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WAF blog: Global renewal at relative speeds

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If the pace of life is fast in Singapore, so is the rate at which buildings are renewed. Angelene Chan, director of DP Architects, described her practice’s work on the shopping magnet of Orchard Road

It has been involved with reshaping many of the buildings, sometimes two or three times at intervals as short as four years. This is partly due to changes of ownership, partly to an inherent desire for novelty and partly the result of evolving building ordinances.

These are the result of a desire by the city to make the street more pedestrian friendly. It has therefore increasingly allowed building owners to extend their facades over the street which both animates the frontages, and provides shade.

Donald Bates, principal of Lab Architecture Studio, talked about his adopted city of Melbourne which The Economist has pronounced the world’s most liveable city for two years in succession.

Part of its charm, Bates said, was because when the large rectangular city blocks were laid out in the 19th century, wide streets alternated with narrow lanes. The blocks then fragmented further, into a network of pedestrian cut-throughs. These have been revived in the last 25 years and, in addition to their charm, provide an ideal location for start-up businesses.

In contrast, Bates said, the smaller blocks of his native Houston have remained intact. Houston also has its sports facilities way out of town, making it necessary to drive to them. In Melbourne they are within easy walking distance of the central business district.

Emre Arolat, founder of Turkish practice Emre Arolat Architects, described a project near the Golden Horn in Istanbul which involved transforming the city’s original power station, built under the Ottoman empire, into an arts venue. Prior to that it had lain vacant for some time.

The pressure for change is evidently less intense in Istanbul than in Singapore.


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