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Tengah 700ha Masterplan: Designing the Township of 21st Century

It always intrigues me on how wild urban design planning in Singapore could be. In fact, there are many reasons why these aspirations could be the very guidelines for city planning today. Given the scenario of scarce of land and resource, Singapore has shown what is it like to optimise land usage and existing capital to achieve one of the most liveable cities today.  In fact, the world could have learnt better before repeating the history of Easter Island if urbanisation and resource management are referred to Singapore’s model, where concepts like circular  economy seem to be the ultimate common sense in the next half century to come. Even so, there are many little details here worthy to be learnt and shared about that I have created this public FB album for all to see. Just when you think that Singapore has been developing too rapidly over the last half century to be a developed nation today, wait till the excitements upon 2030.

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What’s beyond 2030? Singapore?

This is merely an illustration I have created based on some cross referencing from various authorities’ masterplan such as LTA, URA, HDB and MPA. Generally, you see a trend of decentralising city centres which makes sense to disperse crowd movements. Also, mega infrastructures are being consolidated to replace existing prime lands like Southern Waterfront City and Paya Lebar with residential and commercial centres. By 2030, you will see the completion of a few more MRT lines which will spur the growth of a few townships, well align to the

mainThis is merely an illustration I have created based on some cross referencing from various authorities’ masterplan such as LTA, URA, HDB and MPA. Generally, you see a trend of decentralising city centres which makes sense to disperse crowd movements. Also, mega infrastructures are being consolidated to replace existing prime lands like Southern Waterfront City and Paya Lebar with residential and commercial centres. By 2030, you will see the completion of a few more MRT lines which will spur the growth of a few townships, well align to the government’s white paper in aiming for 6.9 million by 2030. Oh, and not to forget Tekong Island’s huge land reclamation which I am curious the function of it. All in all, I can only imagine what’s beyond 2030, like how will Singapore be in 2050? Growth, in terms of the population especially, seems to be the only constant here. But that’s the interesting challenge, how do you ensure quality in urban living when the population is ever rocketing? How do you move people around the city efficiently? How do you coexist multiple land typologies such as Residential, Commercial and Industrial, all in the same plot of land? How do you safeguard interest for public space when the cities can not afford to go horizontal but vertically now?

The History of Tengah

So I decided to visit HDB’s gallery where Tengah and North Punggol masterplans are exhibited. Tengah is actually known as the Malay translation of “Middle”. It’s a 700Ha township, the size of Bishan, that is sandwiched between Jurong East, Chua Chu Kang, Bukit Batok and Jurong West, Bulim area. The villagers were relocated to the nearby surrounding towns like Bukit Batok in the 1980s, while Tengah was housing some brickwork companies, which explains one of the districts to be featured as “Brickland”. MINDEF took over the site in the mid-1990s till few years ago.

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Known as “2 West”

The 24th HDB town Masterplan was first conveyed by David Tan, assistant chief executive officer of the Technical & Professional Services Group, JTC Corporation, in his presentation on the 2 West Conceptual Master Plan at the Urban Sustainability R&D Congress 2013.  According to the article which I managed to trace back, “2 West” is born of the aim to “position Singapore as a leading innovation hub in the region centred around three main clusters: world class universities, high-value industries and established R&D institutions. It is actually a follow-up township planning following from the success of One North township where it was  designed to host a cluster of world-class research facilities and business park space, all built to support the growth of Biomedical Sciences, Infocomm Technology (ICT), Media, Physical Sciences and Engineering.

However, “2 West” or known as Tengah now, is geographically strategic to be an integrated industrial township that contains the upcoming Clean Tech Park (CTP), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Wenya industrial estate and part of Tengah estate. It’s a perfect location to bridge the world class education (NTU), high value industries and R&D Institutions (CTP), while being served by dedicated infrastruction like Jurong Region Line and situated north of Jurong East which houses the upcoming High Speed Rail to KL. You can read the public available documents on “2 West” HERE.

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The Hero Shot: E-Deck

Tengah is branded to what many urban designs’ expectation falls on- a “forest” township, surrounded by greenery; a well-integrated township where each land is multi-functional; a green corridor. But, to put bold concepts such as car-free town centres, 100m-wide and 5km-long forest corridor, E-Deck, Active Mobility lane, 5 thematic districts where urban farming and community gardens are encouraged, is an effort where most urban designers can only envisage and get flip-flopped by politics, but not in Tengah. The concept of E-deck is no stranger in Singapore, where most urban designers have embraced the resounding benefit of linking up major amenities, services, transport hubs or public squares with a urban greenery belt, which also functions as stormwater management and common service tunnel & district cooling piping path etc.

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Why is E-Deck a definite feature?

Well, so when I thought the topic of E-Deck deserves a dedicated post, here’s a brief outline. E-deck is a great way of ensuring vibrant, active public nodes throughout the development, yet hiding many back-of-house components. Imagine an elevated greenbelt where you can house various public amenities such as common carparks or utility cabling, or even hiding bus interchange and expressway. Imagine where you can have pedestrians, cyclist or anyone on their PMD personal mobile devices travelling on the elevated green belt, with great view towards the surrounding districts and away from the displeasure of fumes and noise. Then, you have the people moving system such as LRT or electric bus running above the E-Deck, parallel to the many al-fresco dining or open air cafes that are well shaded from the direct sun by the neighbouring tall buildings. The best is yet to come when you can integrate autonomous clean vehicles and Estate Good Mover System along E-Deck that all aims to lessen the congestion in the ever growing township. There are tremendous benefits behind automated moving system as studies like this shows it is actually human behaviour and slow response that potentially caused traffic jams too.

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Five Distinctive Districts

Tengah will celebrate its diversity in urban design identity I suppose. One common observation is that majority of HDB towns share the same identity of streetscape, such as the ever familiar sidewalks, setbacks to HDB blocks and town squares. Tengah will comprise of five districts – dubbed Plantation, Garden, Forest Hill, Brickland and Park. The development is expected to provide 30,000 public housing units and 12,000 private ones when completed. The first batch of flats will be made available from 2018. A considerable portion is reserved for Jurong Innovation District, which is also the Clean Tech Park, which provides jobs to the population of this region.

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Distinctive Mobility Nodes

Besides the much pride about E-Deck, one can realize how Tengah is a test bed for innovation township since CTP and NTU are just next to it. The Mobility Corridor boasts a corridor testbed for Autonomous Vehicles and also acts as a dedicated cycling and pedestrian network. On the other hand, you have the bus priority corridor on the west, in which not much details are revealed about it. It will be cool if it’s a carless corridor that somewhat functions as a rapid bus transit corridor that transports people from North West to Jurong Town, which is positioned as the 2nd CBD of Singapore.

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Kudos to HDB gallery for hosting such interactive exhibition where a considerable team of staffs are around to assist visitors’ queries in regards to Tengah masterplan! Actually I realize that majority of visitors are only there with the interest of knowing the details of first batch HDB orders! That aside, always love it when you have kids and public opinions scribbled as a mean of feedbacks.

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Adaptation and Resilience are the Keys to Urban Design in 21st Century

It will be a long interesting wait to 2030 to see the establishment of little design details to the masterplan. One interesting challenge that urban design needs to face today is the internet of things, how does urban design stay relevant in times where disruptive innovations are all around the corners? Today we can think about Uber, AirBnB which also means a change in car ownership and home ownership. What about tomorrow? Will there be a one day that parks will be the office space of the future? How about drone delivery? How about cultural shifts that determine crowd movements such as Pokemon Go? Will cities like Tengah able to adapt to such shocks?