SUSTAINABLE HERITAGE – Building a Livable Future for Chinatown + People’s Park Complex Singapore

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Joint Module Report for AC5003 (Urban Conservation and Regeneration) and AC5008 (Design for Conservation) Module Leader: Dr. Johannes Widodo Academic Year 2022/2023 heritage SUSTAINABLE BUILDING A LIVABLE FUTURE FOR CHINATOWN + PPCOMPLEX 可持续 遗产 牛 車 水 Kreta Ayer

Images © Individual Contributors, 2023

All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means. Electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior written permission of the publisher. The publisher does not warrant or assume any legal responsibility for the publication’s contents. All opinions expressed in the book are of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the National University of Singapore.

Report Book Coordinator

Cover Illustrator

Layout Designer



Gevin Timotius

Alexander Utama

Gevin Timotius

Jean You

Gevin Timotius

Jean You

Lim Jia Rong

Malika Joshi

Melissa Lee Juin Tze

Vaishnavi Venkataramanujam

Page Break Photos

Gong Yi Fan

AC5003+AC5008 Joint Report 2023 People’s Park Parade Monthly Magazine February 1978 Issue Collection of Lee Kong Chian Reference Library Retrieved from - Singapore Graphic Archives
Sustainable Heritage
Kreta Ayer Urban Renewal Painted by Goh Beng Kwan, 1986 Collection of National Gallery of Singapore Retrieved from An abstraction of Kreta Ayer’s rapid changes in the 1970s and 1980s in Beng Kwan’s perspective.
AC5003+AC5008 Joint Report 2023 Table of Contents Introduction 1 Acknowledgements 3 AC5003 | Urban Conservation and Regeneration: Kreta Ayer Briefings 5 Understanding the Site 9 Desk Study 23 Strategies 33 AC5008 | Design for Conservation: People’s Park Complex Briefings 59 Understanding the Building 63 Modernist Building Reuse Precedents 81 Design Proposals 91 Documentation 135
Sustainable Heritage

In today’s world, conservation has become an indispensable component in the face of climate change, carbon neutrality, and the circular economy. Its scope extends beyond the mere preservation of resources and encompasses the management of change and the pursuit of sustainability. The realm of urban development places particular emphasis on the principles of conservation and regeneration, recognizing their critical role in shaping thriving and resilient cities.

Within this book lies a comprehensive exploration of the Urban Conservation and Regeneration course (AC5003), designed to equip students with a deep understanding of these fundamental concepts. In addition to examining architectural aspects, this course delves into the social, economic, and environmental factors that have shaped current Asian urban and suburban landscapes. It also investigates how government policies can drive change by revitalizing urban areas and promoting economic renewal. By scrutinizing examples from Asia, students engage in critical discussions surrounding the suitability, significance, and strategies employed to address emerging urban conservation and regeneration challenges within the region.

The centerpiece project of this course centers around Singapore’s Chinatown district, which has undergone a process of gentrification. Here, students are challenged to conceive six alternative strategies that not only enhance the area’s economic value but also prioritize environmental sustainability and promote social-community bonding. Simultaneously, they are tasked with preserving or even revitalizing the district’s connection to its historically significant past. Through this compelling case study, students explore innovative approaches to tackle complex urban issues head-on.

Building upon the knowledge garnered from the course, the Design for Conservation Studio Program (AC5008) focuses on the People’s Park Complex, nestled within Chinatown. This program aims to preserve and perpetuate the significance and relevance of modern heritage. Guided by the “five-in-one” principles—environmental sustainability, cultural authenticity, social continuity, economic viability, and architectural integrity—the studio program sets out to propose design interventions that reveal the unique qualities of the site and its rich history while responding aptly to its immediate physical, social, and environmental contexts.

Contained within this book are seven alternative design strategies and ideas for conservation interventions. Each proposal is meticulously crafted to enhance the economic viability of the site, honor its architectural and cultural heritage, and seamlessly integrate with the existing built and natural environment. By delving into these diverse approaches, readers gain profound insights into the multifaceted nature of urban conservation and regeneration and the immense potential it holds for shaping sustainable cities of the future.

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Firstly, we thank the panellists for participating in our interim and final review sessions and sharing their knowledge and experiences with us.

Thanks to DPA Singapore for providing our design module with the original archives of the People’s Park Complex which enabled us to retrace the initial design intention for the building. And also, thanks to Alakesh Dutta for teaching the calculation method of the embodied carbon of a building and its proposed development, which enabled us to approach this studio with sustainability in mind.

Importantly, we would like to thank Dr Johannes Widodo for his patience, guidance, and assistance during our modules and studio sessions. Finally, thank you to Dr NIkhil Joshi for overseeing the whole Master of Arts in Architectural Conservation program and giving inputs throughout.

Review Panellists:

AC5003 (Urban Conservation and Regeneration):

Montira Unakul (UNESCO Bangkok)

AC5008 (Design for Conservation):

Alakesh Dutta (MScISD Program)

Daniel Mei (IDM Architects, member of TCHM)

Kelvin Ang (URA)

Sabrina Chao (NHB)

Sum Waiying (Millet)

Tan Yong Jun (NHB)

Wan Pow Chween (NHB)

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Urban Conservation and Regeneration: Kreta Ayer


Module Focus

Participating Students

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As cities grow and develop, it’s inevitable that their historical fabric is disrupted and threatened to be erased entirely. For the sake of the continuity of a city’s identity and its’ familiarity with the citizens, conservation and regeneration are strongly advised to be conducted on an urban level, where layers of the city are assessed and empowered beyond its physical fabric.

Kreta Ayer, more known as Chinatown, is a historically significant place in Singapore susceptible to heavy gentrification. Its former shophouse neighbourhoods that housed Southern Chinese immigrants (and other ethnic groups) and their descendants were transformed into an exaggerated version of the ‘oriental enclave’ where tourists go to witness the ‘Chinese’ side of Singapore. Moreover, this part of the city ended up being irrelevant to the younger Singaporean population, where they don’t feel a connection to the grounds of their ancestors. Without active communities of the locals, both young and old, Kreta Ayer is destined to be a dead heritage whose only significance lies in the old masonry bricks of the shophouses, covered by saturated-colour paints.

Therefore, to bring back life to Kreta Ayer, this module challenges the students to devise strategies for conserving and regenerating vibrancy in the historical district’s buildings, streets, and lanes. The plans are devised through various inspirations of the past, such as alluding to its historic role as the centre of water distribution, reliving the heydays of the Cantonese operas, and even reviving the bustling lanes where hawkers used to sell their noodles. A mixture of the old and the contemporary will result in a unique Kreta Ayer in which all generations can come together and feel a sense of belonging.

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Scope of Study Area within the Kreta Ayer Vicinity
Module Focus

Participating Students

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4

Group 5

Group 6

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Chen Yi Tan MAArC Chen Xiao Xi MAArC Gevin Timotius MAArC Alexander Utama MAArC Dou Jian De MAArC Huang Yu Yin MAArC Gong Yi Fan MAArC Lim Jia Rong MAArC Jiang Yu Tong MAArC Lin Zhuo Wei MAArC Malika Joshi MAArC Jean You PhD Architecture Tian Zi Hui MAArC Mo Zhi Hui MAArC Vaishnavi V. MAArC Liu Xiao Yi MAArC Shen Mo Xuan MAArC Shi Yi MAArC Wu Tong MAArC Wang Xin Ru MAArC Wang Chen Xi MAArC Xiang Yu MAArC Yang Xin Yu MAArC Leslie Shih MAArC Zhao Ke Ming MAArC Xie Yu Xin MAArC Zheng Yue Jia MAArC Zhang Meng MAArC Zhou Zi Jie MAArC Xiang Xing MAArC
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Urban Conservation and Regeneration: Kreta Ayer

Understanding the Site

Kreta Ayer’s History

Historic Mapping

Progress and Development

Current Situation

Threats to Survivability


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Kreta Ayer’s History

With its deep-rooted significance in Singapore’s history, Kreta Ayer holds a special place in the hearts of its people. From its inception during Raffles’s founding of Singapore to today, this vibrant district has played a vital role in shaping the nation’s identity. As a haven for early immigrants seeking employment in the burgeoning trade and commerce industry, Kreta Ayer has evolved into a living testament to Singapore’s past.

Dating back to the early 19th century, Kreta Ayer was an integral part of Singapore’s first master plan, known as the Raffles Town Plan. Chinese immigrants flocked to this area, driven by the promise of better opportunities and a brighter future. With time, Kreta Ayer flourished into a bustling centre of commerce and trade, housing a diverse array of multiethnic businesses and bustling markets. As Singapore’s history unfolded, Kreta Ayer witnessed numerous milestones, further solidifying its historical and cultural significance. The opening of the People’s Park complex in 1973 was one of the most remarkable developments of the place.

In recognition of its immense heritage value, the conservation and regeneration of Kreta Ayer have been a paramount concern for the Singaporean government since the 1990s. Designated as a conservation area in 1989, Kreta Ayer enjoys special protection, ensuring the safeguarding and transmission of its rich cultural legacy. In 1998, efforts were made to conserve and revitalise historic buildings and give them a new life in the architectural world. Cultural and festive activities are also organised, fostering the transmission of traditions and promoting urban renewal within the district.

Today, Kreta Ayer is a testament to Singapore’s multicultural tapestry, where the past seamlessly intertwines with the present. Its heritage buildings, glorious temples, and cultural landmarks provide a tangible link to the bygone era, offering visitors and residents a glimpse into Singapore’s diverse history. As Singapore continues to march towards the future, Kreta Ayer remains a reminder of the struggles, triumphs, and resilience that have shaped the nation.

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Changing Area of Kreta Ayer Image compiled by Group 6
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Historic Mapping

Kreta Ayer is home to a wealth of historic treasures including operas, early education programs and facilities, old temples, crafts, as well as early water systems.

Within the urban fabric of Kreta Ayer, numerous cultural sites hold significant memories for Singaporeans, including the Chinese Opera Theatres, The Majestic Theatre, Former Metropole Theatre, Oriental Theatre and Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre. These theatres were vibrant entertainment hubs and showcased the time’s innovative spirit. Stage operas and street performances thrived in the streets of Kreta Ayer, particularly during festive occasions, adding to the lively atmosphere of the district.

Schools and learning centres also played a crucial role in the community, especially since public schools at the time catered exclusively to English speakers. Temples and clan associations established schools to provide education for the local population. Initially housed in shophouses, these schools later moved into dedicated buildings. The diverse array of schools in Kreta Ayer reflected the cultural mix within the area. Over time, many of these schools ceased operations or relocated due to declining student numbers, urban development, and the waning popularity of non-English schools.

Religion has always played a vital role in Kreta Ayer, and the district serves as a testament to the community’s enduring social values. Although rebuilt or relocated over time, various religious structures continue to act as spiritual and kinship anchors for generations of Singaporeans. The uninterrupted rituals celebrated by the multicultural community highlight the lasting importance of these structures.

Kreta Ayer was also a hub for traditional artisans, representing the changing economic landscape of Singapore. Skilled artisans practised various trades, including street letter writers, the only communication between migrants and their loved ones back home. However, with the progress brought about by their hard work, prosperity allowed the next generation to pursue education, and the role of street letter writers gradually diminished as formal schooling and literacy took their place.

Finally, the historical significance of water in Kreta Ayer is deeply ingrained in public memory. The district’s name carries this connection, with “Kreta Ayer” translating to “Ox-cart Water Source.” It represents the wells where fresh water could be transported by ox-carts to the waterfront, replenishing trading vessels and capitalizing on the island’s strategic location. This access to water was vital for Singapore’s growth as a free port under British rule.

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Historic Mapping of key sites Map compiled by Group 6 An Siang Hill Well now Images collected by Group 6 Archive Image of a Water Bull Cart Source: National Archives Singapore Historic Routes Map compiled by Group 1

Progress and Development

Kreta Ayer boasts a fascinating history that traces back to Singapore’s early development. Created under “Lt. Jackson’s Plan of Singapore” commissioned by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822, the area south of the Singapore River was designated as a Chinese enclave. Comprising Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Bukit Pasoh, Tanjong Pagar and other districts, the collective sub-districts formed the renowned Chinatown we recognize today. Kreta Ayer, in particular, played a pivotal role as the district’s lifeline, providing essential resources like fresh water transported through bullock and oxcart carriers from Ann Siang Hill to the city, and as the commercial centre of the city.

In the early 19th century, Chinatown attracted multi-ethnic immigrants seeking better opportunities in trade and commerce, becoming a thriving hub of multi-ethnic businesses and bustling markets. Over time, it etched its place in the city’s commercial landscape, standing as a living testament to Singapore’s past. Today, Chinatown remains a vibrant cultural and historical centre, with well-preserved heritage buildings, cultural landmarks, and revered temples.

In the post-independence era, Chinatown underwent a rapid transformation to address issues of overpopulation and hygiene. Notable landmarks like the People’s Park Complex in the 1970s and the Kreta Ayer Complex, including its theatre, in the 1980s symbolized the area’s modernization, resettling residents in these megastructures. Additionally, the district’s redevelopment aimed to enhance tourism appeal, leading to the renaming of the “Kreta Ayer Complex” to the “Chinatown Complex” in 1984. These efforts marked the beginning of Chinatown’s gentrification, shaping it into the vibrant tourist destination we know today.

Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Chinatown, the 1990s saw a prioritization of its conservation and regeneration. Designated as a conservation area in 1989, various initiatives were undertaken to restore and preserve its historic buildings, promote cultural activities, and drive urban renewal.

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Transformation of Streetscape Image compiled by Group 4
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Current Situation

Chinatown in Singapore is a vibrant and bustling downtown area that offers visitors an immersive experience. The streets, including Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street, Sago Lane, Smith Street, and Temple Street, are filled with shops and stalls selling a diverse range of goods, from clothing and homeware to technology and handicrafts. The architectural landscape of Chinatown is also a stark contrast to the rest of the city, with low-rise buildings and heritage structures that spill onto the streets, unlike the tall modern and contemporary edifices of the Central Business District. Ornate Chinese, Buddhist, and Hindu temples coexist with museums and shophouses, creating a captivating blend of tradition and modernity. Traditional shops, trendy boutiques, and modern cafes contributed to the area’s dynamic atmosphere.

However, there are some challenges that Chinatown faces. The land-use survey reveals a significant focus on commercial establishments emphasizing exotic Chinese elements, such as Chinese food restaurants and souvenir shops offering Chinese-themed products. This deliberate branding tends to attract tourists, resulting in a lower prevalence of shops catering to the daily needs of long-term residents. The utilization of shophouses also presents issues, with vacancies primarily observed on the upper floors, particularly in the southern area, farther from transportation hubs. Additionally, back alleys suffer from issues of filth, congestion, and safety hazards.

The erosion of the area’s cultural identity and spatial sense is attributed to the proliferation of transient fragments, reflecting the impact of gentrification. The commercialization of the area is evident through fragments like signboards and standees, creating an artificial historic landscape reminiscent of a theme park. These fragments cater to the preferences of tourists, satisfying their curiosity and desire for a segregated experience. Vertical signboards and flags on building facades further enhance the environment, reflecting the intentions of tenants. However, these fragments are less prevalent in the back alleys, where logistical and storage functions dominate, creating a separation from the daily lives of stakeholders.

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of streetscape Image compiled by Group 4
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Threats to Survivability

Despite having unique historical and cultural qualities, the Kreta Ayer district is currently encountering several obstacles and dangers that are impeding its progress as a heritage site. Instead of being viewed as a cultural destination, it is now primarily perceived as a tourist attraction. Due to the area’s emphasis on tourism and economic development, essential facilities like schools, offices, and hospitals have been removed and relocated, causing the district to lose its diverse values of culture and community and resulting in the growing consequences of gentrification. There is currently only one remaining and functioning theatre for the public (others are abandoned or housing new programs, hotels, betting activities). The expanding tourism service facilities have squeezed out the diverse public infrastructure and spaces for the community.

Also, the increasing land value has made it challenging to purchase or rent properties in and around the Kreta Ayer district, causing the development to focus heavily on market-driven initiatives while overlooking the need to preserve the historical and heritage elements. As a result, retail growth has been inconsistent within and outside the district. For example, street vendors are primarily located in Kreta Ayer, while businesses in other areas like China Square and Boat Quay are not conducive to small-scale or cultural trading but focus more on high-end commerce.

Therefore, achieving a balance between catering to the needs of tourists and cultural enthusiasts while also sustaining the demands of the local community is the primary challenge of tourism and Kreta Ayer has not completely succeeded in doing the same. This balance has been overlooked as the excitement of expanding tourism alone has taken over. As a result, the district has not only driven away its native communities but also lost the cultural values it sought to preserve. With the shift towards tourism focus, the shophouses have transformed into market-driven trading spots and locals are being forced to move and isolate in the HDBs.

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Streets’ and Lanes’ section Images by Group 1
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The area’s importance is derived from the presence of Chinese communities who have settled there and express their culture, as the name implies. The building’s architectural design and commercial style primarily follow the Chinese tradition, including the shophouses. The street building’s architecture is an amalgamation of Victorian and Baroque elements, with a wide variety of pastel colours that make the street look fashionable and lively. Not only are the buildings diverse, but the community living in the area is also culturally diverse as well. Despite being primarily recognized as a neighbourhood for Chinese immigrants, the area also accommodates individuals from other cultures, as evidenced by the existence of various temples.

The preservation of the shophouses in the midst of the high rises is also what gives the location its significance. These shophouses continue to help in the provision of a space for trade and business, serving as a symbol of the previous way of life.

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Kreta Ayer’s Sketch in 1990s for Planning Report Source: Singapore Tourism Board
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New Bridge Road in the Early 20th Century Source: National Museum of Singapore Tea House at Kreta Ayer, 1890s Source: National Museum of Singapore Chinese street Opera at Kreta Ayer, 1950s Source: National Museum of Singapore Majestic Theatre, 1950s Source: National Archives of Singapore Chinatown Calligrapher, 1981 Source: Quek Tiong Swee
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Urban Conservation and Regeneration: Kreta Ayer

Desk Study

UNESCO’s HUL Approach

West Guizhou Lilong Neighbourhood

Shajing Ancient Fair

Seoul’s Cultural District

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UNESCO’s HUL Approach

UNESCO’s approach to managing Historic Urban Landscapes (HUL) is rooted in a holistic and interdisciplinary perspective. It recognizes the integration of urban heritage conservation with the goals of social and economic development, viewing urban heritage as a valuable asset for the progress of cities. The HUL approach goes beyond preserving physical structures and emphasises the entire human environment, including tangible and intangible aspects.

This approach seeks to enhance the sustainability of planning and design interventions by considering the existing built environment, intangible heritage, cultural diversity, socio-economic conditions, and environmental elements while respecting local community values. It calls for active engagement from public, private, and civic sectors to foster greater involvement in preservation efforts, raise awareness, and explore innovative schemes. By involving a wide range of stakeholders, the city’s historical and contemporary aspects can be better preserved and celebrated. The HUL is both an approach and a new way of understanding cities. It integrates urban conservation within a sustainable development framework, utilizing traditional and innovative tools tailored to the local context. This helps expand one’s understanding of the historic environment and allows for identifying the complex elements contributing to a city’s distinctiveness, sense of place, and identity. Recognizing and enhancing these cultural and natural values layers is essential in shaping conservation strategies and city development plans.

To implement the HUL approach effectively, UNESCO recommends six critical steps. These steps include-

1. Conducting comprehensive surveys and mapping of the city’s resources.

2. Engaging in participatory planning and stakeholder consultations to determine the values worth protecting for future generations.

3. Assessing the vulnerability of these values to socio-economic stresses and climate change.

4. Integrating heritage values into broader city development frameworks.

5. Prioritizing actions for conservation and development.

6. Establishing partnerships and local management frameworks for identified projects.

By following these steps and adopting the HUL approach, cities can effectively manage their historic urban landscapes, ensuring heritage preservation while accommodating the evolving needs of communities. This approach acknowledges the dynamic nature of cities and the need for adaptive strategies to balance heritage conservation and sustainable development.

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Steps of HUL Approach

Source: UNESCO

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West Guizhou Lilong Neighbourhood

The micro-regeneration projects in the traditional Lilongs (Lilong is Hutong in Shanghainese dialect) of Shanghai, the Guizhou West Lilong community in the Huangpu district, has a deep history of nearly one hundred years. Over the course of nearly a century, the community and environment have experienced significant material decay, with many households facing limited living space, deteriorating facilities, and poorer conditions. 40% of the Lilong households lacked private toilets, and 60% relied on communal kitchens. Moreover, the complex social changes within the community have led to fragmented living spaces and diminished maintenance and renovation capabilities. The ageing population, coupled with lower economic capacities and reduced community consensus, has further weakened the residents’ ability to undertake self-improvement initiatives and hindered collective cooperation.

The projects tackle these challenges through micro-regeneration designs implemented in twelve community sites, with the aim of creating thoughtful and effective interventions using limited resources. The primary objective is to establish a 1,800-square-meter shared living space that provides necessary living areas for residents, enhancing the quality of public life, and fostering a sense of belonging within the community. By inserting appropriate hardware facilities and reconfiguring existing elements, the projects aimed to transform the Lilong environment.

The regeneration efforts encompass various aspects of the community. Lilong entrances were redesigned and renovated to serve as extensions of private spaces or accommodate essential services such as security and information boards. Community squares, which have long been central to public life, are reimagined to integrate functions such as clothes drying, parking, and community events. Additionally, public facilities like toilets and garbage rooms are upgraded to improve their functionality and appearance.

Architect : TM Studio

Project location : Huangpu District, Shanghai

Completion Year : 2017

Area : about 450 sqm

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Scenes of the Lilong Neighbourhood Source: Ren Guang

Shajing Ancient Fair

The rejuvenation project of the Shajing Ancient Fair in Shenzhen, China, is the largest historical district in the city, encompassing various historical sites, including the Longjin River, Longjin Stone Pagoda, old houses, ancestral halls, and ancient wells. However, the area has suffered from decay, with urban villages, temporary buildings and informal immigrant communities.

The rejuvenation of the Shajing Ancient Fair employed a technique similar to acupuncture therapy, strategically choosing key locations and making slight interventions to preserve the social structure and spatial integrity. The project encompassed six distinct renovation and new design groups situated along the banks of the Longjin River. These groups included the following: A. Landscape of Longjin River Bank; B. Longjin Water Pavilion; C. Public Stage; D. Ruin Garden; E. House of Gable Wall; F. Old House Image Gallery.

One of the projects, the Longjin River, had become narrow, polluted, and neglected. Architects adopted a low-cost rain and sewage diversion strategy to divide the river into two layers, the bottom layer for sewage and the top for rainwater. The riverbank was revitalized with flower ponds, seats, bridges, and walking paths, making it a public space for people to enjoy and experience.

The Public Stage serves as a means to activate the rich cultural heritage of the Shajing Ancient Fair through public space. Shajing, once a prominent bazaar and the birthplace of Cantonese opera and mantis fist martial arts, has seen a decline in its traditional cultures over time. To rejuvenate these cultural practices, architects have undertaken the restoration, transformation, and creation of various public spaces.

Architects : ARCity Office

Project location : Baoan District, Shenzhen

Year : 2019

Area : 1000 sqm

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Credit: ARCity Office
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Credit: Xue Li Hong Credit: ARCity Office Credit: ARCity Office Credit: Yue Bai

Seoul Cultural District (Daehak-ro)

After being liberated as a Japanese colony, Korea used urban conservation and regeneration projects to not only rehabilitate and restore Korean culture but to create new cultural spaces. One such place is Daehakro, a major arts and culture street in Korea with approximately 150 theatres clustered in the area. Daehakro, which means “university street”, is about 1.6km in length and used to be the major road in the middle of Seoul National University’s original campus opened in 1929. It is the first cultural street developed by the city government that builds on the commercialization of youth and performing arts. The concentration of small theatres was encouraged and place-making efforts began in 1985 when the Seoul city administration saw the potential of the street as an arts and culture street. Amidst university restaurants, antique stores, and art shops, many small theatres were newly opened and some moved in from other parts of Seoul. The share of culture and education activities increased from 13.2% to 18.4%. A rapid increase was also seen in commercial uses such as restaurants, cafes, and bars.

In 2002, Daehakro was designated a “cultural district” and operated as a “no cars zone” on weekends. In addition to attracting international visitors, the area is frequented by many local residents. There are many types of performance and art spaces, ranging from theatres, art centres, galleries, and small concert halls that have seating capacities ranging from 75 seats to 600 seats. The district is managed by government organizations that maintain and preserve the historical and cultural identity while mediating between the theatre groups and commercial activities in the area. In addition to the theatres, visitors can visit other historically popular sites such as Marronnier Park and Naksan Park, or experience the latest trends at the various eateries and shopping facilities.

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Streetscape of Daekha-ro

Source: Korea Tourism Organization

Scenes of Daehak-ro’s Cultural Activation

Source: Korea Tourism Organization

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Urban Conservation and Regeneration: Kreta Ayer


New and Living Town

Greater Kreta Ayer

Weaving Kreta Ayer

Informality, Continuity, Organicity

Beyond the Conservation

Immortal Kreta Ayer

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Group 1 Strategy:

Establish a New and Living Town in Singapore’s Chinatown

The core communities of Singapore’s Chinatown were the Chinese early immigrants, but they have been resettled since the mid-1960s when the urban renewal schemes started. Living, working, communicating and entertaining, most of these communal activities were lost, so Singapore’s Chinatown is actually a dead heritage. Therefore, we are going to recreate a new town and bring back the new communities, instead of replicating the old Chinatown.

To create a living town in Singapore’s Chinatown and solve a series of problems, we proposed five steps to achieve our goal:

Step 1: In order to ensure the sustainability and harmlessness of the urban regeneration and protection process, we use the Historic Urban Landscape Approach (HUL) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the main guideline to guide the entire regeneration and conservation process.

Step 2: To establish new core communities and break the dilemma where commerce dominates, we encourage changing the function of the second and third floors to different types of living, which can be long-term rental rooms, personal living and hotels. The people who live here can be new immigrants who like the local convenient service, good location, proper rental, Chinese atmosphere and lovely historic buildings. Or, they can be the modern coolie-employers who work in the nearby CBD. The different kinds of people living here allow us to create a complex and organic social network and re-establish a new community.

Step 3: After ensuring a sufficient number of living spaces, it is important to ensure that these new residents can have good and suitable living conditions. Therefore, we are calling for improving facilities and infrastructure within Chinatown, providing public and half-public spaces, and improving accessibility.

Step 4: As an important historical site in Singapore, the new living town should enhance the cultural and historical narrative of the site to promote a sense of belonging and identity. A good place reflects and embraces its heritage, culture and identity that developed over time. It feels authentic and relates well to its context in terms of its distinctive natural and urban qualities. It draws from its past and present to bring out the values and essence of the place and people feel connected to it.

Step 5: In order to avoid Singapore’s Chinatown becoming an enclave in the city and let it adapt to contemporary modern life, it is necessary to create a relationship with the surrounding environment through tangible and intangible ways. Establishing a close connection between Singapore’s Chinatown and the surrounding environment can improve the convenience of transportation, allowing residents in this new community to go to surrounding areas for work, study and entertainment more easily, which will improve the quality of life of residents. At the same time, Singapore’s Chinatown is a place full of culture and history. By creating a connection with the surrounding environment, the history and culture of this area can enter the surroundings and enrich the cultural life of nearby people.

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Full Website:
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Group 2 Strategy:

Greater Kreta Ayer

The urban regeneration and conservation strategies for Greater Kreta Ayer, also known as Chinatown in Singapore, are guided by five principles. Firstly, the focus is on promoting and preserving the cultural diversity and heritage of Chinatown. This involves protecting traditional architecture, and sites of worship, and highlighting the maritime history of Kreta Ayer. Secondly, the strategies aim to encourage the growth of locally focused businesses that align with the unique character of Chinatown, fostering entrepreneurship and innovation while remaining connected to the community.

The development process adopts a participatory approach by engaging and involving the community in decision-making. This ensures that the interests and opinions of the residents and stakeholders are considered. Furthermore, sustainable development practices are prioritized, with a focus on climate resilience and minimizing environmental impact. Green infrastructure and practices are promoted to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly environment.

The spatial function of Greater Kreta Ayer is divided into three axes of focus. The first axis called the Cultural Kaleidoscope, showcases the rich and diverse local sights, including traditional architecture and places of worship. It also highlights the maritime history of Kreta Ayer. The second axis, the Business Boulevard, benefits from its proximity to the Central Business District, fostering greater synergies between the historic district and the modern business hub. The third axis, the Sustainable Oasis, incorporates green spaces and corridors, promoting a healthy and wellbalanced lifestyle for residents and visitors.

Within the Cultural Kaleidoscope, the focus is on reconnecting the cultural facets of the area and showcasing the multi-ethnic history of the immigrants. This is achieved through street art and installations, street signages, and augmented reality experiences. The Business Boulevard aims to reconnect international and local businesses, promote economic sustainability, and showcase Singapore’s traditional business and trade. The Sustainable Oasis focuses on creating a cohesive green corridor by connecting existing and new green spaces, providing areas for leisure activities and enhancing the aesthetic appeal.

The Intersection Node, located in the public housing area around Kreta Ayer Square, serves as a central point for the regeneration of the entire precinct. This space will be redeveloped into a new community hub with mixed-use facilities. The aim is to construct a high-rise building that is age-friendly and conducive to active ageing, incorporating elements similar to Kampong Admiralty. Activities such as intergenerational exchanges and education tours will help connect the elderly with other demographics in the population.

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3 Strategy:

Weaving Kreta Ayer Group

Our strategy implements a multi-nodal system within Kreta Ayer by engaging the existing community and the new crowd with the proposed interventions such as mixed-use developments, green squares, public plazas, pedestrian links, and tourist hotspots. The strategy aims to unravel the area’s entanglement and revive the shophouses and modern development by weaving livable spaces, public and private, into the precinct and transforming it into a thriving neighbourhood.

Urban Landscape Reinvented

Our strategy for weaving spaces of similar nature is to build connections on an urban landscape level. Our strategy is to provide Well Connected-Links which can seamlessly connect to the surrounding movement network and generate a street layout and hierarchy of streets. From a macro perspective, we interweave spaces with similar programs to introduce better connectivity in the neighbourhood. In several important spatial nodes, we proposed several urban interventions at potential spaces. For example, at Luckytown Plaza, the intervention proposes new underground developments such as shopping malls and parking spaces for tourists and locals and also the area above the ground level can be made into an open and interactive green square that attracts crowds from the MRT and bus stops and allows them to disperse into the back lanes of the shophouses.

New Kreta Ayer Avenue

This part is about the new intervention to a more detailed extent on connecting the different ends of Kreta Ayer for a more livable and walkable neighbourhood. The New Kreta Ayer Avenue starts from the proposed open plaza adjacent to the Buddha Relic Temple and ends on the other side by Pearl Hill, therefore connecting a big stretch of various spaces that enables activities such as sports, play, entertainment, shopping and business. Along this route are many newly proposed urban landscape elements such as ramps, staircases and a new garden bridge that allows a transition that is interactive and well-connected.

Active Back Lane

Back lanes, unlike the busy streets of traffic, are on the other side of Kreta Ayer. In the long block design of the Straits Settlement shophouses neighbourhoods, the planners separated the block on two sides, with buildings back-to-back and closely juxtaposed on both sides of the street. Such a plan resulted in a long, thin back alley in the middle. From our planning perspective, the back alleys can be altered from their former (and current) utilitarian function into a private green space tucked in between the shophouses.

The idea of the plan is to break down the components of the backyard and expand it into a green lane that accommodates different activities throughout the day. The degree of intimacy between the public and private spaces is mediated by the shophouses and the back lanes. Introducing levels to cover and connect the linear lanes to the nodes, and also to function as a place to gather.

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Group 4 Strategy:

Informality, Continuity, Organicity

The proposal examines how the issue of massive gentrification in the historic Chinatown complex can be effectively addressed with the proposed strategies. It highlights three macro strategies: populating, activating and optimising to preserve the essence of originally Kreta Ayer and simultaneously foster a vibrant and inclusive community, returning the currently underutilized space to the public and reintroducing laughter and chatter, which has been replaced by the whirlwind of formality and uniformity.

Our observation found that due to the strict regulation of its current state and the activities that incline towards massive tourism, the implication has caused limitation of urban porosity and obstruction of sentimental connections to the existing historic urban fabric. Therefore, through this proposal, the historic street is reintroduced as a cultural street that caters to various local informal activities for not only tourists but also indigenous stakeholders. The idea of activation of designated programs, urban furniture, and “hang-out spaces” are explored to achieve this without disrupting the historic character of the street. Thus, Cultural activities are hoped to be taking place.

Components such as “Kiosks, Tables, Landscapes, Services, and Plays” are utilized to encourage “organic” interaction and self-curated activities, to maintain the porosity and informality of the historic urban area, and to promote sociocultural interactions while serving multiple functions. By inserting various urban furniture, the streets are inhabited to accommodate various simultaneous and spontaneous activities. This set of public furniture serves as merchant booths, restaurants, seating areas, and mini-parks, fostering interactions between locals, tourists, and merchants. The aim is to revive the sense of community and preserve the “Geniusloci” of the historic streets through the interactions of stakeholders. Several attractions such as night markets and skateboarding are also introduced to add vibrancy and extend the liveliness into the night. The set of public furniture also allows stakeholders to engage in nighttime festivities, ensuring a dynamic atmosphere that reflects the past. Furthermore, the proposal also extends its attention to the back alleys. To transform the back alleys into a more welcoming environment, technical solutions alone are insufficient; urbanistic and architectural enhancements are necessary. By introducing flexible furniture and “green” elements, the back alleys can be activated as urban living rooms.

Along with the allocated time slot practice for specific programs and also the involvement of relevant governmental agencies on the managerial level, through these strategies, it is envisioned that the lost connection between the past and present, modern and heritage, people and sense of culture or history can be reconciled and rectified.

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Group 5 Strategy:

Going Beyond the Conservation

‘Going Beyond the Conservation’ highlights the future conservation and regeneration efforts in Chinatown. It showcases initiatives to safeguard cultural heritage, restore historic buildings, and regenerate sustainable urban development that integrates the community for the next generation. The thought behind this was to create a place with new technology, art and tangible and intangible culture that incorporates the youth, older people, tourists, and traders under one roof and makes it a sustainable community.

As development is inevitable and cannot be stopped, diverging the direction to a good and progressive face is essential. Unfortunately, it was found that the development in Chinatown was going towards more gentrification and focusing on workerism rather than integrating the locals, youth, tourists, and shopkeepers. Insights were gained that different challenges are faced by other groups of people in the place and the surrounding. Therefore, it becomes more critical to developing and protecting strategies and revitalising the neighbourhood.

After interviewing different groups of people, three issues were concluded-

• Lack of Public and Cultural spaces

• Problems with Traffic and Parking

• Single Economic Mode

These issues were analysed, and new strategies with their design ideas were proposed. These ideas were given after analysing the current need of the people and how they will affect them in future. The presented strategies were focused on - Social conservation and regeneration, Outdoor spaces conservation and regeneration, and Ground floor conservation and regeneration.

A few strategies are as follows-

• Public spaces will be designed by creating a new square (the crossing of pagoda street and Trengganu Street) and creating barrier-free passages for social mixes.

• Traffic and parking can be reorganised to prioritise pedestrian safety, regulate traffic flow, accommodate commercial activities, and foster a walking culture. These initiatives will enhance the overall functionality and attractiveness of the area, ensuring a pleasant experience for residents and visitors alike.

• The single economic mode must be changed to ‘Mix economic mode’ by creating more green and open spaces for different activities on the ground floor, reducing the temporary shops outside the shophouse, and introducing new commercial activities

Another emphasis of the project is the promotion of sustainable development practices within Chinatown. It sheds light on initiatives to balance economic growth with heritage conservation and environmental sustainability. By advocating for responsible urban planning, the website inspires visitors to support initiatives that ensure a harmonious coexistence between tradition and progress.

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Group 6 Strategy:

Immortal Kreta Ayer The Revived Theatre District

Kreta Ayer, the original Malay name of the present-day Chinatown area commemorates Singapore’s long interaction with the sea, and also the vital source of clean drinking water that supplied the seafaring traders who came to shore on Telok Ayer Basin. Therefore a new historical lens should be used to focus on Kreta Ayer as a destination of choice for discerning cultural tourists who might want to trace the founding of Singapore, her transformation into a thriving city-state, and in particular the story of the Chinese-speaking communities who have always congregated around this area.

While Singapore’s Chinatown is a major tourist attraction however the mass market approach is not attracting the new wave of tourists who are savvy with technology and therefore capable of independent research. These high-value cultural tourists crave original and authentic experiences and will not settle for simulacrums which unfortunately the current form of Chinatown has degenerated into. In order to be sustainable both environmentally and culturally, Singapore needs to find a solution to upgrade some of its tourist destinations. There is a wealth of treasures such as the regional interpretations of traditional Chinese Operas that can be represented to the public and also to help revitalize the neighbourhood once again as a new theatre district that is anchored by the original art forms and supporting industries and yet open to future forms of performance arts.

Theatre District and the New Green Zone

We propose transforming the area as an eco-cultural district, reconnecting with the original intangible multi-cultural assets that were integral to the building structures and city fabric, and continuing the legacy from the past to be passed on to future generations. Through the crowd drawing activities of the restored theatres and also the greening of historical urban trails and the creation of a new fountain as a public square that harks back to the founding of Kreta Ayer as a source of life-giving water.

Climate change calls for the reuse and retrofitting of existing buildings in order to minimize embodied carbon footprint and we choose to position the historically and culturally significant Lai Chuen Yuen Theatre as the epicentre of the new Theatre District. With the support of the equally illustrious but similarly abandoned Majestic Theatre as the new performance space, and also to utilize the Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre as an education venue for a new generation of performances and artisans, we see a potential for synergistic traffic density that will address the problems such as low-value tourists.

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AC5008 Design for Conservation: People’s Park Complex


Module Focus

Participating Students

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Studio Focus

In the context of architecture, the conservation of historical buildings is understood as the management of change and permanence. It’s a way to balance the progress and relevance of these buildings while keeping the identity of a place that comes with the retention of the building to a certain degree. Furthermore, it is also directly related to tackling climate change, carbon neutrality, and the circular economy, in the industry of the built environment.

Based on the recommendations set forth by the Singapore Heritage Society, architects are called to initiate and propose alternative plans to rehabilitate buildings and bring forward strategies for adaptive reuse to stakeholders and government bodies. And as a practice of architectural design for conservation, this studio’s projects tackle the preservation and continuation of the significance and relevance of modern heritage in Singapore, specifically the People’s Park Complex.

Singapore’s identity as a modern Asian city-state is reflected in her modernist architectural heritage. But as this country grapples with the dilemma of retaining or demolishing these buildings in the name of progress and land scarcity, the longevity of these buildings is uncertain. However, in 2021, the Golden Mile Complex, one of Singapore’s iconic modernist buildings, obtained a conserved building status and was bought by a joint consortium for redevelopment. Therefore, its unprotected older sibling, the People’s Park Complex, also deserves the same attention through intervention schemes that are relevant to current use.

The schemes aim to reveal the qualities of the site and the place, including historical, architectural, cultural, and social memories of the past and their relevance to the present and future conditions. Architecturally, the new design interventions or insertions should integrate well with the existing built and natural context regarding typology, material, aesthetics, functionality, and environment. Moreover, the new intervention should add economic viability to the existing site/building/neighbourhood and be compatible and appropriate in responding to its immediate physical, social, and environmental contexts.

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The People’s Park Complex in the Kreta Ayer Vicinity

Participating Students

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Gevin Timotius MAArC Alexander Utama MAArC Gong Yi Fan MAArC Shen Mo Xuan MAArC Wang Xin Ru MAArC Zheng Yue Jia MAArC Melissa Lee Juin Tze MAArC
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Design for Conservation: People’s Park Complex

Understanding the Building History of the PPC Design of the PPC Progress and Current State Context Analysis

Threat to PPC’s Survivability Significance

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History of the PPC

The site where the People’s Park Complex was built was initially an open public ground named the People’s Park, nestled at the foot of Pearl’s Hills in Kreta Ayer, where the Pearl’s Hill Police Operational Headquarters has been since colonial times. The park then transformed into a Wet Market known as People’s Park Market (珍珠巴剎) or Pearl’s Market in the 1930s, due to its adjacency to Bridge Road and the growth of incoming street hawkers from bustling Kreta Ayer or Chinatown area. Furthermore, it was known for its night markets or pasar malam, selling durians until 2 am. Unfortunately, the traditional market caught on fire on Christmas Eve in 1966, destroying the whole complex which was made of timber.

The year after the incident, the Singaporean government announced the redevelopment of the destroyed lot into commercial-cumresidential buildings (the People’s Park Complex and the People’s Park Food Center), also as a way to tackle the overpopulation of Kreta Ayer and its surrounding vicinity. The building, in its strategic downtown location, would become the first modernist highrise in independent Singapore.

The images of the initial scheme showed Urban Renewal Department’s (URD) vision for the redevelopment that had a podium building with three parallel towers, complete with pioneering amenities such as a link bridge that would connect the shophouses, the people’s park redevelopment building, the park road development, all the way to pearl’s hill. In the end, People’s Park Development by Mr Ho Kok Cheong won the bid in 1967, making the People’s Park Complex a Private property with a 99-year leasehold from the government.

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People’s Park Market in 1960s Source: National Archives of Singapore People’s Park in 1884 Source: Matthew Chan
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URD’s 1967 Scheme for People’s Park Source: National Library Board

Design of the PPC

People’s Park Complex (PPC) was designed by the trio William Lim, Tay Kheng Soon and Koh Seow Chuan ( DP Architects), and ended up being one of Singapore’s most important modernist structures during its post-independent era. The building was designed as a “new nucleus within the whole fabric of the city core”, where commercial and residential functions found in the shophouses nearby were reinterpreted on a larger scale and in a consolidated manner. Knowing that the complex is an important node within the city, the developer gifted the Singaporean government a bridge from the complex to the shophouses across the road to promote continuity of man circulation from the building to the rest of the vicinity.

At a glimpse, the composition of the building is straightforward with its box-shaped podium for commercial programmes and a vertical tower for the residential spaces, circulation (staircase and lifts,) and utility. The clean geometry and brutalist finish of the building are very representative of its time during the late-modernist age of architecture.

Inside the podium, a gathering atrium named the City Room was designed to accommodate the much-needed gathering space in the area, referring to the early existence of the People’s Park. The tiered levels of the podium stores and the composition of corridors, staircases, shops, and colonnades, connected at the City Room, created this dynamic relationship between the spaces in all levels. While there was a design attempt to apply pyramidal skylights above the City Room to introduce daylight into the massive podium block, it wasn’t realised. The planning of the tower block is Corbusian in character, as the residential tower has a shared space between every 3-4 levels. Referred to as ‘streets in the air,’ these shared spaces support communal interaction between residents, just like Corbusier’s ‘Unité d’habitation’ typology for vertical housings.

The People’s Park Complex became a model project in Asia with its integrated development and showed how Western and Eastern architectural ideals were conjoined in the Asian-city context. Japanese architect, Fumihiko Maki, commended the project for being a realization of the Japanese Metabolist movement, while Rem Koolhaas described the project as a “condensed version of a Chinese downtown, a threedimensional market based on the cellular matric of Chinese shopping-a modern movement Chinatown.”

Project Name : People’s Park Complex

Address : 1 Park Road

Architects : Koh Seow Chuan, William Lim & Tay Kheng Soon

Developer/Owner : People’s Park Devt Pte Ltd

Completion Date : June 1973

Site Area : 10,358.7 sqm

Building Height : 102.7 m

Function : Commercial/Residential

GFA : 78,000.00 sqm

No of Storeys : 31

Source : Singapore 1:1 City: A Gallery of Architecture & Urban Design

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People’s Park Complex Model (Skylight Design) in 1967

Source: National Archives of Singapore

People’s Park Complex (Skylight Design) Section

Source: DP Architects’ Archives

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People’s Park Complex Final Design Model in 1968

Source: National Archives of Singapore

People’s Park Complex Final Design Section

Source: DP Architects’ Archives

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Sketch of the PPC’s Interior Source: DP Architects’ Archives Plan of the building Dp Architects’ Archives

Progress and Current State

In the early stages of its opening along with the Food Market in the 70s and 80s, the People’s Park Complex (PPC) was a popular destination for locals and tourists to shop and dine in the heart of Singapore. The City Room was actively utilized as a public forum where public events such as public health campaigns, holiday festivals, fashion shows, and rallies were held. The gaps between the people’s park and the surrounding buildings acted as green spaces where people could rest and gather.

With the advancement of Singapore’s city planning, the People’s Park Complex became an important node within the urban fabric. The building’s transit system was upgraded, with the addition of the garden bridge and the MRT exit. Both interventions changed the experience of the complex and its visibility towards the surrounding areas.

In terms of the building’s envelope expression, multiple colour schemes were applied: Brutalist, Blue-Brown, Turquoise-Orange, and finally Green-Yellow. The application of paints at the facade was meant to synchronize the PPC building to the technicolour tone of Chinatown. Glass Facades were added to close the inverted-terracing composition of the building’s facade, with some parts in curving glasses. The reason was to close the building for AC usage. The blank facade has also been used for advertisements. On the inside, the simple lines for the railings of the corridors were redesigned in a more ‘orientalist’ manner, with the metal works of the railings, and the mezzanine of the city room in a curved plan. This was to emphasize the ‘Chinatown-ness’ of PPC.

Currently, there are still some of the shops that have continued since the opening of the PPC. A famous sight of the area is the Chinese uncles that hang around the premises of the building. But now, the PPC is famous for the new wave of incoming Mainland Chinese, indicated with the opening of Northern Chinese restaurants, and travel agents for the Mainland Chinese.

Meanwhile, the resurgence of interest in PPC by local Singaporean youth groups was sparked by contemporary events held at the rooftop such as Getai Electronica and a rooftop bar by Lepark. The scenery from the rooftop, which to some, is reminiscent of Hong Kong’s skyline, became a place where people can take pictures. But these incidents were temporary.

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Visualization of the Brown-Blue Scheme Base Image by Darren Soh, recoloured Brown Scheme Interior of PPC Source: Brutalist People’s Park Complex (East Facade) Source: Brutalist People’s Park Complex (South Facade) Source: National Archives of Singapore Orange-Turquoise PPC Scheme Source: Wikimedia (2005) Green-Yellow PPC Scheme Source: Darren Soh
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The City Room in 1972 Source: National Archives of Singapore The City Room currently Source: Finbarr Fallon North-East Entrance of PPC Original Design Source: North-East Entrance of PPC Current State Source: Brilliance Capital
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Public Space between PPC and PPFC in 1970s Source: National Archives of Singapore The interspatial bridge in 1985 Source: National Archives of Singapore The garden bridge replacing the old bridge Source: Google Earth Public Space between PPC and PPFC currently Source: Darren Soh

Context Analysis

The People’s Park Complex is surrounded by significant building developments within the area. The commercial and residential buildings with parks have shaped a distinct character with their own original texture and fabric in the vicinity. Besides shopping, working and living, the complex also hosted numerous notable social and cultural activities influenced by the context of the surrounding site. The site is surrounded by business and office areas, zoned for commercial use with a cluster of shophouses owned by many local businesses across the New Bridge Road and hotel development. The neighbouring hotel developments such as Park Royal and Furama City Centre, are potential locations for hosting meetings and events, boasting umpteen hotels and dedicated conference centres.

Situated just a slope above People’s Park Complex is the Pearl Hill Terrace, which is an enclave for the emerging creative class of entrepreneurs with local businesses in the commercial building. People’s Park Complex can be a potential site to attract the creative youth community and start-up entrepreneurs from the surrounding commercial areas. For instance, some of the business entrepreneurs used to operate on the rooftop car park of People’s Park Complex like the flea market and car-boot market were a collaboration between an online retailer and Lepark. Edible Gardens is another example of a pop-up rooftop garden initiated by a social enterprise.

The site is also populated by numerous HDB blocks and condominiums such as One Pearl Bank (formerly known as Pearl Bank Apartments), The Landmark Condominium, and HDB Chin Swee. The PPC site can be redefined with strategies to create a symbiotic and complementary relationship between the building site and the surrounding community. The housing area plays a key role in providing prospective residents with a healthy and resilient community by supporting ageing in place and building the common amenities in the neighbourhood.

Lastly, the site’s proximity to surrounding parks enhance the essence of tranquillity in this bustling city area. Some of the nearby hidden troves of lush greenery belt are Pearl Hill City Park, Hong Lim Park, and Duxton Plain Park tucked away in the corner of Chinatown. Pearl Hill City Park remains the main source of freshwater for Chinatown in the present day. In the coming future, it will be transformed into a hilltop and a midlevel park which will form a green chain linking to Duxton Plain Park. The Duxton Plain Park is a serene linear park that connects with the residential development of the Pinnacle at Duxton. Hong Lim Park, known as Speakers’ Corner, is a heritage park that remained as a venue for many community events. The surrounding parks bring the potential of connecting greenery to the site.

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URA’s Conservation Portal, People’s Park Complex is not conserved

Source: URA

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Surrounding Spaces and Buildings Image by Melissa Lee Juin Tze

Threat to PPC’s Survivability

Despite its importance and significance to the area, the People’s Park Complex is not a conserved building within URA’s map for conserved areas and buildings. The buildings at the PPC’s right, the Majestic Theatre and Yue Hwa Building, however, are conserved. We can also see that many of the modernist heritage buildings, such as the Park Road Development, which was mentioned at Docomomo SG’s Modernist 100, are not conserved.

According to the position paper by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) titled ‘Too Young To Die’, the threat to PPC’s survivability is the probable sale of this complex with the decrease of the property value and less than 50 years left on its lease. As of June 2023, the collective sale of the People’s Park Complex has been announced, which was responded by Docomomo SG through a statement post in their website.

Reasons of the sale and the reluctancy of saving the building are: The banks are reluctant to give loans for repairs and upkeep of this property, causing maintenance issues, low marketability, a change of residents’ character (into an enclave of Mainland Chinese) and negative public perception. Previously, Along with the People’s Park Centre, Golden Mile Complex and Golden Mile Tower, a committee was set up in 2018 to attempt its En-Bloc Sale. Different fates were faced by the respective buildings, in which the People’s Park Centre is currently up for sale at a $1.8 billion reserve price, and the Golden Mile Complex was successfully conserved.

In addition, the demolition of the People’s Park Complex, if it were to happen, will put Singapore in ‘debt’ environmentally, especially with the carbon emission resulting from demolishing this brutalist giant. Singapore, through the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), has committed with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to push forward a more sustainable built environment and industry. Thus, saving and repurposing these buildings should be encouraged rather than demolishing and building another building over its footprint. Furthermore, it will not only threaten small-scale local businesses based at the People’s Park Complex, but the demolition will also affect the sense of place and community of Kreta Ayer, threatening the vicinity’s intangible heritage.

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The Demolition of Pearl Bank Apartments, PPC’s modernist neighbour Source: Finbarr Fallon

Data by Alexander Utama

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Property Value Estimation

Values of the Buildings

Aesthetic & Architectural Value

People’s Park Complex is one of Singapore’s important modernist architecture manifestations, by in itself a unique creation to solve urban density in Kreta Ayer, based on the Japanese metabolism, Corbusier’s housing typology, contextualized in Singapore and designed by locallytrained Singaporean architects.

The City-room is a unique feature of the building, connecting the city and the interior of the building, which inspired the developments in the more recent eras. The building is an example of early modern urban nodes in Singapore, where connections for the residents to walk between the buildings and across to the shophouses were first built.

Historical Value

The building’s site itself has high historical significance for being the main gathering place of the vicinity, whether it was an open park, a market, or a mix-use building throughout its time.

The People’s Park Complex is a physical testament to modern Singapore state identity and the early stages of the country’s attempts in constructing various mix-use developments.

Contextual Value

The building has been the defining element of the Kreta Ayer/ Chinatown cityscape and skyline since the 1970s, which has been engraved in the memories of modern Singaporean society and international visitors coming to Singapore.

Communal & Social Value

A significant number of communities living and working in the People’s Park Complex throughout the years have set up their stores. Some stores have been there for a long period, especially those that opened since the commencement of the PPC. Along with the People’s Park Food Center, the People’s Park Complex has been their ‘home’ for decades.

Economic Value

Being at the fringe of the CBD Area and well connected by public transit and infrastructure, the PPC has great potential to succeed commercially like it did in its early days.

The building is an important node in downtown Singapore. The surrounding buildings and services, such as the Family Justice Courts, allow the building to be used strategically as offices, such as law firms and small banks.

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Aerial view of PPC during its’ construction Source: ‘Uncles’ hanging at the North-east Entrance of the PPC Source: National Archives of Singapore PPC framed by the shophouses Source: @daintydaisiees The liveliness of the City Room Source: National Archives of Singapore
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Design for Conservation: People’s Park Complex

Modernist Building Reuse Precedents

PMQ Hong Kong

Sarinah Building

Turtle Bay Towers

Beauty World Centre’s ‘wethefarm’

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PMQ Hong Kong

The Police Married Quarters (PMQ) in Hong Kong, which was built in 1951, is standing on the footprints of the grounds of the Central School, which was built in 1889 and destroyed in 1941 during the Japanese Occupation. The PMQ was built to increase the recruitment of immigrant Chinese police after the Chinese Civil War, providing housing for officers serving at the Central Police Station until 2000.

After years of neglect, the government decided to conserve and activate the building and designate it as a creative hub in central Hong Kong, in conjunction with the other 7 heritage sites mentioned in the ‘Conserving Central’ Policy Address. Excavation and investigation of the site were done beforehand by the Antiquities and Monument Office (AMO) during 2005 and 2007, and they managed to discover the retaining walls of the Central School. Based on the found evidence and records that support it, the site was listed as a Grade III Historic Building in 2010 and reopened as a creative hub in 2014.

The project was conducted by the government’s Architectural Service Department, in which the two housing blocks, named Stauton and Hollywood, connected with an added bridge-building named ‘CUBE’. The housing units, which are uniquely separated by the rooms and kitchen by a corridor, are transformed to house creative retailers, tenants, and workshops. And as for the found substructures of the Central School, an underground interpretation gallery designed around the rubbles for visitors to roam and discover.

Address : 35 Aberdeen Street

Principal Architects : Architectural Service Department, Hong Kong Gov

Interior, Landscape : the Oval Partnership

Operator Design : Thomas Chow


Developer/Owner : Government-Owned

Completion Year : 1951

Renovation Year : 2014

Site Area : 6000 sqm

Building Use Before : Housing

Building Use Now :Art and Design Venue

No of Storeys : 7

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The Married Quarters in 1952 and 2014 Source: Oval Partnership

Programming of PMQ HK

Source: Oval Partnership



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Visualisation of the PMQ HK Gallery of the Foundation of the Central School Wikimedia The ‘CUBE’ bridge-building addition Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Sarinah Building

Sarinah Department Store is coined by Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno, to push the retail industry in Indonesia during the nation’s early years in the 1960s, making it the first mall in the country. The building’s construction was held during political unrest (G30SPKI) but it managed to be inaugurated in 1966. The building was designed by a local firm named Perentjana Djaja and was built by a government-owned Japanese contractor company, funded by Japanese war reparation funds. The original design of the building was a single-storey podium with a 13-storey tower above, and a grand staircase connecting the first level to the roof level of the podium for pedestrians. The modernist expression of the building was of its time, in congruence with the modernist movement in Indonesia during the 1960s.

Sarinah went through two fires, in 1968 and the 1980s, followed by a renovation in the 1970s designed by Atelier 6 Architects. The 1970s renovation added a tiered roof in the centre of the building. During this era, Indonesian Architects were keen to implement ‘Indonesian-ness’ in their practice, inspired by the pitched roof of traditional houses of the archipelago.

Sarinah’s existence in the 2000s-2010s was overshadowed by the further development of Thamrin Road, in which new malls and shops opened. However, the building experienced another fire in 2015, which sparked another plan to renovate the building to bring back its nostalgic modernist expression. An activated frontage was further added to elevate the property value for the incoming tenants. Since Sarinah was granted a tentative conservation status, the design team was determined to respect the former design intent of the building. The tiered roof was removed and the modernist facade reinterpreted, the podium redesigned to accommodate a high-ceiling atrium, and a discovered Soekarno-era sculpture was exhibited at the centre of the new atrium. The project was finished in 2021 and has been flocked by visitors daily.

Address : Jalan M. H. Thamrin No.11, Central Jakarta, Indonesia

Principal Architect : Perentjana Djaja

1970 Reno Architect: Atelier 6

2021 Reno Architect: Air Mas Asri

Developer/Owner : State-Owned

Completion Year : 1966

Renovation Year : 2020-2022

Site Area : 17,000 sqm

Building Height : 74 m

Building Use : Commercial

No of Storeys : 15

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Sarinah’s Design in 1963 Source: Yuke Adhiati

Sarinah’s Transformation throughout the decades

Source: Air Mas Asri

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Air Mas Asri’s Sarinah Source: Air Mas Asri Atelier 6’s Sarinah Source: Adhi Karya The revealed sculpture displayed at the lobby Source: Sunaryo Haryo Bayu

Turtle Bay Towers

Turtle Bay Towers was initially built in 1929 to function as an NYC Design School and was briefly a print factory. The 26-story building experienced a gas explosion, which thankfully didn’t affect the integrity of the building. As a method to promote the repurposing of the building, the New York City legislation gave tax abatements to developers that were interested in adaptively reusing the building for residences. In the end, the developer with the architect managed to churn 341 housing units from the building and opened it in 1977 as a luxury apartment located strategically in Midtown East New York, near the United Nations Office.

The intervention discarded the damaged shaft from the explosion to expose the apartment building to natural ventilation and lighting. Though the floor area was reduced, the officials permitted the covering of the setbacks in glass canopies (called greenhouse windows) for the apartments. The architects also managed to portion the nonuniform floor plan into various apartment types, resulting in an interesting response of the space to accommodate residential use. The adaptive reuse of the building was awarded the First Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.

Address : 310 E 46th Street, New York

Architect : RKTB Architects

Developer/Owner : Rockrose Cons. Corporation

Built Year : 1929

Repurposed Year : 1977

Building Use Before: Design School, then Print Factory

Building Use Now : Housing

No of Storeys : 26

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The Towers before the repurpose Source: RKTB Architects The Tower as Housing Now Source: Bill Rothschild
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The added Cascading Glass Canopies Source: RKBT Architects Caption The Glass Canopy Interior Source: RKBT Architects Section of an Apartment Unit Source: RKBT Architects

Beauty World Centre’s ‘wethefarm’

Singapore as a small island nation, imports more than 90% of its food from more than 170 countries. To strengthen the food security issue for a greater future towards food resilience, Singapore Food Agency has set a “30 by 30” goal to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030. The need for a sustainable global food system is increasingly essential, ultimately changing the focus of farming from rural areas to cities with the use of technology and innovative approach to increase food production.

The founder of the local urban farming community, wethefarm has started a platform of sustainability, with the idea of transforming and utilising the underused rooftop space at Level 5 of Beauty World Centre into a public space of an urban rooftop farm. The goal is to create an impactful project for food waste reduction and sustainability education. To overcome the land and resource constraints, the farmers grow their idea sustainably by using the potential location effectively. For instance, there is a recycling process of getting food waste from the hawker centre below and creating a farm-to-table experience while also using the tuition and enrichment centres for educating the visitors.

Upon the support fund from the government, they set up varieties of compost systems: vermicomposting, isopod composting, black soldier fly composting, and hot composting. The compost compounds produced are then used as fertilizers on the farm. Besides, the rooftop space is used efficiently with experiential farming areas for edible plants, decomposing and farming areas. The locally-grown produce farm also involves the participation of volunteers and the community from the neighbourhood.

Eventually, the small sustainability initiatives from the community will help in building a more resilient food future. The farm serves as a restoration effort from the community as a climate change action as well as a platform for sustainability education through hands-on experience.

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The Beauty World Centre Building Source:
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Gates to the farm from the car park Source: Author Tan Jin Xiang and Nicholas Chin from ‘wethefarm’ Source: SG Green Plan The sheltered section of the farm Source: Author Shelves of Composting Facility Source: SG Green Plan The Farm and its’ various plants Source: Author
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AC5008 Design for Conservation: People’s Park Complex

Design Proposals

Anti-Heterotopia Heterotopian Club

Future Nostalgia

Vertical Renewal

People’s EcoHub Complex

Pathways and Gatherings

People’s Art Complex

City Parlor

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Anti-Heterotopia Heterotopian Club

People’s Park Complex as a multigenerational housing and commercial hub

The “Anti-Heterotopia Heterotopian Club” proposes a revitalization of a post-independence Singapore’s historic building and speculates on an architectural conservation methodology in which the local communities act as a catalyst for its conservancy. The project takes a cue from Micahel Focault’s notion of “heterotopia” as a means to experiment with ideas of contemporary urban-architectural typologies. Portraying the historic People’s Park Complex as a practice of architecture that hypothetically mirrors and hyperbolically romanticizes the surrounding cultural street occurrences, inverting the notion of “place-making” over “communitymaking” to form an interconnected bond amongst the people towards the activities and the building. The design leads to a novel realm where the juxtaposition of local cultural elements is fantasized, contested and subsequently materialized into the reality of the tectonics.

Having observed the potential of the site to cater for the concerning housing demands for ageing-population and working adults in the Chinatown area due to the cultural yet commercial nature of the region, the project proposes an alternative, community-centric building conservation strategy to recover and recalibrate the existing programs to become a multigenerational housing-commercial hub. By carefully taking the historical and social significance of the building, the structural integrity, and the economic and planning feasibility of the conservation of the historic building into consideration, the project responds to these contemplations by suggesting a scheme that cherishes cross-generational reciprocities and simultaneously elaborates activities through participatory events and architectural fragments that resemble locality or interpretations of local culture.

The project treats the existing podium as a confluence of two program masses (commercial and housing) in which activities are formulated through the proposed structures that initiate interactions between the stakeholders, the elderly and the adults. This initiative introduces a new ecosystem within the building that encounters situations of social and age segregation while honouring the character of “heritage” and the nature of the building to promote inclusivity and encourage the support of local communities in the conservation narrative. In this architectural proposition, the role of the elderly is challenged – they are seen as not only care receivers but also protagonists, caregivers and mentors for the younger generations. The objective of this approach is to provoke the existing architectural conservation typology by rejuvenating a radical tectonic that cultivates sociocultural interactions and triggers participatory sense so that the living communities can decide together or by themselves, the future of their social fabric and historic urban landscape.

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Above: Three drawings of PPComplex’s Vibrancy Below: Proposed Plan of the Elderly Housing

Above: Sectional and Details of the Solar Cladding

Below: Housing Units and Estimated Property Value

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Left Page Above: View of the Concourse’s Skylight Left Page Below: View of the Concourse Right Page Above: Scenes of the Activated Rooftop Right Page Below: Model of the Design Proposal
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Future Nostalgia

Collision of Singapore’s modernist past and its’ contemporary aspiration

The People’s Park Complex is one of the very few early buildings built during the early stages of Independent Singapore. It represents the modern Asian city state’s genesis by being designed by the pioneer localborn architects of Singapore, the early DP trio: William Lim, Tay Kheng Soon and Koh Seow Chuan. By being the country’s first high-rise and mix-use development, the conservation of the People’s Park Complex becomes crucial to safeguard Singapore’s built environment identity. Thus, this project is a practice on how to retain the People’s Park Complex as the key building of Singapore’s skyline through schemes that attract the interest of various stakeholders, based on the needs of the local young working adults.

The approach to the building rejuvenation is inspired by the usage of the PPCs in 2014-2017 by a pop-up tapas bar named Lepark, in which the organiser attracted Singaporean youths to hang out at and enjoy the nostalgic ambience of the building. Just as how Svetlana Boym describes nostalgia, the longing for a ‘home’ that has never existed, the reintroduction of PPC into the lifestyle of Singaporean youths creates this longing for a future past which they found in ‘outdated’ spaces.

As a response to the needed programme, the shops on the podium of the PPC transformed into working spaces for local start-ups and businesses in need of city-centre office locations, mixing with residential and adding hotel-cum-multifunction spaces for events of the youths. Abundant public spaces are inserted below and above the podium mass to expand the ‘City Room’ as an elongation of the city so that events such as ‘Lepark’ can be reintroduced in a more dynamic manner. The ‘City Room’ is naturally ventilated through the ‘stack effect’ created by the wood-laminated skylight, and further enforced by the solar-powered ceiling fans throughout the atrium.

The new intervention of the PPC brings back cues of the initial design intention but introduces contrast in the added translucent masses by placing it at an angle to create coherency and juxtaposition. The accumulated addition in the facade throughout the years is stripped to reveal the brutalist beauty of the block and the added reflective panels on the facade facing the MRT station were to reflect the ornate tile works of the opposing Majestic Theatre facade now visible once again through the redesign of the Chinatown MRT exit.

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Left Page Above:Collages of Past Inspirations Left Page Below: The proposal along with the new interspatial bridge Right Page Above: Framing of the Towers from Temple St and Pagoda St Right Page Below: Composition of the Complex, Shafts and Blocks
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Level Right Page Above: Section of the PPC Right Page Centre: The City Room Updated Right Page Below:
Design Proposal
Left Page Left Row: Exploded
Left Page Right Row: Scenes of the Podium
Model of the
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Gong Yi Fan

Vertical Renewal

People’s Park Complex Commercial Office Space Renovation, Renew Vertical Space and Awaken Urban Vitality

As a landmark building, People’s Park Complex has always been of great significance to Chinatown, and the transformation of itself is also a new regeneration of the Chinatown community. In a society with rapid economic development, it is urgent to promote the development of surrounding communities and provide residents with convenience and more public space through the renewal of such commercial space. In this design, the main concept is “to use the vertical space, activate the new vitality of People’s Park Complex, create a new mixed commercial office space”.

The main design strategy includes “activating the commercial space on the ground floor + utilizing the continuous path + updating the facade and housing design of the tower”, including considering the minimum protection, green and low-carbon construction and postutilization, as well as the management and reuse of the users.

First of all, People’s Park Complex has always been an important commercial space in Chinatown. Both in terms of geographical and functional properties, the primary goal is to continue and upgrade the commercial space and create a new “vertical” commercial space. Therefore, not only the renovation of the commercial space pattern, but also the upgrading of its commercial positioning, so that it has a wider audience and a stronger commercial atmosphere. Including activating the commercial vitality of the ground floor space, adding more outward commercial space, including two main entrances and exits directly facing the city, increasing interaction and connectivity, attracting more people and making more people stay.

Secondly, the connectivity of vertical space is enhanced at the same time, including continuous spiral steps and ramps, as well as multiple convenient elevators, which continuously guide the flow of people upward and truly expand to the vertical city. And the reuse and development of the public nature of the roof space is the most important part to expand the usable area and add more public activity space for residents. Finally, through the flexible transformation of the residential space layout of the tower, combined with the facade design, the house is more conducive to commercial and office rental and use in the degree of diversified utilization.

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Left Page Above: The New Skin of the Tower Block

Left Page Centre: Collages of PPC

Left Page Below: The building’s relation to its context

Right Page Above: Section of the Podium Block

Right Page Centre: Massing and Programme

Right Page Below: Longitudinal Section of the building

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Left Page Above: Street View of the Podium’s corner Left Page Centre: Updated Bridge Left Page Below: Scenes from the Tower Block Right Page Above: Rooftop scence Right Page Centre: Scenes from the Podium Block Right Page Below: Model of the Design Proposal
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People’s EcoHub Complex

Reinvention of a Modern Living Room as a Hub for All

People’s EcoHub Complex envisions being a one-stop location as a Modern City Room in the city core of Chinatown. It essentially aims to get various stakeholders connected, equipped, and engaged with the focus theme of Sustainability. The project introspected from the original approach in the history of creating an urban situation building typology in the city core with strong social and community aspects, by questioning the recreation and reinterpretation of the original idea in a modern approach, such that conserving the modern heritage while keeping it relevant in the contemporary days for all the inhabitants of the community. Tackled the issue of food security with a circulation on food production and consumption in relation to environmental sustainability and economic viability. Thus, it has established a new ecosystem scheme driven with the heart of ALL the inhabitants of the local residents’ community, start-ups business entrepreneurs, academic partners, and the general public that attracts in the mindset of sustainable consciousness.

The proposed scheme encompassed the main programme of urban farming, consisting of podium redesigning with an adaptable internal layout of a sustainable co-living hotel and office incubator integrated with the improved performance on the existing residential block of façade refurbishment. The restorative design and passive design approach in the building allow enhancement and rehabilitation of both the building and the users’ experience. The concept adopted the reinvention of metabolism by looking into the growth in the scale of the neighbourhood with modular accommodation as well as the linkage walkways for additional circulation between the old and new. It encouraged the symbiosis mutualism of urban green between the occupants individually and collectively with the designing of breathable experiential filiation façade and common cultivation space respectively. The open corridor with private and public common circulation between the diverse programme not only allows open interaction but also a unique eco-experience between the public and local community. Hence, it can be highlighted that this architectural conservation project with the proposed sustainable approach is an emerging effort that required all stakeholders in conserving the People’s Park Complex toward a more sustainable development in the future.

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Left Page Above: The Urban Farm’s Terraces Left Page Centre: The Urban Farm’s Top Level Left Page Below: Section of the Podium Block Right Page Above: Connection from the Farm to Tower Right Page Centre: Housing Units of the Urban Farmers Right Page Below: Model of the Design Proposal
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Pathways and Gatherings

Transforming the People’s Park Complex into a commercialized business center

People’s Park Complex has always been a significant landmark for Chinatown, and its transformation represents a fresh wave of revitalization for the neighborhood. One of the very few early structures constructed in Singapore’s early years as an independent nation is the People’s Park Complex. Its creation by the first Singaporean architects of local descent symbolizes the beginning of the modern Asian nation.

Singapore serves as a critical entry point into Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, and is a central international aviation transit hub. Every year, many people travel to Singapore for trade and business. However, Singapore only has a few sizable MICE facilities, whereas places like Chinatown, which is close to Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place, have a lot of business potential. The People’s Park Complex, a landmark building in Chinatown, would be ideal for a medium-sized MICE center.

I plan to convert PPC’s lower levels into a MICE center and renovate the upper floors into a low-carbon hotel to increase PPC’s commercial income.

The People’s Park Complex (PPC) building, by its nature, is a prime example of brutalist architecture known for its excessive use of concrete. However, I aim to redefine the brutalist notion associated with PPC by incorporating biophilic elements into its design. Despite its brutalist roots, PPC holds a significant place in Singapore’s post-independence era and has become a symbol of the country’s modern national identity. My initial intention was to apply the biophilic concept as a means to conserve the building, but as I delved deeper, I recognized the importance of retaining its character-defining elements and historical significance. With this in mind, I approached the redesign cautiously, aiming to preserve the building’s character while enhancing the atrium space by creating a hole to introduce natural ventilation and sunlight into the building. I have implemented strategies to reduce indoor air conditioning usage and minimize the need for artificial lighting during the day at PPC.

Alongside creating open spaces in the atrium, I have installed a solar panel pathway on the roof of the podium to harness solar energy and conserve energy consumption. Moreover, in order to protect the original architectural characteristics of PPC, staircases have been added to the residential block, offering people the experience of environmentally friendly green transportation. Through these measures, I aimed to achieve a lowcarbon impact while incorporating elements of nature into the design.

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Page Above: Distribution of MICE in Singapore

Page Below: Surrounding of the People’s Park Complex

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Page Above: Design Transformation

Page Below: Longitudinal Section of the Building

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Left Page Above: Added Features of the Building Left Page Left Row: Exploded View Left Page Right Row: Scenes of the Tower Facade Right Page Above: Cascading stairs at the Concourse Right Page Centre: Scenes of the MICE Venues Right Page Below: Model of the Design Proposal
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Wang Xin Ru

People’s Art Complex

Breathing new life into architectural heritage through the power of art

The People’s Park complex, completed in 1967, was the first mixeduse building of its kind in Southeast Asia. It carried Singapore’s aspirations for economic revitalization and a revived sense of national identity after independence. DP Architects infused the culture and life of Chinatown into the design of the space, creating Singapore’s first ‘city room.’ However, as time progressed, more contemporary shopping complexes began to attract the public, leaving the traditional shophouse area as a focal point for adaptive use. Despite being a leading example of modern architecture in Singapore, the People’s Park Complex is now at risk of demolition due to its outdated hardware and business model.

To revitalize the People’s Park Complex, the art industry was introduced into the new complex to spur development. A microrenovation of the “City room” transformed it into the heart of Chinatown’s art space, nurturing both traditional and new generations of art. The art space is complemented by a commercial setting that drives foot traffic. Additionally, the complex established a comprehensive art operation system by incorporating artists’ studios, hotels, and private art storage to attract diverse groups. Rather than completely overhauling the building’s appearance, the design preserves the soul and body of the People’s Park Complex. The iconic yellow-green and primitive brutalist gray are reapplied to different scenes, the varied atrium is retained, and the skylight is opened to allow enclosed spaces to breathe. As people wander around, they can feel the interplay of new things and old architectural memories. It is a conversation between old and new art, and the alternation of two generations of architectural life.

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Left Page: Research and concept of the People’s Park Complex transformation into Art Space Right Page Above: Aerial View of the building Right Page Below: Sections of the building
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Left Page Left Row: Exploded axonometry Left Page Right Row: Programme and features Right Page Above: Scenes of the Tower Block Right Page Centre: The Concourse of the Art Space Right Page Below: Model of the Design Proposal
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Zheng Yue Jia

City Parlor

Modern conservation of tradition opera in heritage

The People’s Park Complex is next to Kreta Ayer conservation area, where Singaporean Chinese used to live. However, the spark light of traditional culture was gradually missing, covered by homogeneous tourism products, which can be seen along the street including food, beverage, souvenir and cultural stuff. It became a Chinatown theme park. Through the background research and general site visit, As a link between citizens and culture, immigrants and ancestral homes, “Opera” plays a decisive role in regional development. Nowadays, these things need to be embraced by a new generation of citizens and tourists. Therefore, People Park Complex can be an important cultural centre where rules, traditions and customs are passed down through the ages.

This proposal called back the opera memory in this area and merged with contemporary lifestyle making traditional opera form more acceptable by younger generations. The building is mainly commercial, and two outdoor opera performance stages will be arranged, which can enjoy wonderful performances while leisure and entertainment. The varied temporary exhibition space displays artworks and historical relics related to opera culture, allowing visitors to better understand the history and culture of opera, stimulating public interest and conservation. In order to better attract tourists to experience the local culture, a teaching area also is set up that provides training courses on the art of Chinese opera, so that visitors can experience the charm of Chinese opera firsthand. At the same time, local residents and the next generation who are interested in passing on Singapore’s local culture will also become a hub for the exchange of Chinese opera culture. To highlight the importance of the local culture, I hope to use this modest force to call the public to return to the traditional art form that belongs to the Singaporean Chinese.

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Left Page Above: Timeline of the Theatres in Kreta Ayer

Left Page Centre: Collage and Programme

Left Page Below: Site Plan of the Building

Right Page Left Row: Design Transformation

Right Page Right Row: Exploded Axonometry

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Left Page Above: Section of the Building Left Page Centre: Floor Plan of the Building Left Page Below: Scenes of the Theatre Facility Right Page Above: The City Room Reintroduced Right Page Centre: Scenes of the Public Spaces Right Page Below: Model of the Design Proposal
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Joint Site Visit

Studio Final Review

Open Presentation at ArcLab

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Joint Site Visit

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The Joint Site Visit of the Kreta Ayer Vicinity and the People’s Park Complex was conducted on 17th of January, 2023.
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Studio Final Review

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The Final Review of the AC5008 Studio was done at the Conservation Studio and Classroom at SDE 4, 13th of April 2023.
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Open Presentation at ArcLab

The Open Presentation of the assignments was conducted at NUS ArcLab 141 Neil Road, 15th of April 2023. Models of the AC5008 Design for Conservation Studio were display at the front room of the shophouse, and the presentation of the AC5003 Schemes were done at the inner courtyard.

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Open Presentation at ArcLab

The Open Presentation of the assignments was conducted at NUS ArcLab 141 Neil Road, 15th of April 2023. Models of the AC5008 Design for Conservation Studio were display at the front room of the shophouse, and the presentation of the AC5003 Schemes were done at the inner courtyard.

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Choy, A. (2016) People’s Park Complex: A case study of architectural heritage and conservation in Singapore. dissertation .

Docomomo SG (2023) Docomomo Singapore statement on People’s Park Complex. Available at: (Accessed: 04 July 2023).

Singapore Heritage Society (2000) Rethinking Chinatown and Heritage Conservation in Singapore.

Singapore Heritage Society (2018) ‘Too Young to Die: Giving New Lease of Life to Singapore’s Modernist Icons’.

Seng, E. (2019) People’s Park Complex: The State, The Developer, The Architect, and the Conditioned Public, c.1967 to the Present.

UNESCO (2011) New life for historic cities: The historic urban landscape approach explained.

Wong, Y.C. and Hiang, T.K. (2005) Singapore 1:1: A gallery of architecture & urban design. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority.

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NUS MAArC Website:

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Articles inside

Open Presentation at ArcLab

pages 148-151

City Parlor

pages 135-139

Pathways and Gatherings

pages 123-129

Vertical Renewal

pages 111-117

Future Nostalgia

pages 105-111

Anti-Heterotopia Heterotopian Club

pages 99-105

Beauty World Centre’s ‘wethefarm’

pages 94-99

Turtle Bay Towers

pages 92-93

Sarinah Building

pages 90-91

PMQ Hong Kong

pages 88-89

Values of the Buildings

pages 84-86

Threat to PPC’s Survivability

pages 82-83

Context Analysis

pages 80-81

Progress and Current State

pages 76-79

Design of the PPC

pages 72-75

History of the PPC

pages 70-71

Studio Focus

page 66

Immortal Kreta Ayer The Revived Theatre District

pages 61-64

Going Beyond the Conservation

pages 57-61

Informality, Continuity, Organicity

pages 53-57

Weaving Kreta Ayer Group

pages 49-53

Greater Kreta Ayer

pages 45-49

Establish a New and Living Town in Singapore’s Chinatown

pages 41-45

Seoul Cultural District (Daehak-ro)

pages 36-38

Shajing Ancient Fair

pages 34-35

West Guizhou Lilong Neighbourhood

pages 32-33

UNESCO’s HUL Approach

pages 30-31


pages 26-28

Threats to Survivability

pages 24-25

Current Situation

pages 22-23

Progress and Development

pages 20-21

Historic Mapping

pages 18-19

Kreta Ayer’s History

pages 16-17

AC5003 Urban Conservation and Regeneration: Kreta Ayer

pages 11-12


pages 9-10
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