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Keywords: Architecture
Design Track
Erik Gerard L'Heureux
2010/2011 DT
Water security
Water storage
Issue Date: 27-May-2011
Citation: TAN EE TENG EUDORA (2011-05-27). HYDROPOLIS. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: The little red dot of 710 sq km, Singapore contends not only for land but also for freshwater to feed the thriving population of 5 million and counting. The current annual consumption including domestic and industrial use is about 561 mil m3 while the annual rainfall is 3 times the volume and more in the future, based on increasing rainfall trends. Yet our reservoirs holding capacity is only 155 mil m3, a fraction of our catchment yield. Water storage is an eminent lack of the nation and forces a dependency on neighbouring resources to supply its needs and in the recent decade, on high technology to refine used water for drinking. With a tropical locale that promises heavy rainfall of about 1600 mil m3 each year, its inability to retain its precipitation volume also threatens the urban landscape and its infrastructure. With the looming termination of water contracts in 2011 & 2061, Singapore is compelled to acquire water security for herself. The thesis observes an imminent crisis of the sustainability of Singapore’s water provisions and postulates an alternative morphology of the city to capitalise on the nation’s only natural resource – the rain. It then reconsiders how the urban morphology may be conceived and engaged with to optimize water storage. Singapore is, historically and physically, a water state, as are water cities such as Venice and Amsterdam. Yet the proximity and engagement with water within the Singapore urban fabric is limited and dismissed as a purchased product out of pipes and taps. The density of waterways in the two other cities are at a much finer grain while in Singapore, the distribution of water is in large water bodies such as reservoirs and rivers and maybe sometimes, after a heavy downpour, the drainage canals. The thesis imagines the alternative landscape as one that allows water to seep into the urban fabric, and be retained, replacing existing road-drain infrastructure with a system of variegated waterways teeming with life. With water retention as primary strategy, the intervention is an incision into the city, taking the 54 sq km of roads and drainage canals to serve as water storage. The site chosen in Chinatown is an exemplication of the intervention and how topography determines the organizational principles of this system and how in turn does the system affect the urban scenario. The new hydrology of the city drives this surgical tabula rasa, bringing a two-tiered system of transport canals at lower topography and aqueduct circuits above to channel or withhold water collected at higher topographies. Transcending the limitations of topography, the 15m high aqueduct structure weaves through the city, embodying supremacy over nature, interiorising existing streets and creating a new street level at its brim. Regular, abundant rain that has its seasonal patterns, ensures a continuous flow in the circuits and provides for variation and change in the water body of the aqueduct such that water recedes or floods. Floating wetlands populate the water’s surface, treating the water collected from above or stormwater channeled from higher topographies. The aqueduct structure in itself functions not only as a storage facility but also a conduit for water and electricity distribution and offers shade and green for its occupants. Previously subsumed only into pipes and dissolved into gutters, water resurfaces as Singapore’s nouveau identity as it actively engages with the city as transportation channels, wetland park, recreational pools, bridge etc. As a result of the roads at lower topographic level of 5m being flooded as transportation canals, the landscape is divided into parcels of higher topography and is envisioned as a highly pedestrianized city supported by the expanding MRT network and clean vehicles such as bicycles and electric cars. The surgical tabula rasa phases out the pollutive roads and its vehicles while the canals and aqueducts are introduced in succession, breathing new life into the city. The excavated landmass may be utilized for Singapore’s land expansion while expanding its freshwater canals which means increased freshwater storage. Water stored in the new canals and aqueducts replacing current infrastructure of Singapore reach to more than 65% of the consumption volume (474 mil m3). As such, the new landscape of Singapore provides 2/3 of freshwater demand but at the same time providing a framework for a closely dense city that engages its dwellers. The new garrison state city of Singapore is at once confronted by the sheer monstrosity of its own consumption yet this hydropolis promises a landscape of water sovereignty, ecology and sustainability – Singapore’s much desired dominion over hydrology, discipline over nature, her fulfilled vision of the clean, green and blue.
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