a garden city for the future
November 30, 2016 11:49 PM   Subscribe

Interview with WOHA – a Singapore-based architectural practice: "We aim at merging the megacity project from the past with the idea of a garden city for the future. We want our cities to be cozy, comfortable, natural, and domestic. Our ideal is to create a comfortable garden suburb experience and then replicate it vertically through a megastructure for everyone to enjoy... The beliefs that man is separate from nature and cities are separate from countryside are obsolete. In the Anthropocene era, the whole world is a managed landscape. The only way to preserve nature is to integrate it into our built environment." (via)
Singapore is constrained by its size while Malaysia has a lot of land. Kuala Lumpur has an option to spread horizontally, whereas we can only grow upwards. Real estate prices in Singapore are much higher and that pushes up the construction budgets we work with, which gives us more opportunities to innovate with form and materials...

What we are really driven by, being in Singapore, a land-limited place, is that we are forced to think about high density. That is the most important driving force for us... Singapore is an island city and a nation. It can’t get bigger. We need to work on making it denser in the most exiting way. We are an example for other cities not to get too large and to grow responsively ecologically.
"Forest City": $100 billion bet next to Singapore 'Scares the Hell Out of Everybody' - "Ghost city or $100 billion paradise adjacent to Singapore? Chinese developers build gigantic 'Forest City' in Malaysian Special Economic Zone. 10 km of coastline! 2 bedroom apartments for < $200k. The mental model is Shenzhen: a city that barely existed 25 years ago, across the border from Hong Kong. Population today: 10 million."
posted by kliuless (8 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
(oops, via SRW@interfluidity)
posted by kliuless at 12:00 AM on December 1, 2016

Planet Earth II "Cities" has some beautiful visuals of Singapore, which gives you some hope for the future that could come for the rest of us, if it were only pushed for. Attenborough then contrasts that by standing overlooking London, washed grey by the weather, concreted and sprawling and asks the question about what kind of cities we want.

Powerful stuff— go watch!
posted by Static Vagabond at 5:55 AM on December 1, 2016

Attenborough then contrasts that by standing overlooking London, washed grey by the weather, concreted and sprawling and asks the question about what kind of cities we want.

Y'know, trees are prettier than your average building. Parks look better from above, too. That doesn't actually mean that they're more important to a vibrant city life than those tall buildings. Quite the contrary, as City Beautiful city planners found out to all of our dismay.

And what if the concept of "garden suburb" doesn't seem comfortable to you at all?
posted by praemunire at 9:57 AM on December 1, 2016

These are nice but it's still a very neutered version of nature. This just seems like higher-end landscaping, all concrete with container gardening. Will birds, bee, and butterflies thrive? Animals are out of the question. It's better than what we have now but I wouldn't call this nature.
posted by shoesietart at 1:42 PM on December 1, 2016

I think the Skyville@Dawson project gets across what they're trying to do. Apparently it's lower income housing, and from the outside it doesn't look like much. (Imo.) But everything is designed for the comfort of the residents. The apartments are like little houses, with open designs and windows everywhere that bring the outside in, and every 80 apartments have their own "garden" that stretches across the space between buildings. I guess the idea is to make people feel like they're living in a little village that just happens to be stacked between other villages, in an environement that encourages human interaction - instead of the standard Ballardian nightmare, where residents are just replaceable parts, living in identical hermetically sealed apartments in an artificial environment that stands apart from the outside world.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:16 PM on December 1, 2016

A few notes: the Dawson apartments are a public housing project, but not necessarily for the lower income; a large majority of Singaporeans live in public housing and the prices for flats can be very high, especially on the resale market. From what I've found, the Dawson flats sell for around$100k for the smallest (1br) units to around $500k for the largest (~3br ++) ones. So you'd get a mix of poorer to solidly upper middle class folks.

Also it's really important to remember that Singapore is a tropical country, and the architecture has evolved to work with this. In the 80s, many buildings were designed following British and European layouts and concepts. But most buildings in temperate countries are designed to keep the cold out and retain heat. That led to stuffy buildings that are unliveable in without constant air conditioning. In recent years there has been more attention paid to buildings that work in our climate, often drawing from how traditional houses in the tropics are designed. Like they say in the interview, it's all about increasing air flow.

Which also means that these designs won't work on temperate countries. You generally don't want huge drafts and leaky buildings in winter. In the tropics you can also have lots of trees without caring about autumn, or snow piling up on branches. Ultimately the lesson is to design for the climate and environment you're in. Sadly it took Singapore a long time to figure this out. (So says I as I trudge into the bulky Brutalist building where I work)
posted by destrius at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Singapore styled designs might not translate perfectly into western ones, but I think there's still a lot we in the west could learn from them. In particular the idea of making apartments like vertical villages with sky terraces at regular intervals, and highrises that aren't perfectly rectangular, with lots of glass and windows looking inward at a central atrium as well as outward ones. Anything that encourages communal interaction instead of making common areas dead zones where no one ever goes.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:15 PM on December 1, 2016

Shoesistart, I live in a dense high-rise public housing unit is somewhat similar to Dawson in structure. This morning, I walked my dog down to a field nearby where she romped around a bunch of mature trees and vines, we saw migratory birds snatching fish from the canal and decided not to go further into the patch of secondary jungle to chase a monitor lizard. If you live in public housing here, you also live about 15 minutes walk from green space of some sort, with an increasing mix of landscaped parks being mixed over to wilderness-type parks where they build a path through a wilder space. It's not great - rip up the golf courses, and the long drawn out struggle over the Bukit Brown cemetery/wild space - but there is deliberate urban/nature balance here to make the city very very green compared to other cities. It is not container gardening at all.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:55 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

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