Forget visions of cities as the offspring of industrialization, made up of mirror-glass skyscrapers, with broad tarmac boulevards, and green areas relegated to the suburbs. Today we are contending with new lifestyles hinged on beauty, innovation and sustainability: contexts involving architecture, fashion and art alike are approached with the gaze and interpretation key of how design-oriented and original the project is. Segments are shifting ever closer: architects work with landscape and fashion designers, tourists live alongside residents ‒ and cities are backing this fusion of interests to boost their own attraction.
Singapore is certainly one of the first megacities to embark on a structured program of green city branding to convert itself into an eco-friendly and green urban area. The Asian megalopolis has in fact managed, within a very short time, to become one of the most sustainable and innovative cities in the world, thanks to careful planning and the solutions it has adopted. All governed by a vision of green as a social and economic binder, one that has modernized the entire nation, pushing forward a model of policies inspired by Asian values accentuating the harmony, prosperity and well-being of the community.
Today, Singapore is committed to achieving the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals through its Green Plan 2030. Launched in 2021, the Green Plan is spearheaded by five ministries ‒ the Ministries of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), Trade and Industry (MTI), Transport (MOT), National Development (MND), and Education (MOE) ‒ and is supported by the whole government
Singapore's transformation plan is underpinned by five operative strategies.
City of Nature: this aims to expand the natural park network, by increasing the number of parks and connecting them up.
Energy Reset: this focuses on maximizing renewable energy use, making Singapore one of the most 'solar' cities in the world, with a 60-megawatt floating solar photovoltaic system the size of about 45 football pitches at Tengeh Reservoir.
Sustainable Living: this aims to encourage eco-friendly public transport, also expanding the railway and cycling networks.
Green Economy: this is to drive the industrial sector, improving its energy footprint through gradual decarbonization.
Resilient City: a series of projects to get the city ready for the consequences of climate change, which is predicted to have significant impact given how close Singapore is to the sea and the likelihood of extreme high tides.
After many years of policies focusing on its green future, which have also been effective in guiding its plan for development and attraction for foreign investments, Singapore has secured the title of Asian garden city. In fact, since the early 1960s this Asian megalopolis has been trying to rebuild an identity to shake off an image as a mere post-colonial city and to free itself from a difficult past to erase: a weighty heritage of ecological disaster. Intensive farming to produce pepper and gambier ‒ a plant used for tanning leathers and dyeing fabrics ‒ stripped the island of over 90% of its forests, changing the landscape into a micro-climate and drying up its water reserves.
Extensive urban biophysical greening, innovative measures to keep climate change in check, and its support to green and sustainable architecture had Singapore listed as an example of a universal city of the future already in 2011, when it was named as Asia's greenest city under the Asian Green City Index (Economist Intelligence Unit 2011). In more recent times, Singapore has also been awarded certification as a sustainable tourism destination by GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council), the US organization that assesses cities based on their attraction capacity in terms of livability and sustainability.
Singapore has consistently confirmed its success in experimentation over the years, also thanks to a series of green solutions: from the Gardens by the Bay, with concrete Supertrees covered in vegetation, to the neo-futurist restyling of Jewel Changi Airport, designed by a team of architects helmed by Moshe Safdie, through to the rebirth of edifices such as Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay by the studio FDAT Architects, which renovated the iconic building designed by John Portman, reworking it in a contemporary key and adding sky bridges and a rooftop urban farm. This latter project is interesting also for its landscaping concept by the Ramboll Dreiseitl studio, which planted 2400 trees to absorb heat, shading the hotel interiors and improving ventilation, to make it one of the city's most eco-friendly buildings.
Gardens by the Bay was in fact one of the projects triggering the green revolution in Singapore. Following an international competition held in 2006 to design the gardens ‒ which saw 170 studios from 24 countries submit over 70 entries ‒ two British studios won the contracts to create the Bay South and Bay East Gardens: Grant Associates (in conjunction with WilkinsonEyre) and Gustafson Porter, respectively. A park covering 101 hectares of reclaimed land, in the city center and next to the Marina Reservoir artificial lake, conceived to stand as an iconic symbol for the city. What are known as its Supertrees ‒ concrete structures swathed in plants and exotic flowers ‒ have grown to become an important space for both residents and tourists.
Other projects worth pointing out are the Nature Ways ‒ ecological 'corridors' replicating forests, enabling the local biodiversity to be appreciated ‒ and the Community Gardens, which are neighborhood meeting places for all generations.
The visions for the near future also include the Tengah eco-city: 42,000 new accommodation units, underground roads, automated systems for refuse collection, and centralized cooling systems to combat the urban heat-island effect.
Please refer to the individual images in the gallery to look through the photo credits