SAA designs community festival exploring potential of underutilised urban spaces

18 May 2024

A typically nondescript space under a rail viaduct in Singapore's Changi Simei neighbourhood was transformed into a community festival attended by over 2,000 people on 18 May 2024.

VIASTA!, a festival organised to explore the potential of underutilised urban spaces, featured booths run by the community's residents as well as grassroots performances. Attending the event and joining the activities were Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Ms Jessica Tan Soon Neo, Advisers to Singapore's East Coast Grassroots Organisations (GROs).

The festival was a culmination of six months of research and stakeholder engagement, led by the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and healthcare institution group SingHealth. Through workshops, it was identified that residents were keen to see unused viaduct spaces repurposed into inclusive spaces that would promote sustainable and healthy living for their community. The design and construction of the festival then took a month, with SAA translating ideas provided by the community and various stakeholders into a playful and porous design.

Working around the existing viaduct structures, Architectural Executive Siva Shankeran envisioned a layout that would allow for greater community interaction. "The festival's fluid curvilinear design is inspired by the viaducts and trains, whose space it occupies. The non-linear and versatile layout is intended to encourage richer interactions among the community and ownership of the space."

Taking care to keep the festival sustainable and scalable, he incorporated recycled wood pallets and upcycled drainage cells in the construction, which have since been dismantled and repurposed into street furniture within the neighbourhood.

Senior Executive Director of SAA, Michael Leong, said: "SAA's work with spaces in MRT stations and studies in our older districts have shown us the possibilities of breathing new life into existing environments, and activating them as shared and inclusive spaces for the common good. We look forward to developing more of such initiatives."

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