With the world rapidly urbanising, the United Nations has projected that nearly 70% of the global population will be urban by 2050. Cities around the world already serve as the prime centres of innovation and economic activity. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Report, cities that rank highly tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with relatively low population density.
However, Singapore – a city with a high density of 7,155 people per square kilometre – has consistently ranked highly in various global liveability rankings. This runs contrary to the general sentiment that a city’s density and its liveability are inversely related.
On 9 March 2011, the Centre for Liveable Cities and the Urban Land Institute jointly organised a workshop to discuss how liveability and sustainability relate to city density. The event attracted diverse participants from government agencies, academia and the private sector. Looking at four case studies in Singapore – the CBD/Marina Bay area, Orchard Road, Toa Payoh Town and Tampines Town – some common views emerged from the participants.
Several participants noted that high urban density creates economies of scale and critical mass, boosting the viability of businesses, and public goods. It also allows for a “walkable” city, thereby reducing the carbon footprint. In addition, the close proximity of diverse communities in multi-cultural Singapore can facilitate creativity and the exchange of ideas. Many participants highlighted that good governance, executed through effective policies and programmes, plays a significant part in ensuring that Singapore’s high-density environment is liveable and sustainable.
Challenges related to increasing population density were also addressed. Among the issues raised were the recycling of land and buildings, and the social tensions that come with the more diverse population that is needed in a competitive economy.
The workshop successfully concluded with positive comments from participants. The ideas discussed will be used to analyse the principles that contribute to the high-density, high-liveability model. These principles will be further distilled at a second CLC-ULI workshop, which will be held end of May this year. A publication consolidating these insights will be produced around the end of this year.