The Sunday Times says

Building a future kampung spirit

Feedback from people aged 17 to 35 has contributed three key themes to a new masterplan to transform Somerset into a youth-oriented area: urban culture, adaptable architecture and future-ready. These themes, distilled from suggestions through feedback sessions and a two-month-long online poll, indicate that the young are brimming with bright ideas for the area surrounding Somerset MRT station. Suggestions range from repurposing old MRT train cabins as walkways to recycling old pallets into flexible seating for an amphitheatre, to constructing kiosks from materials that can be easily broken down and reused. These ideas reflect not just environmental concerns with their focus on sustainability and multi-purpose usage, but also a desire for more communal spaces where people can hang out and interact.

The modern city that has dominated the human environment since the Industrial Revolution has been recognised as increasingly alienating. Considering that 54 per cent of the global population live in urban areas, a figure projected by the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs to reach 66 per cent by 2050, there is a growing need to rethink urban planning for the future. Singapore's dense cityscape can be a test bed for cutting-edge concepts. After all, this little red dot defined the idea of garden city while racing pell-mell from Third World to First in its modern phase of development. The ideas by the young, who will have to live in this future city, should be regarded seriously and applied beyond the Somerset belt. If these plans work for the youth hub, there is no reason why they should not apply to other communal spaces that are under-utilised: think community and town centres refurbished with multi-purpose street furniture so residents are encouraged to take part in street life and interact more with neighbours. This could be the 21st century version of the traditional kampung spirit.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 12, 2020, with the headline 'Building a future kampung spirit'. Print Edition | Subscribe