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Wanted: Neighbourhood Identity and Community Gardens

With a Neighbourhood Renewal Programme underway in Tampines North, P!D has been testing participatory community engagement and finding some clear views about what people want for the area.

Wanted: Neighbourhood Identity and Community Gardens

When a Singaporean neighbourhood is up for renewal and improvement processes, residents and stakeholders typically have a limited scope in terms of expressing their preferences. Usually, residents are asked to select their preferred improvement works from a predetermined list.

When Tampines North was selected for the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) by the Housing and Development Board and town council, there was an intention to involve residents more deeply than the usual surveys.

Non-profit design, planning and educational organisation Participate in Design (P!D, which was featured in the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016) was engaged by the Tampines Town Council with an opportunity to rethink how residents and stakeholders could be more meaningfully involved in the design and planning of their living environment.

Mr Baey Yam Keng, Member of Parliament for Tampines and Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, was instrumental in adopting alternate methods, says P!D Co-Founder Mizah Rahman. She refers to him as “tech-savvy” and keen to engage the community in decision making with creative methods and participatory design approaches.

And so, between February and April this year, P!D brought together nearly 1,200 residents and stakeholders to plan and design their living environment. A series of participatory design activities were conducted, including expert interviews, walking conversations, stakeholder workshops, pop-up design clinics, community feedback workshops with residents, and idea-board engagement.

“The idea boards gave residents of all ages and backgrounds the freedom to scribble their thoughts on how Tampines can be improved,” explains Rahman. “Beyond the traditional approach of engagement, we approached them on a personal level through the various creative publicity stunts and also expanded the reach with the use of a powerful tool – social media,” she says.

So far, the P!D team has distilled four major insights about the Tampines North community. Firstly, stakeholders really do want a more structured, creative and inclusive NRP engagement process. Secondly, residents hope that the needs of different users in each neighbourhood area can be better accommodated. Thirdly, there is a general wish for more uniqueness and identity in the neighbourhood, and the avoidance of white elephants. And fourthly, people want more community gardens.

The gardens, it was revealed, should cater to more than the active urban gardeners, also serving as educational spaces for families and students. Interestingly, some residents expressed the view that a community garden can bring joy and delight – especially when neighbours are seen engaging with nature.

If you’re a Tampines North resident, you may wish to get involved in P!D’s two remaining community feedback workshops this week. Head to the Tampines North page on the P!D website for more information.

Photography: P!D


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