Urban Planning & Design

Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory Designs New Waterfront Neighborhood with Citizens

July 5, 2018
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A section of Singapore’s waterfront around Tanjong Pagar is destined to transform from a container terminal to a downtown extension as the harbor activities relocate elsewhere after 2027.

Background: Singapore-ETH’s Projects

The upcoming urban change has provided a grand opportunity for the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) at Singapore-ETH Centre to progress their work in developing new strategies to involve citizens in the urban planning process. The early stage of the transformation project is particularly ideal for showcasing new forms of participatory design, including the use of participatory online design tools.

At one level of the work, the researchers wanted to know how citizens would design the waterfront area using the provided online tools. This information will serve the drafting of people-centric urban design guidance for the development of the area. Another key area of interest was to collect feedback from the participants on the usability of different online design tools.

Maptionnaire as a Tool for The Future City Lab

Maptionnaire was one of the tools FCL used in their research. Maptionnaire was initially chosen because it contained elements that were likely to be familiar for citizens (a map and a survey), the preparation of surveys proved to be very easy, and the automatically provided output was easy to understand and analyzable with common software.

Design-wise, the results of the Maptionnaire survey revealed that most participants wanted to, for example, have a publicly accessible waterfront, green spaces that resemble the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and avoid the erection of gated condominium complexes.

The questionnaire we made was a kind of a ‘Citizen as a Planner’” game.  
Dr. Johannes Müller

Participants could zone the site as they wished by drawing residential, commercial and green areas on a map of Tanjong Pagar. We also asked participants to draw future pedestrian and cycling paths. Finally, people got to browse through pictures of existing examples from Singapore and choose which types of designs for parks, residential blocks, and malls they would prefer to see in the area.                    

Screenshot taken from the original survey. Click the picture to get to the survey page.
Screenshot taken from the original survey made with Maptionnaire.

Experience-wise, the results for participating via a Maptionnaire survey were positive. The simple and familiar elements of Maptionnaire’s user interface were found to motivate people to engage in the design process. The researchers also noted that participants could tell their ideas in a more creative way with Maptionnaire than with other tools.

The bottom line is that both the citizens and planners liked Maptionnaire because it facilitates the transforming of people’s ideas and opinions into generalized design instructions, according to Dr. Müller.

The tool was a good choice for getting a sense of the citizens’ perspective. Even though our survey questions were quite openly formulated, participants could clearly tell their ideas in a more creative way than common survey tools would allow.
Johannes Müller, Future Cities Laboratory, Singapore-ETH Centre

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