Urban regeneration – bringing back the kampung spirit

During the topping out ceremony at Paya Lebar Quarter, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong explained why Singapore government has the constant desire to change and improve the city and its infrastructure: “with an attractive city, we will have a competitive business centre that can create good jobs and opportunities for our people. We can then provide the best possible living environment and a good home for Singaporean families.”

Urban Regeneration
  • 19 Jul 2018
  • by
  • Tony Lombardo GMT

As Singapore progresses, the city will grow and the need for economic renewal and enhancement through urban regeneration will be the key. It gives unused and underutilised spaces a new lease of life by repurposing them to stay relevant with the times. It is about improving the infrastructure, economy and social needs of each area. 

Breathing new life into forgotten precincts

One such area will be released for sale under the Government Land Sales (GLS) is Kampong Bugis. It will be a put up for sale under the private sector master developer scheme announced by the government in 2017. Under this scheme, the private sector master developer will have the flexibility to plan and develop the entire district in phases. Traditionally, the Singapore Government offers land for sale on a plot-by-plot basis.

With large scale projects like Kampong Bugis, it is crucial that the developer understands and incorporates the needs of investors, home owners and tenants who will work, live and play in and around the area. The developer must keep in mind two key questions: “What is the intended result?” and “For whom?” With a focus on community living and working in the area, the incorporation of communal spaces and social cohesion will be essential in a metropolitan city. 

According to the World Bank, amenities such as town squares, waterfronts and well-designed public spaces are critical to the wellbeing and the development of communities and its people, who often do not have spacious homes and gardens to retreat to. Public spaces are the living rooms, gardens and corridors of highly built up urban areas. They serve to extend small living spaces and provide areas for social interaction and economic activities, which improves the development and desirability of a community.

Bringing back the kampung spirit

A recent survey by Institute of Policy Studies showed a divide between those living in private and public housing. The divide could be due to the side effect of Singapore’s rapid modernisation and growing affluence which may have caused the erosion of the ‘kampung spirit” (a sense of social cohesion in a community).

The Singapore government recognised the value of the “kampung spirit” and has sought to preserve it through various infrastructural means. They have started integrating public and private residential developments, building new community centres, sports facilities, malls, parks and hawker centres to encourage social interaction between neighbours living in public and private housing. These public spaces play a vital role in providing opportunities for people of all age groups and background to socialize with one another.

During the planning and design phase, conversations can be held to understand the community’s needs and wants, address their concerns, learn about the community’s history and cultural roots. All these findings can then be incorporated into to the development plans. By refashioning an underutilised area into a place of community bonding, the ‘kampung spirit’ will return.

Urban regeneration holds the key to promoting an inclusive society and creating a sense of purpose and belonging. At its core, urban regeneration puts communities at the centre of the decision making, when it comes to place making.

A place is not just about buildings. It is the intangible qualities of the place, such as the life, the warmth, the vibrancy and the energy of the place that draws people to it. At Lendlease we are committed to continue delivering infrastructure and designing places and spaces for generations to enjoy. We look forward to playing our part in the transformations of Singapore.

The article first appeared in The Edge Property Singapore on 28 May 2018. 

Tony Lombardo is the CEO of Lendlease Asia.  Lendlease celebrates its 60th anniversary around the world in 2018.

Urban Regeneration