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Designing Asia's future 'vertical cities'

Think Asia’s cities are crowded? Add population growth in coming decades and mass migration from rural areas, and you can expect things to get a lot more congested.

A programme launched recently by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and World Future Foundation (WFF) is determined to find a solution to this.

It is looking for new urban models for cities that cater to a greater population without compromising quality of life.

To do this, it has set up an international competition and symposium called Vertical Cities Asia, which will be held annually for the next five years.

Students of architecture and related disciplines from 10 top universities will be able to enter. The task? To design 1 sq km of land for 100,000 people, taking into account factors such as density, liveability and sustainability.

The dean of the NUS School of Design and Environment, Professor Heng Chye Kiang, said this contest will put Singapore on the map of cutting-edge urban design. It will require students to ‘think out of the box’, he added.

Currently, Singapore’s Housing Board estates have a density of about 25,000 to 30,000 people per sq km.

‘So we’re talking about even taller buildings and vertical cities,’ he said, citing Singapore’s iconic public housing project, The Pinnacle@Duxton in Cantonment Road, as a possible housing model for high-density cities.

The 1,848-unit project features 12 skybridges linking seven residential blocks. If a city planner built similar projects across half a sq km of land, they could cater to 150,000 people, he calculated.

Prof Heng noted that efficient urban planning is crucial because urban sprawl is detrimental to the environment.

In the past five years, China has lost 8,830 sq km of farmland - the size of about 12 Singapores - to urban sprawl, and this has a huge impact on global food security, he added.

For the competition, two proposals from each university will be selected. A team comprising one staff member and two students from each university will be invited to take a sponsored trip to Singapore in July to present their entries.

The top three submissions will get cash prizes of up to $15,000.

WFF managing director Lu Bo said the foundation decided to sponsor the programme as ‘it is meaningful to mobilise the students, who are city planners of tomorrow, to focus on urban solutions’.

The charitable organisation, started by Chinese entrepreneurs, has been registered and based in Singapore since 2008. It aims to fund environmental technologies and sustainable development.

The 10 participating universities include NUS, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Tokyo University, Beijing’s Tsinghua University, and the University of California, Berkeley. They have until June 30 to submit entries.

Source: The Straits Times

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