value is carried to future generations.

Revitalised NaturePlay @Former Kallang Gasworks by Khoo Jun Wei

This proposal aims to transform an approximately 15,000-square-metre area in Kampong Bugis into a Nature-based community park while preserving the site’s industrial past.

Back in 1862, Kallang Gasworks was constructed to provide piped gas in Singapore and became the biggest facility of its kind in Southeast Asia at that time. When the gas production was moved in 1997, its original gasometer structure was retained and a commemorative sculpture was erected. Since 2018, remediation works have been done to clean the soil and prepare it for future development, including a planned ‘car-lite’ residential area with 4,000 homes in 2030.

The proposed enhancements to the Kallang River waterfront include a river edge design that can open up space for various habitats and activities, as well as introducing an off-stream wetland sanctuary with plants that can enhance the water quality. The existing canal is naturalised with several spatial variations to create play spaces for the community and enhance biodiversity. The gasometer structure is designed into the main gateway called the Gasholder Plaza, with vertical gardens, interactive water elements for children and sheltered seating areas. The area surrounding the commemorative sculpture is envisioned to be landscaped as The Meadow, a grassland that can serve as a stop for various bird species.

According to Khoo, “The biggest challenge in the design was creating a feasible solution to transform the current riverbank into a naturalised one. Initially, there were proposals to simply naturalise the river edge with softscapes. However, there was a concern about riverbank erosion, as the potential for water forces to exceed the bank’s resisting forces is high during stormy days when river levels rise significantly. Thus, a compromise was made to propose a gabion wall at the river edge, using crushed concrete from the existing waterfront retaining wall. This approach aimed to ensure material sustainability in the design while allowing the riverbanks to blend in with the surrounding natural environment and also ensuring river edge protection.”

This project was advised by Senior Lecturer Toh Sok Na and Course Chair Emily Lim from the Singapore Polytechnic Diploma in Landscape Architecture programme.

Encounter @Woodleigh Waterfront by Zhang Yiting

Near the Woodleigh Waterworks facility, this proposal envisions the revitalisation of the existing canal and park connector.

The site is located at the upper part of Kallang River, connected to the Bishan Ang Mo Kio Park and Kallang Riverine Park. As it is surrounded by mainly residential and industrial buildings, the primary goal is to create natural leisure spaces that can enhance residents’ experience and promote coexistence with biodiversity.

Currently, several problems have been identified in the site, including a lack of cohesive identity for the shared park connectors, low soil nutrient due to the absence of shrubs, absence of understory and undergrowth in the forest areas, and pollution in the waterfront due to dead leaves and plastic bottles. Endangered eagles have been sighted in the forest, which gives an urgency for its restoration.

The proposed design strategies focus on rejuvenating, preserving, and expanding the woodland areas with native plants and bird-watching shelters. The forest restoration will use the ‘framework species’ method in three stages: removing weeds and dead trees; propagating and installing native species; and finally site retrieval. Birdwatching shelters are designed at a safe distance and constructed with materials that can blend into the surroundings, envisioned to be covered in moss over time. Riverine plantings will soften the water’s edge and filter rainwater, while stepping stone ‘islands’ help to slow down the river stream, fostering habitats for animals.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information.

1 https://www.mnd.gov.sg/our-work/draft-master-plan-2025
2 https://www.ura.gov.sg/Corporate/Planning/Master-Plan/Draft-Master-Plan-2025/Identity-Corridors

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