Parametic Estates: Urban design futures for Singapore's public housing

The independent city-state of Singapore is one the economic miracles of Asia. Since independence from the Malaysian Federation in 1965, Singapore has steadily increased its overall economic output in tandem with its citizens' standard of living. Today (2015), the nation has one of the highest Human Development Indices (HDI) in the world.

While the exact causes of Singapore's prosperity are arguable and may never be fully resolved, the nation's well-being is closely associated with its management of the built environment. The conclusion is inescapable: Singapore's prosperity and its well-managed built environment are one and the same. The nation's shiny skyscrapers and sparkling clean riverfront communicate a clear message that urban planning and national health are closely linked. 

Perhaps the largest-scale realization of planning success are Singapore's public housing estates. Singapore's public housing is vast in scale, with over one million flats located in twenty-five estates (plus the center city) around the island. Public housing is the mainstay of life in Singapore: 80 percent of Singaporean citizens and permanent residents live there, and over 90 percent of those dwellers own their flats.

The Fall 2014 MIT Urban Design Studio Parametric Estates took a novel approach, called parametric urbanism, to improving the design of Singapore's public housing. Participants identified and improved individual variables of the built environment in two existing estates  - Ang Mo Kio and Punggol - and then tested out 'new-build' approaches' on a smaller site in the Kallang River basin. This report demonstrates the creativity of studio participants and the tremendous design opportunities available for Singapore's public housing. 

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