A Model Of The Compact City


1o 17’ N, 103o 50’ O Singapore is capable of housing 6.5 million people. Singapore occupies only about 710 sq km.

Multiply that by 1000, and it is possible to fit the entire population of the world into a land area approximately twice that of Italy, equal to Texas, one-fifth of India, and one-tenth of China.


1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City is also about the thousand faces of a high-density city-state – a portrait of the diversity of the living environment and the people who live in it. Ultimately, if 6.5 million people may be able to live sustainably on 710 sq km, this can offer a powerful model for the compact city of the future.

A city that is green.

A city that is transit-oriented.

A city with high intensity and fully integrated infrastructure.

A city that manages water and waste efficiently and effectively.

A city where the residents are creative and productive.

A city of innovation and ideas.

A city where diversity and differences are celebrated.

A city that is complete and fully connected.

A city that houses the world.

1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City takes housing beyond architectural typology. Housing is shown as an active act to create communities – a meta-project integrating architecture with governance, social systems, finance and infrastructure. Starting from the most basic pre-fabricated component, 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City demonstrates how this is scaled up to towers, neighbourhoods, new towns, districts and the nation.

From the pragmatic to the sublime; from public housing to private housing; from the carefully planned micro-home to the townships strung together by rapid transit; from social policies to estate management, 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City paints a picture of an intelligent city based on home ownership and a city where the house forms a critical building block of society.

1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City explores the character and qualities of a compact city and how people and architecture meet to form a vibrant society. With one 35m-long model and a thousand images, this exhibition will tease apart the many melodic strands of this intricate planning fugue to show how it all comes together as one complex system.


The dwelling (Housing) again puts before us the architectural problem in the demand for totally new methods of building, the problem of new plans adapted to modern life, the problem of an aesthetic in harmony with the new spirit. 1

1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City. One nation in the centre of Southeast Asia. One small tropical island. One city state. One powerful model from a place just above the equator. Singapore’s projected population of 6.5 million people, multiplied by 1000, equates to 6.5 billion people: the very population of the world.2 One Singapore fits into 710 sq km. An area 1000 times larger would still occupy only 0.5% of the world’s land area. Texas is equivalent to size. So are two Japans, or two Italys.

Venice would be a wonderful neighbourhood in such a configuration. To imagine such a world is at once absurd and yet entirely compelling.

Follow us, even for a short moment, as we explore the model of 1000 Singapores. 99.5% of the world would be natural landscape – a portion would remain for farming and natural resources surely but the remaining area would remain significantly natural. 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City as a proposition is dense, efficient and green. Visions of sustainability seem even more plausible in such a vision. Energy consumption minimised, transportation amazingly curtailed to a short 45 minute flight. About 900km would be the maximum distance end to end. Footprints of all sorts; carbon, pollution, emissions, and of course, size, would be highly compacted in relation to current urban models. Wi-Fi and high speed mobile and data communications would be available everywhere with few transmission towers. Housing would be dense, diverse, walkable, and full of the amenities that the world’s population aspires to. A closely knit urban environment with transportation easily accommodated by train; automobiles would still be available, though probably unnecessary. Electric vehicles might be everywhere. Trade and goods would be moving daily, rather than weekly, in a just-in-time efficiency. Greenery, open space and natural like landscapes would be available just outside one’s home and office. Many languages would be exchanged in a single conversation. Multilingual would be commonplace. Diverse religions would coexist side by side in closer proximity. In such a model, space equates to tolerance.

It is all possible? Yes. Idealistic? Definitely. Utopian? Entirely. Perfect? Of course not. Will it happen in its totality? Highly unlikely.

Meta-visions have always been on the perimeter of architecture. French architect Tony Garnier’s Une Cite Industrielle was sprung from the vision of a secular economy centred upon industry as a citizen’s educator and employer. It birthed the beginnings of functional separation in zoning for residential, industrial, recreational and transportation activities. Le Corbusier’s controversial Ville Contemporaine and, later, Plan Voisin, envisaged the eradication of large portions of urban areas with the imposition of the tower in the park typology. In Ville Radieuse, only 5% of the land area was occupied by building. Clearly foot print and density has been preoccupation in urban visions. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City, the antithesis of the modern city centre, preached a decentralised suburbia brought about by the modern conveniences of the car and telephone. Kenzo Tange’s Vision for Tokyo Bay, Archigram’s Walking Cities, Superstudio’s visions for an infinite city, and more recently Koolhaas’ transplantation of Manhattan to Dubai, all force us to think more carefully about what kind of future we want to live in. These were speculations of a future. Possibilities that force us to rethink urbanism, architecture and the type of world we live in, and in so doing create visions for the next generation to find urban strategies for less energy consumption. 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City imagines such a future, Rather than inventing an entirely new system, 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City utilises its own history as a readymade (in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp) as an agent for a transformative future. By examining Singapore’s environment of intricate planning, systemic integration, and merging of architecture with governance, social systems, finance and infrastructure, a future may be found at this “little red dot”.3

In Singapore, such a landscape of interwoven planning strategies has been under construction for half a century. In a rapidly urbanising Asia, Singapore has become the hub of Southeast Asia. Its success is mirrored in a unique and powerful model of urban planning, density and inhabitation; a compact, connected and complex system of urban transfiguration. As curators, we explore five decades of this vision-turned-reality of planning, modification and transformation to house a nation of heterogeneous backgrounds, language, ethnicity and talents. Even as curators, we are all of different backgrounds, yet all living and working in a new Singapore. Our eyes are keen to the problems of such a model but also entirely aware of all its benefits.

A single long slice of Singapore cuts east to west. Not through the typical Central Business District and celebratory, award-winning airport of Singapore; rather, through the heartlands of Singapore, where 83% of the population lives in owner-occupied flats, with the remaining 17% in private residences, and where industry, factories, offices and shopping go hand in hand. Here, the concrete and natural jungle is found, at once tamed and wild, where lakes and catchment basins provide for our taps, and where the diverse people of Singapore go about their daily lives. This is the very landscape where people meet in architecture in Singapore. And in this piece of architecture, we can imagine a future of possibility not only for this “little red dot” in the years ahead but for the world over.

The exhibition itself comprises a single 30-metre architectural tube positioned in the entry courtyard and gallery within the ground floor gallery of the Istituto Provinciale per l’Infanzia. From the dramatic exterior courtyard to the historical interior, the architecture of 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City transforms the rectangular profile of the entry into a symbolic house-shape facing the Venice canal. This tube profile wraps around the 35-metre Singapore sample in the form of a long slice through the nation. At the scale of 1:1000, this slice rendered as a white model, illustrates the vast assortments of landscape, housing typologies, densities, and programmes that occupy the island. One thousand postcards displaying samples from the Singapore landscape are positioned as complements to the slice, providing documented data, diagrams, and portraits as an elaboration of the energy and thought behind such an urbanscape. Composed of four categories, the postcards provide very context of planning that influences the range of scales from that of the nation through to the scale of the flat. The tube bifurcates at the entrance to the Istituto Provinciale proper, opening to the historical room and interior courtyard beyond transformed to a Singaporean inspired lounge. The tube, fabricated in lightweight EIFS, is custom-moulded as a series of ventilation blocks, a ubiquitous building material in Southeast Asia. Highly recyclable, 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City will return to Singapore as an extension of its own durability. Simple and direct, 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City offers a view into an intricately planned urban milieu. Come and meet in Architecture.

Come meet in 1000 Singapores – A Model of the Compact City. Explore our “little red dot” while rethinking the world.

Khoo Peng Beng
Belinda Huang
Erik G. L’Heureux
Florian Schaetz

1 Le Corbusier, The City of Tomorrow and its Planning, Dover Publications, Inc. New York 1929,pp. xxii.

2 6.5 million is the long-term population parameter used for Singapore’s land use and infrastructure planning.

3 Prime Minister’s National Day Rally Speech, 23 August 1998. Ministry of Education (Singapore). Retrieved on 30 June 2010 from http://www.moe.gov.sg/speeches/1998/23aug98/htm