The Art of Placemaking in Our Cities
Art can bring people together, reinforce identities, add to a sense of well-being, and connect a community with its urban spaces.
The concept of 20-minute town was proposed in Singapore’s Land Transport Master Plan 2040 in 2019 and has been catalysed amid the prolonged disruption in living and working arrangements caused by the pandemic.
Panellists from government sector, private developer and retailing sector were invited to share their experience and views on the current practice and the future vision of 20-minute towns.
Moderator Mr Peter Hyland, Regional Director at Cistri, noted that the importance of 20-minute towns has been more prominent due to the restricted activities and movements since the beginning of global lockdowns.
From a public sector perspective, according to Dr Cheong Koon Hean, Chairman at Centre for Liveable Cities under the Ministry of National Development, the intention of creating 20-minute neighbourhood is to provide people with their daily needs within short and walkable or cyclable distance.
The delivery of a self-sufficient town and a vibrant “work, live, play and learn” environment requires the integration of land uses, public amenities, green open spaces, well-connected pedestrian and cycling system, and transportation system.
She further drew attention to the attractive and sustainable new generation Housing and Development Board (HDB) neighbourhood centres, such as Kampung Admiralty and Oasis Terraces, and highlighted, “the government plays an important role to set the plans and the policies to achieve this 20-minute neighbourhood.”
On the other hand, the implementation of “20-minute town” necessitates the involvement of developers. Ng Hsueh Ling, Managing Director for Singapore and Chief Investment Officer for Asia at Lendlease shed the light on private sector’s response to the shifting urban dynamic citing Lendlease’s mixed-use urban precinct rejuvenation project, Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ).
To create an enabling environment for the local community to enjoy new ways of working, leisure and living, PLQ’s development has 5 principles in heart: active commute; climate resilience; community engagement; supporting flexible work; and, harnessing the online community.
“Placemaking is a proven approach that supports the work-from-anywhere position and the 20-minute-town concept whether pre-Covid, post-Covid, or even post-Covid”, said Ng.
As a multinational conglomerate, IKEA is often seen as the trend-leading company across the world. Christian Rojkjaer, Managing Director for IKEA Southeast Asia and Mexico, said that it was important to do what is right and locally relevant in order to be able to value-add and contribute to the community.
“All businesses need to stay true to their business models and find out what that business model is really about.
“For us, it’s low-cost home and [creating] a better everyday life for many people. Everything we do is coming from that angle.”
By keeping their business model in heart and collaborating with local partners, the franchise has been able to develop different concepts across different cities including Mexico City, Manila and Singapore. He credited Singapore for making his team think harder about its use of space and operating and fulfilment systems, which led to its first ‘small-concept store’ in Southeast Asia.
Transforming a nation requires the participation from everyone in the local community. In the 1960s and 70s, the Singapore government raised local community’s awareness of hygiene practice, energy and water conservation through national campaign.
“It’s not just about campaigns”, said Dr Cheong, in a bid for a more sustainable society two generations later, “green cities and green towns need green people. We can have campaigns but it must start with us – each individual.”
Putting it into numbers, Ng suggested that additional charges for non-green behaviours and assets without green credentials would incentivise the public and investors to act in more sustainable manners.
To drive towards sustainability and change the mindsets of people, IKEA has incorporated sustainable measures in its daily operations and set out the sustainability target for everyone in IKEA.
“We got a bit complacent by the good life”, said Rojkjaer, “It won’t take much of us all to let go a little bit of it and live a more sustainable life.”
In response to Hyland’s question on whether the pandemic has brought any changes to Singapore’s future planning, Dr Cheong suggested that the pandemic is less of a complete change, but rather an acceleration of things that people should be doing.
She shared that to transition into a post-pandemic world, our mindset should shift from “Just in Time” to “Just in Case”, and encouraged considerations such as building in buffer for resilience; designing for health and wellness in the built environment; and, rethinking the design of everyday spaces.
Ng observed that flexibility in space and being able to tap on the digital front became more prevalent during the pandemic.
Picturing the future implementation of 20-minute towns, Dr Cheong suggested that the necessary infrastructures are almost in place in the case of Singapore, and particularly in HDB towns for people to walk and cycle.
“My encouragement is that let’s walk, we will all be much healthier”, said Dr Cheong.
Decentralisation in 20-minute town will be more relevant, added Ng. Places that can facilitate work, live and play without people travelling will continue to thrive.
Citing his comments about businesses staying true to their own models earlier, Rojkjaer highlighted the importance for businesses to adapt along with the shift towards 20-minute-town, and leverage on their existing assets to truly benefit the 20-minute citizens.
“I encourage all the customers to be incredible tough in the time going forward, to vote with their feet, be sustainable”, he added, “step away when there is doubt.”