Real News‎ > ‎2013‎ > ‎August 2013‎ > ‎

04 August 2013

Woodlands to get 'vertical kampung'
Multi-agency project brings together public facilities, housing under one roof

Source: Sunday Times
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent

Residents in Woodlands will be the first in Singapore to experience the community feel of an integrated building with public facilities such as housing, health care and hawker centres all under one roof.

Planned, and run by multiple government agencies - a first - this vertical "urban kampung", as National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan calls it, will bring together the young and old to live, eat and play together.

At the bottom of the building will be a massive "town square" or community plaza, and at the top, 100 studio apartments for elderly singles or couples.

In between will be a medical centre with about 35 consultation rooms and options for day surgery, senior activity and childcare facilities, shops and watering holes, as well as roof-top decks that residents can turn into community gardens.

Next door is the Admiralty MRT station, plus a basement carpark for 300 cars, and bicycle racks.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Khaw said more integrated buildings will be built if this one is successful.

Work will start next year, with the building ready by 2017. It is being developed by HDB and the Ministry of Health in partnership with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, National Environment Agency, Alexandra Health System and the Early Childhood Development Agency.

Leading them are HDB's deputy chief executive officer Yap Chin Beng, and Alexandra Health chief executive officer Liak Teng Lit.

The groundbreaking concept will hinge on how well the agencies work together. Said Mr Khaw: "A traditional approach is for each agency to carve out a plot, and make plans based on its needs. We will end up with several standalone buildings - workable but not outstanding."

An integrated complex, on the other hand, maximises land use and has been shown to work in other countries, such as Japan.

It all started "quite fortuitously", he told The Sunday Times, when a piece of prime land next to the MRT station became available and was sought by various agencies for their own purposes.

Mr Khaw said he decided to try "a holistic planning approach" instead, focusing on residents' needs.

"We're breaking some new ground," he said. "It is an experiment to create a modern urban kampung within a busy city - one that can pull people together and create a sense of community."

On his blog, he said he was "struck by the level of like-mindedness among the inter-agency stakeholders".

"The design has reflected the tireless effort to develop not a disparate but an integrated development that gels together," he said.

The project created a buzz among architects, with 22 firms submitting concepts.

Home-grown award-winning firm Woha, whose projects include School of the Arts and Stadium MRT station, won with its submission depicting a large "town square" on the ground floor for community activities and for residents to mingle.

Dr Mary Anne Tsao, chairman of the Tsao Foundation which provides a host of services for the elderly, applauded the initiative. She called it "truly a city of all ages where people, young and old, across the generations can work, play, learn, grow and be cared for in an integrated manner".