SM Goh urges architects to turn S'pore into global city

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 04 May 2007 2232 hrs

SINGAPORE: Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has urged architects and urban planners to make Singapore a global city that is cosmopolitan but with a strong Asian core.

Mr Goh believes it is a formula that others would find hard to copy.

But he said this would also set Singapore apart from other countries which are also striving to be global cities.

Mr Goh has been made an honorary fellow of the Singapore Institute of Architects.

In a speech, he outlined three areas how Singapore's urban planners and architects have helped transform the cityscape.

Architects have produced many high-quality and visually-pleasing works.

They have also been a close partner in conservation efforts.

And more recently, they have helped enhance the public housing programme.

With the inflow of private sector ideas, Singapore has seen a freshness and the diversification of public housing designs, particularly through the HDB's Design and Build Scheme.

The bigger challenge now for architects and planners, says Mr Goh, is to help achieve the vision of a global city for Singapore.

And given increasing demand on land use, Singapore must find new and innovative ways to maximise its limited space.

"Many other cities in Asia and the Middle East are vying to catch up with and overtake us. They are investing billions to make themselves attractive. Even well-established cities are reinventing themselves. We have to continue to learn from them and other vibrant cities, and reinvent ourselves to stay relevant and ahead of the competition," says Mr Goh.

And that is why Singapore needs to build on its strengths and make up for its weaknesses.

Mr Goh suggests two ways of doing this - first, planners must continue to develop Singapore, in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.

This involves ecological preservation, economic growth which does not damage the environment, and maintaining social harmony.

Secondly there is a need to focus on excellence in architecture and urban design excellence, to create a distinctly-special city.

"This means more than just having a few iconic and fanciful buildings. It means treating the whole city as a piece of artwork where the buildings, roads, gardens and so on are but details on a canvas.

"Singaporeans are now also much more sophisticated and aware of good architecture and urban design. They have travelled widely and seen the best and worst of cities. We should strive for quality in individual buildings and urban elegance as a whole city," says Mr Goh.

"We should aim to create a global city, cosmopolitan but with a strong Asian core. This is something which others will find hard to copy. It will set Singapore apart. Our architectural community has an important role to play.

"I am encouraged that a new generation of local architects is developing its own distinct style. They are growing in confidence and making their presence felt both locally and internationally. In my travels through the Middle East, China and India, I noticed that Singapore architects have made significant inroads and are winning international projects and accolades," he continues.

Mr Goh says the government will be bold and creative in working with partners in the private sector, to create a vibrant and distinctive global city, and at the same time, an endearing home for Singaporeans. - CNA/yy