Simpang Symbiosis

Master plan that creates an eco-friendly self-sufficient town

Site Introduction

Simpang is one of Singapore’s last frontiers for planning, it is located at the North-Eastern coast of the country, adjacent to Yishun new town to the South, Sembawang to the West and Johor Strait to the East. More importantly, it houses one of the very few coastal habitats in the city-state. Rich ecology found in Simpang with its valuable biodiversity, available fertile soil and existing habitat such as mangroves, scrubland, intertidal flat, secondary forests. It was home to the Orang Laut, also known as Sea People, who always considered themselves part of nature and were in harmony with it. The pressure on nature was minimal, people took only what they needed for daily requirements, and this did not prevent the replenishment of natural resources. Mangrove is a unique repository of rich and diverse aquatic plant and natural resources, the operation of which has built a traditional economic complex of this people. During the 20th century, many of the mangrove forests in Simpang were cleared, and the sea people were forced to leave the region. 

Simpang is a Planning Area under URA Development Guide Plan covering an area of over 8.8 km2 once slated for 20,000 housing units in a 1993 plan. The plan was later put on hold to reserve the site for a long-term development instead.

In this studio, we explored a master plan for a smaller site in Simpang, approximately 3.2 km2, that will accommodate 60,000 people. The mission is to plan a self-sufficient town being built by 2040, therefore must consider opportunities and challenges that Singapore in general and this site in particular will face in term of lifestyle, culture, identity, mobility, demographics, economy, technology, ecology, sustainability, resilience and climate change during the planning process.

Looking Into the Future (2040 and beyond)

We then looked into 2040 and beyond, where the future industry and technology will determine the way we will live work and play. More importantly, the future demands us to address the foreboding climate crisis  that  threatens our very survival. Cities today continue to develop in unsustainable manner, where we allow for parasitical relationship between cities and environment only to the detriment of the latter.

Vision, Objectives & Strategies

Vision – Simpang Symbiosis


rejects the existing parasitic relationship,
and instead, 
nurtures a mutualistic urban ecosystem whereby people and nature can harmoniously live together 


The vision translate to our 3 key objectives: 1. regenerate and repair the environment such that nature and biodiversity can thrive; 2. we strive to re-attach people to the land, similar to the Orang Laut People who were in harmony with nature and respectful of their habitat, where people will be motivated to practice a responsible consumption and production respectful to nature; 3. adopt future technologies and nature-based solutions to provide the necessary resources sustainably.


To do so, our planning strategies drew inspirations from the biological symbiosis process: Where it begins between two distinct organisms, typically unequal in nature, followed by their physical contact in order to lastly allow for the material exchange of resources in their interaction.

For our strategies, our rejection of the parasitical qualities of cities, NATURE must become a priority. And hence we will maximize the ecological integrity and values of Simpang.

Next, to facilitate physical contact between city and nature, we adopt a light touch development approach, that is to Dissolve the boundaries between city and nature, let city gradually disappear in the nature and re-attach people to the land.

Lastly, we catalyze material exchange by creating various necessary self-sufficient systems, in this process,  both human and nature benefit from each other.  We will elaborate the approaches of each strategy in the following parts.

Maximize Ecological Integrity

To protect the ecology, we need to first understand what is valuable, and where they are located within our site. Using the evaluation principles, which considers vegetation, coastal habitat, slope, and elevation, we derived a composite ecological sensitivity map using GIS. Using this map, we can identify non-tradable zones along the coastlines to preserve the integrity of the coastal and mangrove habitat. Conversely, the brown site carpark adjacent to the Yishun industrial estate has the lowest ecological development impact.

We then identify which areas are more developable within the site. We utilized sink areas and soil conditions for this measure, thus arrive at this developable area map, where land areas are graded according to developability. This then forms the foundation of how we approach ecological restoration and protection, as well as our planning structure.

For low and medium low developable areas, the main approach anchoring our ecological restoration lies in rehabilitating the mangroves, secondary forest, and reintroducing waterways lost to prior development. To this end, we hypothesize that traditional green and blue networks no longer apply, and that nature shall envelope our urban developments.

Then, the medium, medium high, and high developable area also inform our structure map, where farming communities shall be located at the northwestern regions where alluvial soil benefits crop production. Our forest communities marked with urbanity will be located where granite formations provides stable foundation for development. The manufacturing belt where light manufacturing and waste management are co-located are positioned adjacent to Yishun industrial estate to promote productive synergy.

Dissolve the Boundary of City and Nature

New land use – Ensuring urban-nature integration

To build up a new relationship between city and nature, we are not content with existing land use, therefore we propose two new land use typologies serve as an important legislative tool to ensure urban & nature integration.

One is forest residential, These are areas intended to be used for residential development with particular restrictions to developmental footprints, the green plot ratio should be above 2. This is to allow flora to flourish and penetrate into the living environment.

Another is forest-mix, These are areas intended to be mainly used for forest preservation with provisions to accommodate light-touch mix-use developments, such as Residential mix with Healthcare or Recreation functions.

Parcellation – Facilitating horizontal dissolve

Spatially, the concept of dissolve will translate to the parcellation of land. Urban plots will dissolve from the central ring and into the periphery closer to the forest. This means that the land parcels will gradually decrease in size as it moves further away from the centre as seen in our map. The urban centre will be suitable for public services and mixed-uses while the periphery is dedicated mostly to residential land use.

New land use placement – Hiding plots within forest

The smaller land parcels on the periphery will be allocated to Forest-Residential & Forest-Mix, with the forest residential of higher density closer to the central ring while the low-rise forest-mix scattered in the nature. These will allow for the urban plots of land to be gradually hidden within the forest.

Road network – Stitching dissolved parcels

Dissolved land parcels will be stitched together through the road network. Category 3 roads will service inter-centre movements; Category 4 and 5 will provide the intra-community connection of smaller land parcels.

Special transit modes – Reducing land demand 

Additionally, we have adopted Special Transit Modes to reduce the urban demand for land and allow for nature growth instead.

Skypods, elevated above ground, is a light, fast-speed, point to point transport, it will be the primary public transport serving 4-6 person per pod across all communities in SIMPANG and linking with external MRT station.

The Water transport will act as a supplementary service for both people, logistics and also leisure

The buffer in the map shows 3 min walking distance buffer surround each station. We can see the 95% of the living areas are well served by the two transport modes.

Road sections – Less car lanes & more active mobility

Our road section for Cat 3 with a total width of 22 meters, it will be a two-way car lanes with 2m green buffer away from the pedestrians. The skypod infrastructure takes up 1.6 meter But the stations will be integrated within the buildings. Cat 4 and 5 roads will be 14m and 9m in width respectively as seen in the diagram.

Public space – From manicured to natural

For the public and community spaces, we have strategically created a gradual progression from a manicured landscape like lakeside park and forest garden, towards a more untouched wild nature such as the forest and primitive mangrove. Community spaces are also organized from centralized commercial districts to a scattered Community Centres.

Land use plan – Balancing urban and nature

Next, our dissolve strategy goes back to our need to balance urban areas with nature; Thus our land use distribution for urban activities only sums up to less than 40% of land, the other 60% are catered for nature to thrive – with 30% of land designated as forest park, 17% for nature reserve and 13% as intra-waterbody.

From the table, You can also see that close to 30 Ha being designated as forest-residential and forest-mix. It is only through this balance can we symbiotically dissolve the boundaries between city and nature.

Massing – Horizontal & vertical dissolve

All the dissolve strategies will facilitate dissolving through massing. While the general building height decreases from center to periphery, the building footprint also dissolves from compact areas into fragmented periphery. The buildings on periphery will have high green plot ratio as we mentioned in our new land use. Through this, the nature can also gradually dissolve into urban area.

Master plan – From compact to fragmented 

Based on our dissolve strategies, we came up with the master plan. The plan shows how the building footprint and the layout dissolve from compact to fragmented. Also, how the nature being preserve and dissolve into the urban development areas. Ecological sensitive areas are well preserved, the development density is dissolving from high developable areas to medium developable areas we identified before. People’s activities will mainly happens in the centre. Later we will demonstrate how those activities happens in public spaces.

Skyline – Gradual change from high to low

The 3D model clearly shows the outcome of our vertical dissolving: taller buildings at the core of each urban centres; Ranging from 50m in height at farming community to 115m in height.

Create Self-sufficient Systems

Food system – Living within our means

With residents’ produce can be sold at the fresh food marketplace along the mass-produced foods.

At the community market, excess food items at the F&B level can be traded, and the limited amounts of unsold foods can also be collected by those who need it most in an effort to reduce food waste. 

Lastly, the food waste will be collected through pneumatic waste conveyance system and directly sent to the underground food digesters. food waste could then be collected and composted before feeding back into the food production stage, thereby closing the loop.

Water system – Technological & natural synergy

With residents’ produce can be sold at the fresh food marketplace along the mass-produced foods.

At the community market, excess food items at the F&B level can be traded, and the limited amounts of unsold foods can also be collected by those who need it most in an effort to reduce food waste. 

Lastly, the food waste will be collected through pneumatic waste conveyance system and directly sent to the underground food digesters. food waste could then be collected and composted before feeding back into the food production stage, thereby closing the loop.

Material system – Waste minimization

Our material system is underpinned by a circular local economy, where goods are produced using renewable materials found locally, product lifecycle are prolonged through a process of waste retrieval and upcycling. Seaweed, algae and native dye found will be harvested and converted into textiles for further production, being processed into wearables such as clothing, footwear, or other household items.

Given the availability of these resources on-site, we have strategically selected advanced textile, crafts industry and R&D to draw out the industrial symbiosis and most suited for the success of circular economy.

Service providers at the market places are central model of consumption waste minimisation, craftsmen industries will support on site efforts to ensure that products remain in the consumption cycle for as long as possible through repairing, upcycling and repurposing

Solid waste materials generated within the community, sorted at the centralized facility, can be easily recycled into the product manufacturing process as well.

To close of the cycle, given that these products are designed to be biodegradable upon its end lifecycle, it can be fed into composters to benefit where its materials are sourced from. This material system is projected to recover 50,000 tons of resources and ideally reduce up to 80% of annual solid waste

Energy system – Harnessing ‘by-products’

Our energy solutioning will combine nature, technology, and regulation based strategies to harness by-products produced by both city and nature.

A major strategy for energy self-sufficiency will combine development control regulations as well as passive energy designs to reduce the net energy demand at the building level.

To offset the remainder, floating solar PV panels will be deployed centrally in our open reservoir, as well as near to our fishing community. Hydroelectricity will be generated as the nutrient rich waste water are released into the mangroves.

Further, smart road infrastructure capable of harnessing kinetic energy of vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be installed under roads and pavements throughout the site.

Capacity – Accommodating 60,000 people

In conclusion, Simpang Symbiosis is able to find the balance between city and nature while accommodating the proposed 60,000 population.

The Forest Communities will house more than 2/3 of the residences, with a variety of housing typologies from SoHo to our proposed forest-residential and forest-mix living, with the other 1/3 living within the manufacturing and farming community.

Circular economy – Job creation

Simpang Symbiosis is also able to create the necessary jobs for the population and more importantly facilitate a circular economy. This achieved by addressing the three economic sectors of primary, secondary and tertiary industries.

This is the outcome of our third strategy – creating self-sufficient systems, where we can spur the needed paradigm shift to achieve self-sufficiency.

This is a part of a group project, thanks for the cooperation of Athira Radhakrishnan, Gu Qianhua, Robin Alviedo, Wong Yi Suen and Wang Shiyu.

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