Published Date: Issue Feb/ Mar 2019
HDB Town Design Guides chronicle the history, vision, and distinct character of each of our 24 towns, guiding and unifying the development of each town.
Look around Singapore, and you will not find 2 towns which are exactly the same. Each of the 24 HDB towns is planned with its own distinct character, with features that reflect the town’s unique history.
Punggol was developed as Singapore’s first Eco-Town with iconic waterfront housing districts
Left: A couple taking a stroll around the rejuvenated Bedok Town Centre; Right: Family time at a playground in Woodlands
As the master planner of these towns, HDB seeks to preserve the distinctiveness of each town, even as it undergoes enhancement, development and rejuvenation by different government agencies and the town council throughout its life cycle.
Enter the Town Design Guide. Launched in September 2018 for Woodlands, Town Design Guides will be progressively published for all HDB towns over the next 5 years.
The Town Design Guide presents opportunities for HDB and its partners to collectively shape new developments and rejuvenation of existing areas in HDB towns
Chronicling the history, planning vision, and design intent of each town, the Town Design Guides will serve as a useful reference to guide all the different agencies’ efforts and ensure a coherent design and town identity.
From the town’s theme and concept, to its broad connectivity plans, and precinct facilities such as playgrounds and street furniture, the Town Design Guide sets out the context and history, as well as the planning, urban design and architectural design intents conceived for the town at 3 scales: town, neighbourhood, and precinct.
With a holistic understanding of the context, the various agencies, town council, and their design consultants, will be better-placed to preserve and strengthen the town’s identity as they carry out regular enhancements and improvements to the town.
Interview with the team behind the Woodlands Town Design Guide
Dwellings catches up with the team behind the launch of HDB’s first Town Design Guide, “Our Town, Woodlands: Design Guide 2018” to learn more about the planning process, and how the guide will shape the development of HDB towns.
The HDB Town Design Guide is a joint effort between the Research & Planning Group and the Development & Procurement Group. From left: Executive Architect Heng Ching Lin, Senior Architect Lloyd Ng, Deputy Director (Urban Design Studio 1) Rachel Hoh, Executive Architect Joyc Leong, Group Director (Research & Planning) Dr Chong Fook Loong, Director (Urban Design Department 1) Wong Li Eng, Deputy Director (Urban Design Studio 3) Derek Chik, Architect See Yong Feng, Deputy Director (Design Policy) Jeremiah Lim, Senior Architect Petrina Yeap, Executive Landscape Architect Benjamin Leow, Director (Landscape and Design) Brian Low, Senior Architect Terence Ku
Q: What spurred the development of the Town Design Guide?
Every town is planned with its own distinct character and features that reflect the town’s history. Throughout the life cycle of the town, regular enhancements and upgrading works are carried out by different government agencies and town councils. The Town Design Guide was born out of the need to unify the developments within our towns even as they evolve over time.
Through the Town Design Guides, HDB hopes to provide our partners with a holistic understanding of the planning vision for each town, so that they can continue to build on its unique identity and character when they carry out enhancements and improvements to the town. This will help preserve the distinctive local flavour, and deepen the sense of belonging among residents to their home.
Q: What were some of the challenges and learning points in developing the Town Design Guide?
Developing the themes for the town was one of the most challenging yet critical parts of the process, as it required a good understanding of the local context and history, and translating the architectural intents into clear principles that can be applied and implemented by our consultants and partners.
Within HDB, the close collaboration between the Research & Planning Group and the Development & Procurement Group brought together a team of professionals – from planners to landscape architects – each infusing their expertise and ideas into the formulation of the town guide.
Equally important was the feedback and support we garnered from our partners – the various government agencies and town councils whom we work closely with. They gave us a clearer understanding of the considerations and needs of our stakeholders and residents, and helped us produce a guide that would be truly useful to everyone.
Q: How were the other agencies and residents consulted during the development process for the Town Design Guide? How was their feedback incorporated into the guide?
In developing the Town Design Guide, we tapped into various programmes to engage with the community and seek residents’ feedback. For example, in unveiling the masterplan for new areas like Bidadari, Tampines North and Tengah, we held exhibitions to showcase the key planning concepts for the towns, and invited the public to give their feedback on the plans.
Similarly, in existing towns that are identified for renewal under the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme, residents would be invited to share with us their suggestions on the improvements they hope to see in the town, through focus group discussions and exhibitions.
Woodlands, one of the towns that will be transformed under the ROH programme, is the first town to have its own Town Design Guide. We incorporated the ROH blueprint into the guide, as an opportunity to shape the new and upcoming areas that have been earmarked for development.
In addition to public feedback, our partners, such as the town councils and other government agencies, were also an important source of feedback. From them, we gained valuable inputs on what would be useful to them and their consultants in design and planning of our towns.
As we progressively develop the design guides for other towns, we will refine our process, and incorporate learning points from the ones before. Ultimately, we hope to achieve a clear identity for each town and sustain the quality of design in the overall built environment.
An aerial perspective of Woodlands Town
Our Town, Woodlands: A Design Guide 2018
Woodlands is the first HDB town to have its own Town Design Guide. The bustling Regional Centre of the North comprises new and old areas, and is one of the towns identified for renewal under the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme.
Many exciting developments have been lined up for Woodlands, including new facilities and housing developments. In existing neighbourhoods within the town, various renewal projects are also being carried out under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP).
The Woodlands Town Design Guide, comprising three key layers – town, neighbourhood and precinct – is a useful reference to shape and strengthen the identity of Woodlands.
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 selected for the town, to reflect its history and the gentle undulating terrain of the area.
Building on the ‘wooded’ theme of the town, WoodsVista Gallery, a 1.9 km-long community link will be developed amidst lush gallery as part of the ROH programme. Residents will be able to walk, jog, or cycle seamlessly from Woodlands MRT station to the Woodlands Waterfront, or simply relax and take in the scenic views of the town’s strategically located rest points and activity nodes.
Within Woodlands, the town is further divided into 5 areas, each with its distinctive sub-themes that complement its overall ‘wooded’ theme: urban, nature, community, wellness, discovery. These sub-themes were developed based on the social and physical features of each area within the town, and will guide the design of public spaces, landscape, streetscape, and facades.
The 5 themes that underpin the planning of Woodlands town
Woodlands Central, the heart of Woodlands, has been given an ‘urban’ theme to complement the plans to develop it into an activity centre with a variety of public open spaces and vibrant streetscape. Streets and thoroughfares with greenery interspersed at public open spaces, roof decks, and sky terraces are examples of how community spaces in Woodlands Central could be designed.
The design of the facades 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, facade designs can be varied and dynamic, while a bold roofscape is recommended for its landmark public housing development. The suggested palette has light greys with contemporary accents of deeper greys and browns, in keeping with the ‘urban' theme.
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 could be designed with bright colours and sculptural elements to bring out the bold and vibrant character of its ‘urban’ theme. A variety of street furniture, such as seating areas in the void decks and landscaped areas, could also be provided to create interest and express the precinct design concept.