Housing Board chief executive Cheong Koon Hean was named the 2016 recipient of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) J. C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development yesterday.
The Singaporean is the first person from Asia to receive this award, which recognises those whose work "demonstrates a commitment to the creation of communities that reflect the highest standards of design and development".
It is the highest accolade given by the ULI, a global non-profit education and research institute, and honours the legacy of developer J. C. Nichols.
Dr Cheong, 59, was chief executive at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for six years before assuming her role at HDB in 2010. At URA, she transformed the Marina Bay district from a tract of empty reclaimed land into a business and financial district.
In 2011, she launched a roadmap to guide the HDB's development of well-designed, sustainable and community-centric towns. She has also pushed for sustainable initiatives in new and upcoming HDB towns such as Bidadari, Tampines North, Punggol and Tengah.
The trained architect-planner, who received the award in Dallas, Texas, said: "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."
This is Dr Cheong's second international accolade.
In July she became the first government official, urban planning figure and woman to be named recipient of the 2016 Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
This 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.
Dr Cheong will receive the award in Chicago on Nov 3.