New directions for the dense city: Moshe Safdie in Singapore
Keywords:Dense Cities, Moshe Safdie, Singapore, Utopian Urbanism
In 1965, Singapore declared its independence and initiated a process of modernisation aiming to erase any evidence of its colonial past. Thedevelopmentalist orientation of Singapore, as Rem Koolhaas defined it, together with the formula “displace, destroy, replace,” became the theoretical instruments used to implement the urban vision for the future city. Singapore has thus become the contemporary urban laboratory of the Asia Pacific Region and due to its limited area for construction, turned into an experimental epicentre in the field of dense dwelling. A protagonist of this experimentation has been the Israeli/Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, designer of the Integrated resort casino Marina Bay Sands (2010), an exemplary feature of Singapore’s drive for development.
This paper focuses on Safdie’s theoretical work, casting light on the ideological shift from his early modern residential project Habitat‘67, built during the Expo in Montreal (Canada) in 1967, to the contemporary residential complex Sky Habitat, completed in 2015 in Singapore. While Habitat’67 represented the manifesto of Safdie’s social utopia, envisaging itself as a prototypical residential component of the future city, Sky Habitat is a private gated community, which targets an upper-class market. And yet, Safdie’s two projects, distant in time and social ideals, display comparable strategies, as the use of similar architectural solutions and the permanence of urban modern utopian principles. These strategies underpin two other projects designed recently by Safdie in China: the Golden Dream Bay in Qinhuangdao (2016) and Chongqing Chaotianmen (design phase), which propose further elaboration of Sky Habitat’s urban principles.
This paper will investigate how utopian urban strategies elaborated during the Modern period and advanced and tested in the 1960s and 1970s, have become material of experimentation for new forms of living in the congested 21st century city, evolving the concept of urban density in “the city that could be”.
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