Creating an ‘urban village’ in Orchard Road
SINGAPORE — The concept of an urban village is what Orchard Road should be seeking to achieve, according to Mr Phil Kim, managing director of Jerde Partnership, a design architecture and urban planning company.
New age giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are leading the charge in opting for precincts that create a neighbourhood experience for their employees, with the potential to mix work and play.
“Younger people in particular want to live and work near shops and restaurants. So Orchard Road must have more mixed development projects with residential and different kind of offices as the vital part of the street,” said Mr Kim.
He was speaking at a lecture series organised by the Centre For Livable Cities (CLC) on “Reimagining Orchard Road”. Mr Kim advises cities and developers on innovations in mixed-use design, retail and entertainment, as well as building social sustainability into emerging Asian market conditions.
Singapore’s central shopping belt Orchard Road has lost its sheen in recent years and has seen a drop in retail traffic, partly as a result of the rise of online shopping, but also because of traffic congestion, lack of diversity in offerings and increased competition from suburban malls.
Last Friday (Sept 8), it was announced that a ministerial committee co-chaired by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong and Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng had been set up to revive Orchard Road as a shopping and lifestyle destination.
Among the initiatives being studied by the committee, which will partner with the private sector, are better “pop-up” activities to attract crowds, more walking options, and permanent attractions.
“Anyone heading to Orchard Road must feel that they are part of the collective environment, making it a truly great street. I think a much bigger overarching idea is required along with creating small moments (for the consumers),” said Mr Kim.
“That fluidity can come in from adding gardens to bring in a sense of comfort and shade. It is quite a hard scape right now….. One of the biggest challenge Orchard Road faces is the inability to move fluidly. It is quite a layered street where the two sides do not talk to each other. We need to look at the individual projects that have evolved over time. Certain projects are absolutely divorced from the activation of the street itself.”
Emphasising the importance of building more connectivity linking Orchard Road to other attractions around, easing traffic and pedistrianising, Mr Kim said, “I don’t believe all of Orchard Road has to be pedistrianised but it has to become much more pedestrian friendly.”
He suggested reducing the number of lanes. “With automated vehicles and MRT systems we don’t need five lanes which completely divides people from one side to the other. We need to stitch them all together. One lane, one direction, could actually solve a lot of problems. Creating more lanes for cars is never the right solution.”