HDB Introduces Town Design Guides to Strengthen the Distinctive Identities of 24 HDB Towns
To enhance the distinctive identity of each HDB town, HDB will be introducing Town Design Guides for each of its 24 towns. Each customised Guide will chronicle the town’s history, vision and distinct character to unify its future developments as the town evolves. Minister for National Development & Second Minister for Finance, Mr Lawrence Wong, will launch the first guide, “Our Town, Woodlands : Design Guide 2018” at the PEAK Forum on 4 September 2018.
2 Unique to each town, the Town Design Guides will serve as a useful reference document to guide new developments in the town, as well as the rejuvenation of existing areas under various programmes which are carried out by different government agencies and town councils. With a holistic understanding of the history, planning vision and design intent of each town through the guide, these agencies will be better-placed to build on the town’s distinctiveness and maintain its identity when they carry out enhancements and improvements to the town.
3 HDB’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Cheong Koon Hean said: “Every HDB town is planned with its own distinct character and features that reflect the town’s history. With different agencies and the town councils carrying out regular enhancements and improvements throughout the life cycle of the town, it is important to align all the different agencies’ efforts and ensure a coherent design and town identity. Hence, HDB as the master planner, is taking a step further by publishing a Design Guide for each town. Over the next five years, every town will have its own Design Guide. This will guide the agencies, town councils, and their design consultants, as they carry out improvements to the towns in the years to come. In this way, we continue to strengthen the identity of each town, preserve the distinctive local flavour, and deepen the sense of belonging among residents to their home.”
4 The Town Design Guide consists of three key scales – town, neighbourhood and precinct:
More details of the layers are available in the Annex.
5 Woodlands, one of the towns identified for renewal under the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme, is the first to have its own Town Design Guide. The Woodlands Town Design Guide sets out the context and history of Woodlands, and the planning, urban design and architectural design intents conceived for the town.
6 A middle-aged town comprising both old and new areas, Woodlands is a bustling town and growing Regional Centre of the north. Many exciting developments have been planned for the town under the ROH programme, to introduce more unique facilities, leisure activities, employment opportunities, and housing developments; while in existing built-up areas, various rejuvenation projects are taking place under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP). As these developments unfold, the guide will serve as a useful reference to shape and strengthen the identity of Woodlands Town.
7 From as early as the 1880s, the area was known as “Woodlands”. The name originated from the many Keranji trees that dotted the coastline, which when viewed from the Johor side of the Straits, gave the area a heavily wooded appearance. When planning for Woodlands began in 1966, a “wooded” theme was chosen for the town, to reflect its history and the gentle undulating terrain of the area.
8 Designed based on the Neighbourhood concept, Woodlands comprises nine neighbourhoods defined by major roads. The town is comprehensively planned with good connectivity to amenities and abundant community spaces to encourage interaction.
9 Along the key corridors frequently used by residents, there are opportunities for developments fronting them to incorporate unique visual elements to create street character and enhance the identity of the town. One example is the scenic WoodsVista Gallery that will be developed under the ROH programme. In line with the “wooded” theme of the town, this 1.9-kilometre-long community link will be set amidst lush greenery, allowing residents to walk, jog or cycle seamlessly from the Woodlands MRT station to the Woodlands Waterfront; or simply relax and take in scenic views of the town at strategically located rest points and activity nodes. Similarly, the existing park connector that runs from the east to the west of Woodlands will be transformed into a “Social Corridor”, with opportunities to incorporate colourful tiered planting and activity pocket spaces such as community gardens and 3-Generation facilities along the park connector and MRT viaduct.
Woodlands is divided into 5 areas, each with its own distinctive sub-theme.
10 Complementing the “wooded” theme for Woodlands Town are five distinctive sub-themes which have been developed based on the social and physical features of each area within the town. These sub-themes will guide the design of the public spaces and landscaping for each area, thereby strengthening its identity.
11 Woodlands Central – the heart of Woodlands – for example, has been planned as an active centre with a variety of spaces and vibrant streetscape. In line with the “urban” theme, the design of community spaces could include vibrant streets and thoroughfares with greenery interspersed at public open spaces, roof decks and sky terraces. For landscaping, trees with regular profiles and symmetrical forms could be selected for a controlled landscape. Some suggested tree species include the Umbrella Tree and Chengal Pasir.
Vibrant streets and thoroughfares exemplify the public spaces in the urban-themed Woodlands Central (top),
while trees with regular profiles (clean straight trunks, tiered branching, and symmetrical form)
can be selected for a controlled landscape (bottom).
12 Woodlands East, on the other hand, is anchored by the landmark developments of Kampung Admiralty and Admiralty Place to form the Community Nexus of the East. With much of the area made up of existing communities, the focus of the area is in creating opportunities to strengthen community ties and making spaces inviting for community interaction. In keeping with its “community” theme, community spaces should be designed to encourage and enhance interactions among residents of all ages. These could take the form of community plazas, pockets of activity space incorporated into pedestrian thoroughfares, or community gardens tended by the residents. Trees with uniform shapes and soothing colours such as the leopard tree and fern-leaf tree, could also be selected for landscaping.
Spaces that promote interactions amongst residents characterise the community-themed Woodlands East
13 The design of the façades and roofscape, as well as the colour palette of the buildings, also play a key role in unifying the identity of the area. In Woodlands Central, for example, façade designs can be varied and dynamic, while a bold roofscape is recommended for the landmark public housing development. The suggested palette has light greys with contemporary accents of deeper greys and browns, in keeping with the urban theme. Community-themed Woodlands East, however, is characterised by bright and earthy accent colours which complement its light base colours.
14 Within each neighbourhood, individual precincts or developments can also have their own unique design concept and identity, while still being aligned with the overall town theme and neighbourhood sub-themes.
15 By drawing on the neighbourhood theme, character, heritage or historical context of the area, the design of precinct facilities and children’s playgrounds can help to reinforce the precinct identity, and form part of the social memories of residents. For example, playgrounds in Woodlands Central can be designed with the use of bright colours and sculptural elements to bring out the bold and vibrant character of its urban theme. In comparison, playgrounds in Woodlands East can feature kampung-inspired play equipment such as animals, fruits and vegetables, to strengthen its community theme.
Playgrounds in Woodlands Central can be designed with bright and bold colours to reflect the “urban” theme (top),
while those in Woodlands East which has a “community” theme can feature kampung-inspired play equipment (bottom).
16 A variety of street furniture, such as seating areas in the void decks and landscaped areas, can be provided to create interest and express the precinct design concept, while at the same time meeting the needs of different users. The Town Design Guide sets out the key principles to be considered in designing seating, such as aesthetics, ergonomics, maintenance and placement.
17 As the designs of public housing evolve, more attention will be paid to infusing character and identity into the towns. The introduction of a Town Design Guide for each town marks a key milestone in our journey towards well-designed, sustainable and community-centric towns under our Roadmap to Better Living in HDB Towns. Going forward, HDB will continue to seek out new planning concepts and design ideas to create towns with strong identities to foster a strong sense of place and belonging for Singaporeans.
 The HDB PEAK forum is a platform for the sharing of best industry practices and knowledge on developing a highly liveable environment. The annual gathering is attended by building professionals comprising architects, builders, engineers, and academics.