Public space evolution in high-density living in Singapore

Schlussbericht des gemeinsam mit der Professur Sacha Menz im Rahmen des Future Cities Laboratory durchgeführten Forschungsprojekts (2013-2014)
In Asia, the growth of the cities has significantly increased residential development, far above that in urban areas in Europe and North America. In Hong Kong, for example, we are seeing a plot ratio of over 5 in densely populated districts. For example, in Switzerland, a plot ratio of even 1.5 is regarded as high density. Many cities in Asia already have four times as many people per square metre of ground as their counterparts in Europe. High-rise residential towers, thirty to fifty floors high, are not a rarity, and more recent examples show that the limits of residential density have not yet been reached. In addition to increasing housing capacity, such extreme density in urban areas also signalises the loss of public space as an essential buffer zone in which people can meet, socialise, and generally seek momentary refuge from an environment pressing in upon them. 
In Singapore, the team investigated the development of public spaces in residential construction state-funded by the HDB (Housing Development Board) from the 1960s to the present day. These spaces are consciously defined as public spaces, although they are often also used as the communal spaces of purely residential precincts. The examples analysed in Singapore showed clearly that in some cases, these spaces are indeed public used not only by apartment residents, but also by shops, doctor´s surgeries, crèches, and the like. Out of 32 precincts, each with a different organization of public spaces, we systematically examined six cases with a plot ratio of at least 3.0, looking at both public space provision and its effect on social aspects considering both an architectural and sociological bases. 
The present report systematically examines and categorises the built “anatomies” of the precincts with their communally and publicly used spaces, their spatial organizations and their differing user activities and intensities. The effect of shifting publicly used spaces from the ground floor to the vertical axis has not so far been the subject of research, yet it does present a new challenge for future high-density residential developments. The “Pinnacle @ Duxton” building complex illustrates the extremes to which this phenomenon can go, showing that on 2.5 hectares, seven residential high-rises are being interconnected at the 26th and 50th storeys via “sky bridges” to create public as well as communal spaces that people can use for relaxation, retreat, or social purposes. In this example, with a plot ratio of over 9, people per square meter, most of the free space on the ground floor is taken up, resulting in a loss of public space at street level. Accordingly, this free space had to move into the vertical, which in turn hampers accessibility. 
The publicly and communally used spaces in precincts define and present themselves as thresholds or threshold zones between private use and the urban infrastructure. The ways in which public spaces are used are closely related to quality of life within highly dense residential areas. At the same time, economic factors, such as rental yields are significant, but these are not examined within the framework of this study. A particular challenge lies in identifying the different requirements of the ethnically diverse user groups that live in Singapore. The conclusions from this study can offer suggestions for the development of new residential typologies in the future. 
Professor Sacha Menz (Module Leader) 
Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) Future Cities Laboratory (FCL), Singapore-based Researchers: 
Dr. Stamatina Rassia (Researcher, Module X Coordinator, SEC-FCL) 
Dr. Yingying Jiang (Researcher, SEC-FCL) 
Ashwani Kumar (Research Assistant, SEC-FCL) 
ETH-Zurich, Zurich-based Advisers: 
Dominik Bastianello (Senior Advisor, ETH Chair of Architecture and the Building Process) 
Dr. Marie-Antoinette Glaser (Senior Advisor, ETH Centre for Research on Architecture, Society & the Built Environment (ETH-CASE)) 
NUS Tembusu College, Singapore-based Affiliated Advisers:
Dr. Connor Clive Graham (Director at NUS Tembusu College)
Marie Antoinette Glaser, Stamatina Rassia, Yingying Jiang, Ashwani Kumar, Dominik Bastianello, Connor Clive Graham
Sacha Menz