Singapore / Queenstown Part 1: SIT

Queenstown, 1958 Masterplan Source: http://www.ura.gov.sg/dc/mp58/mp58map_index.htm
Queenstown, 1958 Masterplan
Source: http://www.ura.gov.sg/dc/mp58/mp58map_index.htm
Queenstown Plan, SIT. Circa 1950s Source: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2391/2157756527_3b5577baa0.jpg
Queenstown Plan, SIT. Princess Margaret Estate higlighted in red.
Circa 1950s
Source: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2391/2157756527_3b5577baa0.jpg

In the words of the then Secretary of State for the Colonies Mr. Oliver Lyttleton, “the housing shortage [in Singapore]…is a problem demanding imaginative planning and vigorous execution.”² This was in 1952, the same year that construction began on Queenstown, the first New Town to be built in Singapore. The development was inspired by Mr. Howard of Garden City fame, with the detailed calculation of the ratio of shops and community centers per thousand people showing that Queenstown was intended to be a city unto itself. Its location far from the downtown area in what was once swampy marshland further emphasizes its position as a satellite. Consisting of five neighbourhoods (Princess Margaret Estate, Duchess Estate, Queen’s Close, Tanglin Halt, and Commonwealth), it aimed to house 50,000 people at its inception. The SIT was replaced by the HDB in 1960, however, and so only the first was built under its direction.

Princess Margaret Estate Source: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2391/2157756527_3b5577baa0.jpg
Princess Margaret Estate, 1959
Source: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2391/2157756527_3b5577baa0.jpg

As shown above, most of the Princess Margaret Estate blocks were low-rise terraced units, a restriction imposed upon them for two reasons. The first was that much of the land was previously marshland and did not provide sound structural foundations for taller buildings, and secondly, the SIT was concerned that the inclusion of lifts would dramatically increase construction costs. Nevertheless, Forfar House, the first high-rise housing block was found on this estate and at 14 storeys was the tallest residential building in Singapore till 1963. This was the first attempt at high-density housing, an art that was to be perfected later by the HDB.

The estates were built along the two existing perpendicular roads found bisecting the plan. Beyond this, however, the orientation of blocks appears to follow the curvilinear roads created in the organic Garden City fashion, with the terraces then arranged in parallel. This arrangement makes the long blocks even more directional and the public spaces become through-spaces instead of rest spaces, much like SIT’s first project Tiong Bahru. An attempt can be seen in Princess Margaret to introduce quadrangles, which does seem more conducive to community-oriented living, however this was not sustained.

 

References:

1. Brebbia, C., Passerini, G. and Tae, S. (2014). Environmental Impact II. Southampton: WIT Press, p.352.

2. House of Commons Debate 27 February 1952 vol 496 C153W [online]
Available at: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1952/feb/27/house-building#S5CV0496P0_19520227_CWA_49 [Accessed 26 Dec. 2014]

3. Queenstown.org.sg, (2014). The First Satellite Estate. [online]
Available at: http://www.queenstown.org.sg/queenstown-the-first-satellite-estate.html [Accessed 26 Dec. 2014].

4. Teoalida.com, (2014). HDB history, photos and floor plan evolution 1930s to 2010s | Teoalida’s Website. [online] Available at: http://www.teoalida.com/singapore/hdbfloorplans/ [Accessed 26 Dec. 2014].

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