Singapore (1980-1990) / How Bu Ye Tian has carried forward visions of SPUR Group.

Singapore (1980-1990) / How Bu Ye Tian has carried forward visions of SPUR Group.


The Singapore Panning and Urban Research Group (SPUR Group) was formed in 1964.  Amongst the group was many young architects including Tay Kheng Soon and William Lim who would also become the concept creator of Bu Ye Tian in 1982.  The aim of the SPUR group was to discuss issues related to the physical planning and development of Singapore.  The group was focused on alternative ideas and strategies which were presented through workshops, seminars, lectures and exhibitions and in magazines.

The famous saying “The Future Was Already Here” talks about the issues of population growth, they had an image of a “true city” and provided solutions to a “congested city”.  The higher levels on human concentration living in the city ultimately led to more efficient and multi-layered functions by having integrated developments that combine retail, residential and transport systems.  Such urban planning is illustrated in Asia Magazine in May 1966.  Such housing forms are executed in the Golden Mile Complex and People’s Park Complex.

Release to the sky


(William Lim, 1982)

In SPUR Groups visions, terraced housings are used to widens the street.  This does not necessarily widen at the ground level but the set back offsets the visual blockade.  The aperture of the sky greatly widens compared to a street of parallel walls.  The Bu Ye Tian concept designed by William Lim also has elements where these streets ‘release’ back to the sky.  Although greatly different in scale, the SPUR Group focusing on major city streets and Bu Ye Tian focusing on the alleyways of Boat Quay.  The porous material of the covered arcade in Bu Ye Tian is designed to connect the sky and the architecture.  The ways of execution is different as the shop houses do not have a terraced step form, this may be due to conservation issues as the site in Bu Yu Tian is about conservation, materiality have been used as a secondary method.  The SPUR’s proposal is greatly different from conservation, instead it demands the demolition of existing small scale structures and families.  This has partly led to the failure such vision.  The method adopted in Bu Ye Tian although less effective is much more carefully inserted into the context and thus superior to SPUR’s original ideas.

Perpendicular punctures

The streetscapes of both SPUR’s visions and Bu Ye Tian is long and linear.  This provides a sense of continuity and efficiency of movement whether it is cars or people.  Such linearity is broken after every block in SPUR’s visions.  This releases the space from its linear walled pressures.  The perpendicular connection will eventually lead to another parallel street forming a grid urban.  Likewise, “vertical punctures” are used to provide “visual relief” in Bu Ye Tian.  These perpendicular punctures connect the back alleyway to the waterfront promenade.

Vertical layering of programmes

The buildings, Golden Mile Complex and People’s Park Complex feature combined offices, residences and shops which are separated by section.  These ideas of the vertical separation of programmes and what programmes meet the ground is continually challenged by William Lim as demonstrated in Bu Ye Tian.  The proposal clear defines the distribution and percentage of activities which happen in each of the three floors.  Restaurants and kiosks attract a higher flow of pedestrians while studios and offices require less ground connection.  It can be concluded that William Lim sees the issues of increasing concentrations in urban density and that the solution of these complexities can be solved through vertical spatial arrangement while the space must provide visual relief and connections to the sky.



Lim William, Mok, Por; Singapore river (1982) “a conservation proposal for boat quay, boating activities and floating Chinese Restaurant”

World Bank (2016) “For a Long Term Vision, City Leaders and Urban Planners Look to Singapore” Accessed on 9/12/16.  Available at:

Zhuang Justin (2015) “Singapore Planning and urban Research Group” Accessed on 9/12/16. Available at:







2 Comments on “Singapore (1980-1990) / How Bu Ye Tian has carried forward visions of SPUR Group.

  1. I think it is interesting to compare the vertical programming of SPUR proposal and Bu Ye Tian. I would say the Bu Ye Tien is a much less ambitious plan in terms of scale and the complexity of the program stacking. SPUR initial proposal was working on an extensive scale in which the programs within the cluster range from residential, leisure to infrastructure. It creates a mini metropolis within an enormous building. Meanwhile in Bu Ye Tian project, it is more of commercial driven elements like shops and leisure. It seems like the Victor Gruen model for American shopping mall will be a closer comparison.

  2. The ‘Congested City’ idea of the SPUR group not only applied to single pieces of architecture, but a whole network and developmental direction. Although Bu Ye Tian’s projects fit with the ideals of the SPUR group, is there anything to show that the SPUR’s influence showed in a planning aspect, or one of a larger scale, correlating to infrastructure and circulatory systems within Singapore?

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