I wandered around Singapore. Here are my thoughts on the city. / by Tom Oliver Payne


At my past job at a sustainability charity in London some of my friends who had lived in Singapore explained that it was highly ambitious environmentally, giving numerous examples of green business parks and ambitious building standards. But chatting to a cab driver over the weekend in the city, he had a slightly different perspective.

Explaining the ongoing peripheral urban development and housing crisis, it seemed that the island/nation/city continues to grow rapidly to its own detriment. "What's that word?" he said, "Urban jungle! This nation is turning into one big urban jungle!".

While land intensification has been an ongoing policy for development in the city for many decades, it does continue to slowly sprawl into the periphery to accommodate the rapidly growing population. Comprising only 270 sq km in total, land development issues in Singapore can be seen to epitomise land use issues across the globe (just on the small scale). We want urban 'growth' but how do we stop expanding?

I'd definitely need to spend some more time in the city to have a better perspective on sustainable development in Singapore. It's such an incredibly interesting city that seems to be developing very sensibly, but could it be doing even better? And what lessons can other cities learn from Singapore as an example?

Apart from all of the big picture strategy stuff, I made the following brief observations from my quick day of walking about the city: high density, manicured gardens, not pedestrian friendly, ambitious, colourful, beautiful, amazing food and smells and of course, hot and humid! If the city had a little less cars, a few more bikes and made a bit more effort in place making and public space creation, it'd make all the difference.

I'd love to know other people's thoughts!

All photos Tom Oliver Payne.