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About this book

This book traces the evolution of Singapore’s parks system, from colonial to present times. Further, it contextualizes the design and planning of parks in the general discourse on western and eastern traditions: early twentieth century western conceptions ‘imported’ during colonialism; modernism; postmodernism, and the contemporary ecological debate.
Park system planning products respond to national policies and result in structural urban elements and a range of park types.
Global (western ideology) and local issues have influenced park system planning and the physical design of individual parks over time. However, in Singapore the eastern literature has not addressed the development of parks and urban green spaces in terms of historical perspective.
The publication reveals the interrelations between visual representations and changing political ideologies. Singapore’s system of public parks is shown to represent an iconography created by the state. Its set of constructed narratives elucidates on the potential social, cultural and environmental roles of public parks. However, Singapore’s park system presents a novel paradigm for expanding Asian cities, characterized by evolving urban imaging strategies.
In framing Singapore’s case study within the broader perspective of eastern applications of western planning and design practices, and constructions of nation in post-colonial countries, the manuscript establishes the contribution of the Singaporean model of design and planning of parks to the international debate.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Park system planning products respond to national policies and result in structural urban elements and a range of park types. This publication identifies the key economic, political and social drivers behind park systems planning changes and illustrates how each phase of development influences the next. Global (western ideology) and local issues have influenced park system planning and the physical design of individual parks over time. However, in Singapore the eastern literature has not addressed the development of parks and urban green spaces in terms of historical perspective.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 2. Urban Green Provision and Constructions of Nation: Western and Eastern Policies

Abstract
For various reasons, Singapore is a relevant case study for elucidating planning and design of public parks and open green spaces. As in western planning policies, Singapore’s public parks and open green spaces have been progressively organized into a structured ‘open space system’, ‘green belt’, and recently as ‘green infrastructure’. With regards to sustainability, the Singaporean model is said to lead contemporary conceptualizations of urban greening, including notions of ‘green urbanism’ and ‘biophilia’. The park system situates within Singapore’s political agenda—the ‘garden city’ concept manifested in the development of the physical environment—as well as the Influence of evolving western ideals of nation building and sustainability. Impacted by western policies, Singapore’s urban green-provision addresses cultural, social, environmental and economic sustainability, and the building of a recognizable nation identity.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 3. Colonial Planning and Design of Parks and Gardens in Singapore

Abstract
British colonial strategic plans influenced Singapore’s planning policy, and in specific urban green-provision, which followed the British public parks movement. The colonial organization of urban form, including public parks and gardens, posed an emphasis on the social and cultural aspect of public space, defining it with urban aesthetics and the expression of governmental order and authority. Landscape was represented and regimented by synoptic objectification (master planning and the perspective view) and by using the aesthetic conventions of the picturesque. The two most influential landscape architecture styles were the English landscape park and the Victorian ‘gardenesque’. However, eastern intellectuals conceptualize pleasure gardens in an eclectic style, expressing an oriental understanding of nature and society.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 4. Singapore’s British Integrated System of Public Open Spaces

Abstract
The colonial 1958 plan organized open green space and parks into a structured park system that was to address the social and ecological challenges posed by the rapid urban development of the island. The plan follows European expressions of park system implemented within the British ‘garden city’ ideology by integrating green belts, nature reserves and parks as a means to improve the physical and moral condition of urban citizens.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 5. Parks for the Community: The City State’s Modernist Planning Model

Abstract
The modernist attitude of planning and designing the land from the aerial viewpoint is reflected in the extensive urban renewal program of new towns and the overarching island-wide greening beautification program – the model of ‘open plan’, with parks conceived as emblems of collective interest and social welfare. However, a postmodern critique was engaged by planners, who begun to fragment the green belt into a myriad of smaller town parks and neighbourhood parks, which they scattered in the new towns. The park system represents the nation by integrating tourism marketing products, and by portraying a globalized aesthetics of ‘tropicality’.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 6. From Character and Visual Identity to Theme—Gardens: Design of Parks and Public Open Space in Postmodern Singapore

Abstract
Following a postmodern trend, planners attempted to address the social and cultural challenges posed by the rapid and extensive post-war urban growth, by advocating a revival of contextualism and regionalism, as well as the use of vernacular and popular culture icons in urban design. Singapore’s parks and gardens were conceptualized as an island-wide ‘cultural system’ meant to construct place identity and ‘imageability’ in support of the larger picture of nation building realized through the welfare-state public housing policy. Parks’ design was thematized to reflect in various manner the state’s ‘multicultural theme’, used to redirect tourism marketing strategies and the sociopolitical constructions of an ‘imagined community’.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 7. Re-purposing and Thematizing Colonial Gardens: Constructions of History and Nation in Singapore’s Heritage Parks

Abstract
To re-position the island as a touristic attraction, the 'Open Space Concept Plan' re-packages the civic district as an historical and cultural site. In the wake of a global promotion of public art as a mean to rejuvenate cities, parks are thematised with symbolisms that urge the preservation of ‘Asian’ and ‘traditional’ values and the maintenance of ‘local’ cultural identity and heritage, erected against ‘westernization’. In-between tourism-attracting device and cultural enrichment scheme—and spurring a debate on ‘inauthenticity’ of place and ‘falsification’ of history and identity—parks participate to the making of a place image. Such image is conceived as a product fashioned from the perceived needs and interests of tourists as well the local peculiarities of site—and parks are characterized with design-features that portray ‘shared values’ that would bind Singaporeans together and provide directions and cultural identity.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 8. Singapore’s Green Infrastructure and Biophilic Urbanism

Abstract
Fragmentation of native habitats, regimentation of watercourses and waterbodies, and the rejection of the colonial green belt accounted for the lack of environmental sustainability of the park system. Improvements of urban ecology were achieved through the development of a network of park connectors made of greenways and waterbodies restored with bioengineering techniques. The principle of ‘land-optimization’ was adopted — green architecture as a means to extend the greening-policy of the island from two-dimentional (parks and gardens) into three-dimentional (green roofs and green walls). As in the western debate, Singapore’s green infrastructure evolves into a multipurpose organizing structure -- from a linear landscape (greenway) to embrace wide ranging uses and forms. By multiplying and diversifying functions on the same land, planners manage to augment the ecosystem-services. The resulting new set of narratives and technical solutions of the ‘vertical garden city’ address the challenges of high-rise urban development, while the promotion of biodiversity design is used as a propaganda for new ecological aesthetics, centred on the creation of the experience of the ‘tropics’, which suits socio-political and tourism-marketing goals.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 9. The Singapore Playground: System of Themed Public Parks that Addresses Environmental, Social and Cultural Sustainability

Abstract
One of the most interesting facet of nation building is correlated to narrative-making. In the exercise of crafting narratives for nation building purposes, Singaporean planners transformed the park system into an urban iconography, with parks’ design resulting in a symbolic display of narratives that address the social, historical, cultural and ecological challenges of the high-rise environment. The ‘Singapore Playground’ consists in a network of parks of varying size—from community to town and regional parks—linked with park connectors and designed around different themes to provide visitors a diversity of recreational experiences. The park system is a reinterpretation of ideas or concepts about ‘history’ and ‘nature’, of the colonial and western conceptions on park-design, as well as the expression of the processes and the actors that shape the built environment. Conceptualization of the system has shifted from the postmodern accent on aesthetics and place making, to an ecologically-based approach that addresses contemporary environmental challenges, including urban mitigation of climate change, by embracing many thematics that are integral to the contemporary concept of ‘green infrastructure’ and ‘biophilic urbanism’.
Raffaella Sini

Chapter 10. Conclusions: the Contribution of Singapore’s Park System to the Debate on Post-Independence and Post-Colonial Constructions of Nation

Abstract
Singaporean government policies were formulated to respond to the challenges that high-density urban development posed, by balancing economic imperatives with social,cultural and ecological demands. The park system planning reflects each of the changes in policy direction and parks have been used as instruments of sustainable urban development and the definition of a Singaporean identity. Some characteristics are critical in understanding the future of park development and the models/lessons that can be transferred.
Raffaella Sini

Backmatter

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