Cities in the Sky: Elevating Singapore's Urban Spaces

Swinal Samant
Senior Lecturer
National University of Singapore, Singapore

Singapore has seen a phenomenal and unprecedented transformation from swampland to a high-density urban environment since its independence in 1965, made possible largely and single-handedly by the sustained efforts of its government. Indeed, urban space is not only a precious and contested commodity, but also a key vehicle for achieving social, environmental, economic, and cultural sustainability. The dense urban context in Singapore has seen an emergence of, and increase in, elevated spaces in the form of sky gardens, skybridges and sky courts in a range of building types, seemingly seeking to tie together the different horizontal and vertical components of the city.

This presentation, therefore, examines the effectiveness of elevated urban spaces and pedestrian networks in Singapore, and their ability to contribute to the horizontal urban transitions, and consequently to urban vitality, access, and connectivity. It does this through the analysis of two key developments: Marina Bay Sands and the Jurong Gateway. In particular, it considers the implications of certain constraints placed on urban spaces by their inherent location at height, in addition to those of the familiar capitalist-driven privatization and prioritization of economic gains, the pursuit of a global image, over-management of spaces, and utilitarian approaches. The presentation argues that some of these trajectories pose detrimental effects on the public accessibility of these spaces, which in turn lead to such spaces being underused and therefore adding redundancies and further stress to Singapore's urban land. Finally, the presentation outlines key strategies that may overcome the aforementioned issues, including the disjuncture associated with elevated spaces, such that they may become a seamless extension of urban spaces on the ground.