Open space and fallow land in a city or its outskirts are wonderful opportunities to create something new with comparatively few restrictions. It gives free rein to the imagination. In the following an example from real life.
Between 30 November 2011 and 9 March 2012, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of conducted its “Journey of Possibilities” – Ideas Competition for the Rail Corridor seeking ideas from the public of Singapore on what they though should become of the 24 km-long decommissioned Rail Corridor, spanning the entire nation of Singapore. Formerly the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Railway Line, it was built in 1903 to transport goods like rubber and tin.
More than 100 years later, on 30 June 2011, the last train departed from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in the south. Following on from this extensive public consultation process, and having established the Rail Corridor Partnership to explore and promote community activities along the Rail Corridor, on 18 March 2015 the URA launched the ”Rail Corridor – An Inspired and Extraordinary Community Space” Request for Proposal (RFP), inviting design professionals from all over the world to develop a Concept Master Plan and Concept Proposals for the 24 km-long Rail Corridor. 64 teams responded with their submissions in the Stage 1 Pre-Qualification exercise that closed on 15 April 2015 with the Evaluation Panel shortlisting five teams to proceed to the second Stage.
The five teams’ proposals were assessed by a 12-member Evaluation Panel chaired by Mr. Ng Lang, Chief Executive Officer of URA, on the quality and strength of their design principles and concept designs towards achieving the Planning and Design Goals for the Rail Corridor. Besides assessing the robustness and feasibility of their design methodologies and proposals, the Evaluation Panel also paid particular attention to the effectiveness and creativity of the proposals in integrating the 24 km Rail Corridor with its diverse surroundings to benefit the surrounding communities and offer differentiated experiences to Singaporeans.
The Evaluation Panel awarded the Concept Master Plan on 9 November 2015 to the design team comprising Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei Ltd, local landscape firm Tierra Design and local engineering firm Arup Singapore Pte Ltd, together with other supporting firms. According to URA, their proposal, titled “Lines of Life”, they were able to strengthen the Rail Corridor’s identity, connectivity, landscape and heritage, while providing a more inclusive and vibrant public space that offers a great variety of quality experiences and activities for different segments of the population.
The team developed a clear vision and mission statement for the Rail Corridor, supported by a comprehensive set of planning objectives and strategies that serve as guiding principles for the design and programming of the Corridor. Their plan makes life on the Rail Corridor an enjoyable experience. It includes a kaleidoscope of user experiences and activities along 10 nodes and 8 distinctive stretches that depict the Corridor’s different landscapes and characters. Each node strikes a balance between the built environment and greenery.
Mr Wataru TANAKA, Director of the Integrated Public Design Studio, at NIKKEN SEKKEI LTD said, “We approached this design opportunity, not merely as a landscape design assignment but more as a ‘Public Space Design’ project, where we consciously took the design approach to integrate the communities that the Rail Corridor touches into the design itself to make a truly meaningful public asset within a broader urban context. To this end we undertook a specifically coordinated team effort for public design where the broad consulting resources of Nikken Sekkei in Urban planning & Design, Landscape and build environment design have been fully integrated and supplemented with the knowledge and skills of our local Singapore based team members to provide a clear vision and execution plan for an immensely complex design task. I think this was essential to our success.”
At the moment, the Singaporean Rail Corridor is a stretch of greenery without most of its tracks, sleepers and railway equipment.