Call for design ideas

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 23, 2013

Singapore's urban planners have highlighted four public areas where people can gather for social activities and which can serve as leisure and recreational spaces. These are The Lawn @ Marina Bay, spaces along the Singapore River Promenade, an open space in Kampong Glam and the Woodlands Civic Plaza.

The public is invited to come up with creative design ideas for these spaces. Prizes will be awarded for the best designs. Up to 10 winners will win $1,000 each in cash.

Those who want a say in the shaping of public spaces but who do not have any design ideas of their own can participate in the "Pick a bench, pick a location" project. Voting starts in February and the benches will be installed in the places that people choose in the second half of next year.


Room for a skateboard park or food haven 

FEW pedestrians dally when walking between Causeway Point and Woodlands Civic Centre, two shopping centres in the north.

Smack between the two buildings is a traffic junction and an open space, the Woodlands Civic Plaza, paved with concrete, reflecting the sun's heat.

When it rains, people get drenched as the sheltered walkway is narrow and built only to the supermarket in front of the Woodlands Civic Centre. "Many people have commented that the shelter seems to be built halfway because it only provides cover till FairPrice," said Mr Terry Tan, 31, who works at a Woodlands Civic Centre shop. "It would help if the shelter covered the entire plaza."

The area has been earmarked by the Urban Redevelopment Authority as one of the four public spaces which can be improved.

Ms Stacy Law, 26, who grew up in Woodlands, hopes to see small food stalls selling traditional snacks such as "kacang puteh" (peanut mix) and "tutu kueh".

"Food is one thing that Singaporeans are attracted to, and having old, nostalgic favourites will definitely be a crowd-pleaser," she said. "We could also have a mini skateboarding park as well."

This will appeal to youth, as there are many schools in the area, including Republic Polytechnic, Innova Junior College and Riverside Secondary School.



Bringing out area's character in open spaces

THE historic Malay district of Kampong Glam has managed a rare feat: balancing the needs of a conservation area with the influx of hip eateries in its many alleys.

This cheerful blend of the new and old is a huge crowd-puller, with Sultan Mosque and the Malay Heritage Centre drawing in tourists while the cafes, restaurants and shops are often busy.

Yet, most people stay within the establishments and seldom venture to the open spaces in the area near Bugis MRT station.

That could change with the PubliCity plan for Kampong Glam, where a 1,200 sq m patch of grassland is to be redesigned for more user-friendly activities.

It asks the public for ways to improve selected open spaces like the area in Kampong Glam beside Gedung Kuning, a colonial-era mansion. The Malay Heritage Centre is down the street. The Urban Redevelopment Authority says "local community norms should be considered", so any plan must account for the area's character.

Mr Zulkarnine Hafiz, whose eatery Mamanda is within Gedung Kuning, wants a space for dramas and exhibitions, "something with a local flair" that will make people aware of the place's background. Travel writer Vekal Sinh prefers a park, with a Middle Eastern twist to reflect its roots. "It would be good to have a park with benches for people to sit and interact."



Injecting new life along river promenade

TWO linked unloved areas along the Singapore River Promenade may be in for a facelift.

The public has been asked to submit ideas on what can be done to rejuvenate the precinct not far from Clarke Quay.

There is a hive of activity on the side of The Riverwalk and The Central, but the areas in question on the opposite side of the river are relatively lifeless.

The two areas in question are linked via an underpass.

Ms Pearlyn Kwek, 19, who heads to Clarke Quay about twice a month hopes the space could evolve into a food street. "It doesn't just have to be a food bazaar... We should also have street performances and allow local buskers to perform there." An interesting showcase would naturally draw the crowd.

But Ms Zhang Zhining, 31, who heads there once a month, says: "It's nice to have an open or wide space to walk, so I wouldn't mind an uncluttered pathway. "But if something is to be done, perhaps we can have a playground or turn that stretch into an in-line skating or jogging route."

She suggested having small art and design bazaars once a month too, allowing local artists to have public art installations for free.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority is inviting public submissions on possible uses for the area as part of a design competition.



Getting more people to use space

FRISBEE throwers and footballers love it and kite-fliers charge in on weekends but the Lawn @ Marina Bay can be a desolate spot as well.

Go to the site between Marina Bay Financial Centre and The Sail @ Marina Bay on weekdays and there are very few people out and about on the expansive space.

But the Government wants to change that by enhancing the land, which spans almost 140,000 sq ft, or nearly two soccer pitches.

It has launched PubliCity initiative - a competition to gather ideas on how public spaces should be utilised - to help find ways to entice people to use the field more.

Ms Chow Sin Yee, 28, a marketing executive working in Marina Bay, said she does not linger during the day as it is too hot.

"I find the space under-utilised and it is not frequently maintained," said Ms Chow. "More shade and seats could make me stop and stay for awhile."

The Urban Redevelopment Authority said the public could suggest installations like lightweight structures for outdoor movie screenings.



Vote on where to install benches

THE public will now have a say in a project designed to remember the former National Stadium by using refashioned benches from the arena in public spaces.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is launching the "Pick a Bench, Pick a Place" project, to let people vote on where the benches should go.

It is an extension of a design contest held in September last year, where members of the public were invited to give the planks a new lease of life. The URA also commissioned well-known designers to come up with 25 benches.

The diverse designs include one shaped like a wave and another doubling as a seesaw.

A total of 28 benches have been installed at the URA Centre, Marina Bay, Esplanade, Singapore River, Gillman Barracks and Gardens by the Bay.

The URA said so far it has chosen popular spots in line with its aim to showcase the benches and keep alive memories of the former National Stadium.

The public will be invited to vote for their favourite bench designs and where they would like to see them installed. Up to 60 benches will be installed in the second half of next year.

Sales manager Jade Ng, 39, wants benches to be placed at Orchard Road.

She said: "People can rest their tired legs there, and see a piece of history. But I hope such historical items won't be vandalised."


This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 23, 2013

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