8 Points of the Compact City


If nationhood was the driving concept for twentieth-century geopolitical identity, the “City” is
then the driver for the twenty-first century at a time when urban populations are growing at an unprecedented rate and the future Megapolis is unpredictable in complexity, scale and growth.

1000 Singapores: Eight Points of the Compact City, exhibiting at the Cité de ľArchitecture et du Patrimoine from 15 June to 14 September 2015 in Paris, examines the unique compact urban model of Singapore, a small yet progressive city-state located in Southeast Asia. The exhibition makes visible both the conceptual and physical foundations of Singapore, and illustrates how its developmental model is pioneering urban planning and density strategies throughout Asia. Singapore is an urban breeding ground for sampling, innovation and experimentation in physical form, density distribution, social policy and efficient governance. This model is a synthesis of effective urban techniques and well-tested strategies that have been transformed, retooled and made applicable to the city-state. The results have created a unique model for architects, urban planners and members of civil governance who are concerned with the future metropolis. With the latest data reflecting Singapore’s evolution, challenges and visons, this exhibition extrapolates the real impact of Singapore’s compact city model and suggests ways in which future urbanization may occur.

Singapore’s projected population of 6.9 million people, multiplied by 1,000, equates to the capacity to house 6.9 billion people of the world population. By some estimates, the world’s population has grown to 7.2 billion and would require an additional 50 Singapores. One Singapore fits into 718 sq km. At over 1,000 time larger, this area only occupies 0.5% of the world’s land area; and at 1,4000 times larger, the area required to house 9.5 billion people (UN projected mean population of the world in 2050) still occupies less than 1% of the world’s total land area. Consequently, an area twice the size of France at the density of Singapore would house the world’s population in 2050.

1000 Singapores: Eight Points of the Compact City updates, expands and critically re-examines the original 1000 Singapores exhibition presented at the Venice International Architecture Biennale in 2010. This year, the exhibition defines Density, Territories, Nature, Infrastructure, Urban Models, Governance, Economics, and Architecture as the core principles of the Singapore model, and creates a dialogue with the host city, Paris. Through juxtaposition, statistics and comparative studies of urban conditions, this exhibition makes both the ambitions and limits of Singapore’s planning objectives visible.

Utilizing Singpore’s 50 years of independence as a backdrop, the 1000 Singapores: Eight Points of the Compact City exhibition documents how synergies among urban techniques, investment in human capital and infrastructural rollouts are some of its best exports, transforming urban environments throughout Asia. The exhibition shows not only efficient planning strategies, effective land intensification and growing economic ambition in physical form, but also its impact and relevance as an urban export model. Diagrams, drawings and photographs illustrate the possibilities, challenges, and problematics of the Compact City as it influences urban development in Asia. The Island City-Stat itself is reimagined through large models including density projections and the impact of population growth on urban form.

Here, the attention is given not only to the vision and innovation of influential Singapore design practices, but also how the City was influenced by specific planning ideas form twentieth-century French architects and planners the have been adapted to the particularities of the tropical climate. This gives the Parisian audience a closer point of reference from their French urbanization model as well as a current reflection to review their own metropolis.

Located in one of Europe’s most prestigious architecture galleries, the 1000 Singapores: Eight Points of the Compact City exhibition spans almost 33 m. It is fabricated in a white perforated metal screen, within which a matrix of 400 diagrams, drawings and photographs are illustrated in Singapore’s national colours of red and white. Eight large scale models complement the eight points of the Compact City, making the plethora of information and ideas physical, to spur robust discussions of our urban future.

Khoo Peng Beng
Erik G. L’Heureux
Florian Schätz


1° 17’ N, 103° 50’ E
Singapore is planned to eventually house 6.9 million people. Singapore occupies 718 sq km. Multiply that by 1,000 and it is possible to fit approximately the entire population of the world into a land area about twice that of Germany, equal to one Texas, one-fifth of India, one twelfth of Brazil, or a little over the area of France. 1000 SINGAPORES: EIGHT POINTS OF THE COMPACT CITY

1. Density: Models of Projections and Proximity

Singapore drives density into vertical configurations, stacking programs and multiplying use over land for compaction. Paris, on the contrary, drives density into controlled envelopes, urban blocks and larger horizontal aggregations. Singapore is a high-rise, high-density city while Paris is a low-rise, high-density city, two models of radically different approaches to city form and population distribution. Crafting intelligent density as a function of urban thinking is the primary challenge today, found not only in the unique histories of Singapore and Paris, but also of all cities calibrating their own built environments to the pressures of increased populations.

2. Territories: Borders and Limits

Singapore, an island nation state, inscribes its political border in physical terms along its coast where land meets sea. Singapore’s influence, however, extends far beyond its diminutive border, encompassing a tri-national metropolitan region (Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore,) of approximately 8 million people connected by water. Singapore also uses flows of global transportation and communication to connect to a global hinterland. Paris, likewise, is marked by a ring-a historical ”island” defines by the Boulevard Périphérique. Yet it extends beyond its perimeter to a larger Paris Metropolitan area with over 12 million people. To understand urbanization today, a larger spatial territory of city and hinterland should be understood as a seamless and contigious whole, which represents a new frame of knowledge for urbanization in the twenty-first century.

3. Nature: Cultivated and the Wild

Singapore promotes itself as a city in a garden: an urbanism commingled with tropical nature, utilizing its verdant landscape to interweave landscape and architecture. Paris operates as a city with gardens, a temperate vision of dense urbanization replete with distinct cultivated green landscapes. While in Singapore, tropical green is controlled and manicured throughout the urban landscape, in Paris it is understood as a seasonal destination and amenity. Nature has historically been a secondary consideration to urban development, a medium that requires taming. For future cities, nature both cultivated and wild will be one of the primary mediums of urban development and sustainability.

4. Infrastructure: Scaffolding for Density

Singapore compacts and embeds infrastructure into its urban form in ever-increasing spatial proximity. It likewise utilizes its history of tabula rasa to deploy new infrastructural technologies efficiently and effectively while planning for the future. Paris embraces its history and deploys infrastructure as a strategy of acupuncture and retrofitting into existing fabrics to enable the city to adapt while conserving its past. The challenge of future infrastructure development will be the demand for miniaturization and concealment, returning the city to space for the pedestrian and the public.

5. Urban Models: Spatial Landscapes

Singapore and Paris represents two divergent models of urbanism. Singapore is a compact city vertically woven into a green carpet. Its urban morphology has been tested and refined over 50 years and more, in what has become a guide for developing cities emerging around the world. Strategies of innovations, including modular housing, stacked mobility and factories, greener workplaces and open natural spaces, form the new prototype of a contemporary city. With an urban fabric more than 2,000 years old, Paris is in a constant state of repair and accommodation. Today Paris interweaves history with presence, tradition and identity, while Singapore is the city of speed and possibilities. Future cities, managed boomtowns, will have to react with intelligence and responsibility to meet the demands of millions of people through modular prefabrication, increased mobility as well as water conservation and waste management.

6. Governance: Soft Instruments

Singapore deploys efficient and effective legal and governance tools to manage the city’s accretion, economy and population through dynamic activation and legislation to keep pace with new urban forms, inhabitations and cultural practices. Paris, on the contrary, deploys historical legacies of public participation, demonstration and debate to achieve consensus. To increase the quality of life, cities will provide optimized and efficient services, manage participatory democracy and provide lifestyles, rights and education to all their citizens.

7. Economics: Critical Mediums

Singapore’s geostrategic position at the core of the global economy drives its own growth for goods, services, people and capital through its key port. Singapore embraces free market transparency while setting boundaries with a light touch. An aging population, defence affairs and a reliance on international migrant labour create a complex global and local system that is constantly adapting. Paris operates as a destination for global capital, linking itself inextricably to the European Union. In the heart of Europe it takes a key role in the trade of cultural and knowledge-based economies over the reliance on material flows. By supporting and seeding innovation in industries, urban districts and regional hubs, the new knowledge-based economy will incubate the key role of intelligent urbanism.

8. Architecture: Formal Aggregations

Singapore operates as a contemporary city in the vision of modernism: systematic, dense, compact and, most importantly, a reproducible high-rise city. Paris has its history and culture manifested in five storeys of height. It is dense, compact and low-rise. While Paris manifests its identity through blocks and streets, Singapore constructs its version through vegetation and towers. Paris is the product of architecture calibrated to a temperate climate, while Singapore works to establish itself as a resolutely modern equatorial metropolis in the tropical hot and wet environment. In Singapore, architecture is the building block of urban form, political will and civic aspiration. Architecture of the future city will be a hybrid of local context, global influence, and cultural forces enabled by new construction technologies, new forms of communication and inhabitation practices. New mediums of architecture, from green walls and green roofs, to new concepts of atmosphere and climate modulations will drive the future city.