New annual event launched to get students interested in sustainable city planning

Students from Hwa Chong Institution presenting their urban design for Paya Lebar Central to Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Home Affairs, on Tuesday (April 26).
Students from Hwa Chong Institution presenting their urban design for Paya Lebar Central to Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Home Affairs, on Tuesday (April 26).ST PHOTO: JOANNA SEOW

SINGAPORE - Students at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Centre on Tuesday (April 26) took part in activities like art jamming and a forum with a URA planner, on the first day of a new annual event aimed at spurring their interest in sustainable city planning.

The Urban Planning Festival runs till Friday at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road, and is part of URA's efforts to reach out to secondary school students and pre-university students. Other activities lined up include a workshop on making models of cityscapes and career information sessions.

Careful and comprehensive planning for Singapore's rejuvenation as well as a forward looking attitude need to be passed on to future generations, so that the city remains vibrant, liveable and exceptional, said Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Home Affairs, at the launch of the festival on Tuesday.

"It is therefore critical that URA reaches out to excite, engage and energise all of you, our younger generation of Singaporeans, because we are custodians of this city for you and you will in turn be stewards of our urban landscape for generations that come after you," he said.

Mr Lee stressed the importance of learning about the city's unique circumstances, challenges and opportunities. "When we know more about how Singapore is designed and planned, and how much effort it takes to make things work, how to bring different interests, different considerations together, how to design estates so people can live side by side harmoniously, (then) our sense of identity, of purpose, and of what it is to be Singaporean can grow stronger."

As part of its student outreach, URA has also been running an annual competition for pre-university students called Challenge for the Urban and Built Environment (Cube) for seven years.

Last year's teams from 10 junior colleges and five polytechnics designed plans to create a vibrant business hub and public spaces at Paya Lebar Central, to help with decentralising the city centre. The plans and models they created over the four day workshop are on display at the URA Centre for one month, until May 27.

The winners of the contest were also announced on Tuesday. Catholic Junior College (CJC), Hwa Chong Institution and Raffles Institution emerged as the top three teams, receiving cash prizes of $1,600 each. 

The CJC team designed an elevated pathway connecting the various components of the Paya Lebar site – from an old market there as well as residential and commercial sites – and roofs with a woven look reminiscent of traditional Malay ketupat (rice dumplings in woven leaf cases). 

The team’s plan for the commercial building at the centre of the site was to have three arch-shaped buildings rather than one solid block, so that the rest of the site is still visible through the centre.
“We wanted to emphasise physical connectivity and visual connectivity,” said JC2 student John Soh, 18, one of the 10 team members.

Team mate Lee Ryan, 18, said they decided on an interweaving theme after talking to Paya Lebar residents, who said they valued the rich heritage of the area.

“We thought planning for decentralisation meant making Paya Lebar a bustling centre, but we found out that we have to strike a delicate balance between residents’ desire for cultural identity and integrating places of commercial interest,” he said.