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Ten Points for Liveable Cities: Lessons from Singapore

Urban populations are expanding at an exponential rate as people are migrating to city centers where economic opportunities promise social mobility and access to education, health resources, and where employment is more abundant than in rural areas.  Nations once considered in the "third world" are making leaps to accommodate growing populations with thoughtful considerations in designing these new urban capitals.  Population trends have shifted considerable and have contributed to some of the densest urban cities never before seen in history.  The rise in the classification of cities as "mega-cities" and the problems that such high population densities face speak to the fact that our cities have reached a saturation point that needs to addressing. 

© Flickr User WilliamCho
© Flickr User WilliamCho

Singapore, an island nation in the Asian Pacific, is the third densest country in the world. Last year the Center for Liveable Cities and the Urban Land Institute participated in a summit of leading planners and policy makers to discuss the steps that Singapore was taking in its development in response to its growing urban populations.  The result of the conference was a list of ten points that contribute to making Singapore a liveable high dense city.  

© Flickr User Chooyutshing
© Flickr User Chooyutshing

The most important aspect in the successes that Singapore has seen is the forethought that has gone into designing its cities with a "people first" strategy.  Patrick l. Phillips of the ULI writes "What, where, and how we build to accommodate these changes [restructured capital markets; changing energy costs; population and demographic shifts; changing housing needs; and advances in technology] will distinguish the successful cities from those that struggle".  10 Points for Liveable High Density Cities: Lessons from Singapore shows "how Singapore has turned the challenges of rapid urbanization into opportunities, creating an appealing living and working environment".  The power of the document is that the points are applicable universally and are feasible when they are part of a progressive transformation of the built environment as part of rapid urbanization.

© Flickr User Linkway88
© Flickr User Linkway88

Follow us after the break for more on the 10 Points for Singapore.

Point 01: Plan for Long-Term Growth and Renewal
Establishing medium- and long-term goals helps stabilize the expectations of the future of the city amid changing populations and demographics and fluctuating economic conditions.  By collaborating with city planners and government agencies, a city can establish responsive land policies and development controls that the programs continue to respond to communities' changing needs and the overall goal of the city.  Early intelligent design decisions can provide the framework for a model "liveable city".

Point 02: Embrace Diversity, Foster Inclusiveness
Diversity is a cultural benefit for cities and make the urban environment an interesting and unique place to live.  But there are economic opportunities built into designing with diversity and inclusiveness as a goal  Designing for mixed use and land use flexibility ensures that communities do not solely rely upon one industry for their economy.  It also ensures a diversity of resources and amenities within various economic and cultural groups, while addressing cultural tensions that may exist due to intolerance within exclusive communities.

Point 03: Draw Nature Closer to People
A key component of a liveable city is the environment's health.  This point emphasizes the need for cities to devote spaces for greenery, bodies of water, parks and natural places of recreation.  An abundance of green spaces is a natural way to control air quality and temperatures that may result from the heat island effect of asphalt and concrete.

Point 04: Develop Affordable, Mixed-Use Neighborhoods
Designing self-sufficient communities and compact neighborhoods eases the anxiety of large cities and provides access to common amenities and strengthens community bonds.  Mixed-use also implies diversifying socio-economic populations and working closely with the principles of Point 02.

Point 05: Make Public Spaces Work Harder
There are many unused, wasted spaces on the edges of infrastructure.  Making use of these dormant spaces provides unique opportunities for various kinds of development.  These potential public spaces can be developed to serve multiple uses that add to the vitality of the city.

Point 06: Prioritize Green Transport and Building Options
Developing an infrastructure that supports and encourages green transportation options helps reduce energy dependence and consumption.  It requires resource conscious development and foresight into growth strategies.  Some policies include expanding public transportation and making pedestrian routes safe and accessible.

Point 07: Relieve Density with Variety and Add Green Boundaries
Singapore has adopted a zoning strategy that encourages mixed use development by interspersing high- and low-rise buildings in close proximity.  This varied skyline also addresses the intimacy of the street levels and avoids creating narrow corridors along streets lined with skyscrapers.  The mixed zoning also naturally encourages mixed use.

Point 08: Activate Spaces for Greater Safety
High-rise public housing projects in Singapore have taken steps to increase visibility of the street and apply the principle that "neighborhood eyes on the street" increase neighborhood safety more effectively than authority or security.  It provides a natural, inclusive system of trust between neighbors and within communities.

Point 09: Promote Innovate and Non-Conventional Solutions
Solutions to urban problems that are city-specific encourage new solutions and innovation in regards to resource management and land use options.  

Point 10: Forge "3Ps (People Public Private) Partnerships"
Progress requires collaboration.  3P Partnerships ensure that constituents have their diverse needs and concerns addressed.  It ensures that the public and private realms, government and citizens have shared ownership in their cities and a voice in its development.

Via Urban Land Institute 

Cite:Irina Vinnitskaya. "Ten Points for Liveable Cities: Lessons from Singapore" 23 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>