Published Date: 27 Oct 2016
Dr Cheong Koon Hean, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Housing & Development Board (HDB), today became the first Asian and first Singaporean, and the only female to receive double international honour when she was named the 2016 recipient of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development in Dallas, USA. This is her second international award, after being named recipient of the 2016 Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), in July this year.
2 Dr Cheong is the only person to have received both prestigious awards within the same year, a testament to the exceptional role she has played in Singapore’s urban development.
ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development
3 The ULI J.C. Nichols Prize recognizes a person, or a person representing an institution, whose work demonstrates a commitment to the creation of communities that reflect the highest standards of design and development. It is the highest award given out by the ULI and honours the legacy of Kansas City, Missouri, developer J.C. Nichols, a founding ULI member considered to be one of America’s most creative entrepreneurs in land use during the first half of the 20th century.
4 As the 17th Nichols laureate, Dr Cheong joined the ranks of past laureates like internationally renowned architect Lord Richard Rogers, and President of the Rockefeller Foundation Dr. Judith Rodin, when she received the honour at the ULI’s 2016 Fall Meeting in Dallas this morning. Credited for his involvement in more than 150 projects spanning nearly all property types, Lord Richard Rogers is recognized for creating sustainable communities through his people-oriented building design and development. In the same vein, fellow JC Nichols Laureate Dr. Judith Rodin, is widely credited for the tremendous positive impact she has made on people’s lives globally, as well as launching the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, to build resilient cities round the world.
5 2016 Nichols Prize Jury Chairman Marilyn J. Taylor, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design in Philadelphia and a former ULI Chairman, said, “What Dr. Cheong has accomplished in Singapore exemplifies what the Nichols Prize is about -- being an urban visionary, taking chances, weathering the risks and producing ever better results.”
6 In July this year, Dr Cheong was named the recipient of the prestigious 2016 Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award by CTBUH. The award recognises individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of tall buildings and the urban environment, improving the quality of life in the cities that they work in. It is bestowed by the CTBUH Board of Trustees, and is not open for general submission.
7 Dr Cheong is the first government official and urban planning figure to receive this international award, as well as the first female recipient since the award’s inception in 2002.
8 Past recipients of the award include Cesar Pelli who designed Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers, and Lord Norman Foster, whose portfolio includes Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport, and New York City’s Hearst Tower. Last year’s recipient of the award was the late Minoru Mori, one of Japan’s most influential building developers best known for influencing the shape of Tokyo’s skyline with towering buildings such as the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower.
9 Dr Cheong will receive the award in the Illinois Institute of Technology’s iconic Crown Hall, designed by renowned German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, at the CTBUH 15th Annual Awards Dinner in Chicago on 3 November 2016.
10 Mr David Malott, CTBUH Chairman / Principal, KPF, New York City said, “Dr Cheong has been highly influential in steering Singapore’s urban development, which itself is a benchmark for urban development around the world. Under her leadership, the Singapore URA has become one of the world’s most progressive and influential city planning organizations”.
A long-term investment for building closer communities
11 A trained architect-planner, Dr Cheong views urban planning as her calling: “Urban planning works on a much larger scale, and takes more time, but it can influence a city and a country. As an architect, I can build a building in 3 years. As a planner, it takes 30 years to shape a city.”
12 From the beautiful skyline of Marina Bay to the new generation public housing along Punggol Waterway and Dawson’s SkyVille and SkyTerrace, Dr Cheong believes that urban planning is not just about the development of architectural “hardware”, but also the creation of “software” that gives a place greater identity and vibrancy. Hence, since her time as CEO of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), and now as CEO of HDB, she continues to champion the creation and activation of public spaces.
Dr Cheong is the only person to receive the ULI JC Nichols Award and the CTBUH Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award within the same year.
13 “We need to pay more attention to public spaces, and how to activate them so that people will be drawn to congregate there. Place-making and place management are about understanding how people use a place. We must never forget the people,” Dr Cheong said.
14 During her tenure as CEO of URA from 2004 to 2010, she transformed Marina Bay from a tract of empty reclaimed land into a new business and financial district that is today a bustling live-work-play destination. Among the area’s attractions is the Gardens by the Bay – 10 ha of land carved out to construct a futuristic and lush garden, complete with jogging trails, children’s playgrounds and dining places.
15 She also led in the planning and development of major growth areas, such as Jurong, Kallang and Paya Lebar, and guided the formulation of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City Master Plan. A strong proponent of good design, Dr Cheong initiated the Architecture and Urban Design Excellence Programme, setting the stage for the development of many high quality, high-rise buildings. Taking a facilitative approach, policies and urban design plans were developed to incentivise high quality design and features such as sky rise greenery, public spaces, night lighting and urban art. She also championed place-making efforts to bring greater vibrancy to the city. Such integrated efforts have contributed to transforming Singapore into one of the most liveable and beautiful cities in Asia.
16 Since her appointment as CEO, HDB in August 2010, Dr Cheong has steered the organisation towards new approaches in providing homes that are highly liveable and sustainable, and always with a focus on building strong communities. In 2011, she launched the ‘Roadmap to Better Living in HDB Towns’, which guides HDB’s development of well-designed, sustainable and community-centric towns. Under her leadership, new generation public housing projects have progressively taken shape, raising the bar for HDB living.
17 A keen driver of sustainability initiatives, Dr Cheong is also instrumental in creating public housing estates imbued with ‘green’ and ‘blue’ elements that enhance the living environment for residents. These ideas feature prominently as she guided the formulation of new HDB masterplans such as those in Bidadari, Tampines North and Punggol, and most recently, Tengah town.
Singapore as a global leader in urban planning
18 Said Dr Cheong, “Singapore faces huge constraints in land and resources, but through sheer hard work and determination, Singapore has transformed itself into one of the most liveable cities in the world today. Dedicated urban planners have, over the years, created our own innovative planning solutions which other cities now talk about. We must continue to be visionary and bold to make Singapore a great place to live, work and play. But never forget that it’s about planning for people – we want to fill up the city with hopes and memories so we can call it home.