Singapore has always envisioned itself as a “garden city” even from its earliest years of nationhood. While it celebrated its mid-century mark last year, it continues to reinterpret what that term means. Looking beyond merely having parks and gardens, Singapore’s architects and urban planners have been adopting state-of-the-art practices to push the boundaries of the nation’s infrastructure while ensuring that growth is achieved in an environmentally sustainable way.

Faced with an ever-growing influx of new residents and a scarcer amount of land for development, they are working on new approaches to accommodate everyone while maximising available civic space. 

SUTD: Things to come

The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) has teamed up with renowned university the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to draw on their combined expertise to produce future architects, engineers and urban planners.

The campus, located on the eastern end of the island, officially opened last year and the architecture echoes SUTD’s mandate. Its master-plan by UnStudio and DP Architects incorporates sustainable elements, taking into account the tropical climate.   

The Pinnacle@Duxton: People’s palace

Proving that public housing doesn’t have to be a grim affair, the Pinnacle complex spans seven blocks linked by sky bridges on the 26th and 50th floors. Singaporean architecture firms Arc Studio and RSP spearheaded the design. Built on the site where the first two government housing blocks were constructed, the Pinnacle is a symbol of how far the country has come.   

Marina Barrage: Water works

Access to fresh water is a serious matter here. But this doesn’t mean solutions to storing this scarce resource can’t be fun. The Marina Barrage was constructed in 2008 to form Singapore’s largest reservoir; at 10,000 hectares it is a sixth of the country’s size.

As well as storing fresh water it’s also an architectural wonder and a beautifully executed civic space. You can fly a kite or rent a kayak to row on the reservoir’s tranquil waters, while the breezy green roof, which spans the equivalent of four football fields in terms of size, boasts a panoramic vista of Singapore’s skyline.

Sky Greens: Growth sector

In densely populated Singapore, “building up” refers to human habitation – and vegetables. Conceived by Jack Ng in 2009, Sky Greens applies green technology to the farming process, yielding about 10 times as much fresh produce as traditional farming techniques.

The vegetables are grown in a nine-metre tall farming frame, which holds 38 levels of growing troughs. These troughs are rotated to ensure the seedlings receive the right amount of sunlight. Because the rotation is fuelled by flowing water, each tower only requires 40 watts. “We want to be a solutions provider to meet the challenge of sustainable food production,” says Ng.  

Gardens by the Bay: Dome city

Even from afar, it’s impossible to miss the row of tall sci-fi “super trees” and glasshouse domes of Gardens by the Bay. Comprising two main segments – Bay East Garden and Bay South Garden – and taking up over 100 hectares of reclaimed land, the gardens were orchestrated by UK-based designers Grant Associates and Gustafson Porter after they won an international competition in 2006.

Highlights include the biggest columnless glasshouses in the world. The giant sculptural trees belong to the Supertree Grove, which comes alive at night in a spectacular light show. A skywalk allows visitors to explore the trees’ canopies.  

CleanTech Park: Green cycle

Mooted in 2011 as Singapore’s test bed for cutting-edge environmental and sustainable technology, the government-led CleanTech Park is a 50-hectare eco-business hub that will be completed in three phases by 2030.

CleanTech Park One was opened in 2013. More than 37,000 sq m of offices and laboratories are spread out across six floors and two towers located next to Nanyang Technological University. In the space of two years, it has housed 16 projects ranging from water-recycling solutions to innovative uses of solar energy.

CleanTech Park Two also welcomed its first slate of four projects at the start of 2015. Functioning as the premise’s “green lungs” is the Jurong Eco-Garden. Besides being a tree conservation park with nearly 140 plant and animal species, it includes a holistic stormwater management system that stores rainwater for uses such as irrigation.  

Punggol Eco Town: Model living

In 2007, as plans were being drawn for one of Singapore’s new towns, the Housing Development Board (HDB) decided Punggol was going to be Singapore’s first “eco-town”. Cutting through the area is a 4.2km-long artificial waterway that creates opportunities for waterfront buildings.

Meanwhile, HDB estate Treelodge@Punggol, masterminded by Surbana International Consultants, comprises seven housing blocks, using a range of eco-friendly innovations. There’s a central chute for recyclables and the walls are built with concrete and foam to reduce reliance on air-conditioning.