With political leadership and committed designers, a significant new physical and social environment has taken shape in the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, enhancing the lives of the community living around it.
The design team has transformed a storm water canal that had separated residents from an existing park, into an outstanding new facility for users young and old.
Through years of research and development by a team of dedicated on-site landscape architects, a soil bioengineering technique was devised to ensure that the riverbank does not erode and is safe for communal use.
In successfully resolving a series of interrelated challenges, the design shows Singaporeans a confident attitude for water and its uses. The project has a potential to influence and be replicated in the region.
CENTRE FOR SUSTAINABLE ASIAN CITIES
SCHOOL OF DESIGN AND ENVIRONMENT
NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE
The Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park was once a conventional park with a concrete drainage canal along its edge. Today, the 62-hectare park has been completely redesigned, with a regenerated section of the Kallang River, the former concrete drainage canal, as its focal point.
After a few decades of water flowing through the canal, the concrete was deteriorating and in need of renovation. Rather than upgrading it, Atelier Dreiseitl proposed to re-naturalize the river, by turning the canal into a free flowing body of water that meanders through the park. The idea would completely revitalize this portion of the Kallang River from a simple piece of storm water infrastructure into a significant piece of Singapore's ecological infrastructure.
Restoring the river to a “natural” state required pioneering design and exploratory soil bio-engineering, to stabilize the new organically composed riverbank. The project also serves as new reference for soil stabilization in the tropics — a technique that is rarely used or documented in Southeast Asia. To accommodate the dynamic processes of Singapore’s river system — which sometimes include the rapid increase in water levels during a tropical downpour — the designers have implemented a warning system that alerts park visitors of impending flash floods.
As part of the bio-engineering schema, a variety of plants were strategically planted along the riverbank to prevent erosion, creating new habitats for loara and fauna. The park has already seen a 30 per cent increase in bio-diversity since the planting began. To date, 66 species of wildflowers, 59 species of birds and 22 species of dragonflies have been identified in the park.
The new design includes strategically designated spots and paths that invite people to not only to enjoy a view of the river but also to interact with the water, forging a deeper personal connection with Singapore’s waterways. By increasing accessibility as well as safety features (flood warning systems), Singaporeans can now explore a river system in an urban park.
As an urban planner, I believe one of the greatest ideals of this project is that far from being a stand-alone feature, the river is designed in the hope that one day it will be just one segment in Singapore’s ecological infrastructure that will include an entire system of natural and revitalized canals.
Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is an example of effective storm water management that reduces the pace of water and brings back bio-diversity to Singapore’s waterways; creates enhanced, interactive parks; provides greater flexible storage spaces for water that eventually lead to reduced occurrences of flooding.
This project deserves the President’s Design Award for its achievements, as well as for setting a benchmark in rethinking Singapore’s storm water management system in the context of a park, as a series of beautiful and functional rivers and streams.