Proposals for Paya Lebar Air Base development to be ready next month
Proposals for Paya Lebar Air Base development to be ready next month. Connectivity, empathy, and community building are urban development buzzwords, and the public will soon see how such concepts translate into built form when proposals for the Paya Lebar Air Base area are shared later this year.
When the Paya Lebar Air Base is relocated in the 2030s, 800ha will be freed up for development between Hougang and Serangoon to the west and Pasir Ris and Tampines to the east.
In collaboration with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), two teams from the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) and the Singapore Institute of Planners are currently developing conceptual ideas and proposals for the area, which are expected to be ready next month.
The SIA’s newly elected leadership stated in an interview with The Straits Times earlier this month that because the URA’s long-term land use plan review is taking place concurrently with the Paya Lebar planning exercise, architects and planners have been able to incorporate some of the ideas raised during the review into their plans for the area.
“You can always talk about connectivity and empathy, or community building in a meaningful and endearing way,” Tiah Nan Chyuan, the institute’s first vice-president, said.
“Now we have the opportunity to turn some of these words into actual working drawings and diagrams.”
Last month, National Development Minister Desmond Lee stated that those working on the project have proposed turning the cluster of old airport buildings on site into a heritage district, while others have suggested turning the area into a “happiness project” that promotes community bonding.
According to SIA president Melvin Tan, 47, the teams have completed the concept master plan for the area and have moved on to the urban design phase, which is expected to be completed next month.
He went on to say that the public and private sectors, as well as the general public, have been working more closely on the long-term plan review.
For its part, the institute hosted a review workshop for its members, with participants bringing drawings and sketches to illustrate their ideas.
Mr Tiah, 45, stated that some conversations at the workshop piqued the URA’s interest, and that the agency plans to engage SIA members further.
While the discussions are still in their early stages, Mr Tiah believes they will involve a wide range of stakeholders.
“The idea here is that policy is no longer solely the domain of the public sector; the private sector has a role to play,” he explained.
Apart from discussions, Mr Tan stated that he believes the Government’s more consultative approach means that private sector architects will have more opportunities to assist Singapore in meeting some of the targets it has set for the coming decades.
This pleases him, given architects’ role in the built environment, which includes not only building design but also upstream planning.
Citing the country’s sustainability goals, such as plans to phase out internal combustion engines by 2040, Mr Tan stated that architects are well-positioned to help these goals be realized through their “integrator role.”
This entails coordinating the work of various parties, such as developers and engineers, as they collectively translate policymakers’ goals into on-the-ground infrastructure changes.
While the government sets policy and land developers have visions for their projects, architects will translate these into tangible outcomes for everyday users, such as planning for substations for increased power load and vehicle charging provisions, according to Mr Tan.
Mr Tiah added that, with limited new land to build on, brownfield sites – previously developed sites – will play an important role in Singapore’s development in the coming years.
Mr Tiah stated that adaptive re-use of buildings is more sustainable because it avoids the carbon footprint of demolition and rebuilding, and that schools are one type of building that lends itself to new uses.
“A lot of these structures are in existing neighborhoods and communities, and when they’re torn down, it’s a big disruption,” he explained, adding that the government has already re-used some school campuses.
“These are perfect examples of infrastructure that has already served its primary purpose and is now beginning to serve the neighbourhood in different ways,” Mr Tiah said, adding that many aspects of schools can be easily adapted for different uses, such as using canteens for communal dining, halls for activity spaces, and school fields for urban farms.
Mr Tan went on to say that, in addition to creatively repurposing built infrastructure, there is room to consider how Singapore’s green and blue spaces may change over time and how these can be factored into the country’s plans.
Mr Tan stated that green and blue spaces are dynamic and that planning should take this into account, citing Dover Forest, a former plantation site that has been covered by secondary forests since the plantation was abandoned.
The Housing Board revised its plans for Dover Forest last year, announcing that development plans for the forest’s western half will be paused and reviewed in about a decade. Meanwhile, there will be a large nature park built there.
Mr Tan stated, “Green and blue spaces can dynamically evolve with the city and be integrated into our developments.”
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