Future condos could have open design, fewer fences

Fenceless condominium One North Residences in Buona Vista. Members of the public can freely use its outdoor plaza as well as visit retail outlets on the ground floors of the residential blocks.
Fenceless condominium One North Residences in Buona Vista. Members of the public can freely use its outdoor plaza as well as visit retail outlets on the ground floors of the residential blocks.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Such estates may use vegetation barriers and share courtyards with public, say observers

Singapore could see more fenceless condominiums in future, with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) nudging more developers to explore more open designs, The Straits Times understands.

Such developments in land-scarce Singapore could feature more connectivity, boundaries of vegetation rather than fences, and be strategically located to encourage the sharing of courtyards and public amenities, said industry players.

Such a move would come amid the success of fenceless neighbourhoods in cities such as Copenhagen, and the prevalence of fenceless condominiums in high-density places like Hong Kong.

But in Singapore, it is likely to come up against concerns about security and the desire for exclusivity.

When contacted, URA referred ST to a 2014 masterplan that stated that the upcoming Marina South area would be a "fenceless community" which would come with through-block links and offer a conducive setting for residents to "naturally" engage with the community, but did not give further details.

So far, there is just one fenceless condominium here - One North Residences in Buona Vista, which was completed in 2009. Members of the public can freely use its outdoor plaza as well as visit retail outlets on the ground floors of the residential blocks. Residents enter lift lobbies to homes via access cards.


One North Residences in Buona Vista is the only fenceless condominium in Singapore. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN 

Resident Sienna Song, 28, an MBA student, said she likes the condominium's "open" aesthetic, adding: "This works only because the location is very quiet, and not facing a (main) road. If it was, we would expect better security. "

Since then, URA has issued a number of tenders for residential developments that stipulate more "visually porous" designs.

In the latest last Friday, for a development in West Coast Vale, it stated its design "shall not be wall-like" on the south and eastern sides facing existing condominiums but have a perimeter "softened through landscape treatment".

Some developers are already exploring the idea of replacing traditional fences with gentler barriers.

The managing director of EL Development, Mr Lim Yew Soon, said that Parc Riviera Condo, the company's upcoming development in West Coast Vale, will have terraced vegetation rather than a fence on the side facing the park connector.

He said of the terraced boundary: "Visually, it will look porous. People can see through. But to physically climb into the development, that would still be a challenge."

Former URA urban planner Chua Yang Liang said a push for fenceless condominiums would be "a step in the right direction", and noted that a lower and more "visually porous" boundary could make the environment appear more spacious.


Members of the public can freely use One North Residences' outdoor plaza as well as visit retail outlets on the ground floors of the residential blocks. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN 

He hoped this would be taken a step further, for instance by making the green spaces in condominiums accessible to the public for certain hours of the day, while situating residents-only facilities such as gyms and pools on upper floors. He added that a higher plot ratio could incentivise developers to explore this concept.

For now, it seems unlikely that many condominiums here will go completely fenceless.

Professor Lily Kong, Singapore Management University's provost and Lee Kong Chian Chair Professor of Social Sciences, said: "Around the world, gated communities connote exclusivity, safety and security, and denizens pay for that privilege and standing.

"As long as there is a price differential between condominiums and public housing, it would be difficult to see how (fenceless condominiums with facilities accessible to the public) would materialise."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2017, with the headline 'Future condos could have open design, fewer fences'. Print Edition | Subscribe