To discuss how a neighbourhood can facilitate and build its resilience, researchers, policy-makers and professionals in the field of urban planning gathered for a workshop on 7 April titled “Building Resilient Neighbourhoods: The Convergence of Policies Research and Practice”. The one-day workshop was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies Social Lab and NUS Design and Environment’s Centre for Sustainable Asian Cities (CSAC).
The workshop opened with a session looking at building communal bonds through urban planning. Chaired by Dr Malone-Lee Lai Choo, Director of CSAC, the panel considered planning of neighbourhoods in the context of ageing, impact of built environments, and in architectural design.
Director of Centre of Ageing Research in the Environment, NUS Architecture Associate Professor Fung John Chye spoke about ageing-in-place, quoting studies that familiarity of the environment and a sense of rootedness can help people tackle the stresses that might challenge them in old age.
“The design of the home itself must be able to support the elderly who’s living alone, particularly, and the design of the estate itself should create opportunities for social interaction,” Assoc Prof Fung said. He offered some suggestions including a “skyrise community” where a space for social interaction is located at higher floors of a flat, for the elderly who find it difficult to get to lower ground levels.
NUS Architecture Assistant Professor Cho Im Sik shared an account of her research project with the Housing & Development Board (HDB), which measured social cohesion based on amenities usage as well as the impact of community’s participation in determining their own physical environment. The results revealed that social interactions between the community members increased after they had a participatory role.
“Space can be planned and designed to facilitate social interaction and strengthen residents’ sense of attachment to their neighbourhood,” she said.
Mr Siew Man Kok, Chairman and Founding Director of MKPL Architects, shared his experience working with government agencies in the masterplans of HDB estates. Planning of estates does not only involve public housing policies, but also incorporates social policies, infrastructure planning, backed by government support, he said. He also emphasised why it is necessary for architects to be involved in the planning process, to maintain a broad vision as well as offer alternative suggestions that could help with social communities in estates.
Two other sessions were held during the workshop, looking at the impact of the infrastructure as well as of the people in the community itself.