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Presenting: SILA Edge!

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

As part of SILA quarterly Newsletter, we are starting a new section called the Edge which aims to share with our member the latest research findings in areas relevant to the landscape architecture profession. We will try to review the research paper and publication in a succinct manner and highlight how the science could influence design process and decisions.

Some of the research topics in our radar include nature-based solutions, ecosystem services, performance-based design, and digital landscape. We welcome contributions both in the form of reviews and suggestions of research papers and publications.

The first review is on the publication Nature, Place & People Forging Connections through Neighbourhood Landscape Design. The book, published in 2018, was a product of a three-year long research undertaken by the National University of Singapore (NUS) in collaboration with the Housing & Development Board (HDB). It examines the neighbourhood landscapes, provides design principles and guidelines to ensure neighbourhood landscapes are optimally designed to support a range of landscape services such as managing stormwater runoff, enhancing outdoor comfort, and offering recreational opportunities.

Neighbourhood landscapes it is a key component of the built environment and taken together they occupy substantial space in cities. In Singapore, neighbourhood landscapes in residential estates account for almost a tenth of total vegetation cover, more than twice that contributed by parks. By virtue of their large cumulative land uptake, the natural processes in these landscapes have the potential to change the ecological and urban climatic conditions of neighbourhood. It provides an immediate and convenient form of nature experienced by urban dwellers on a daily basis, as well as a common space where community activities and social interaction take place.

The book provided 5 principles to guide the design of neighbourhood landscapes in order to fully develop its potential. First, neighbourhood landscapes are ecosystems connected to larger ecosystem. An optimal design seeks to strengthen networks and flows of biodiversity and energy. Second, character of neighbourhood landscapes is determined through the interactions of social and ecological processes. Both social and ecological components mist be addressed in the design so that neighbourhood landscapes are enduring. Third, neighnourhood landscapes are dynamic. As functioning ecosystems, neighbourhood landscapes are in constant flux, hence, it should be designed to accommodate change. Fourth, neighbourhood landscapes should optimize ecosystem functions. It should aim to co-locate multiple natural processes to enhance ecosystem functions. Last, heterogeneity of neighbourhood landscapes promotes biodiversity and ecosystem functions. The more diverse the landscape types, the higher the presence of species found in different habitats.

The book went on to suggest design guidelines for neighbourhood landscape grouped under five categories – soil, water, flora and fauna, outdoor comfort, and people. Within each category, there are a number of landscape services to be provided through specific design strategies. Design and planning targets are put in place to provide quantifiable measures to drive design. For example, under the category of outdoor comfort, well designed neighbourhood landscape should provide users with the service of heat mitigation and noise abatement. It can be achieved through design strategies like providing continuous shading, providing adequate soil volume for retention of moisture, creating landforms and vegetated areas to function as barrier to noise source…etc.

One of the key takeaways from the reading of the book is the emphasis of landscape architecture design for function and performance. The manifestation of the neighbourhood landscape is a collective consideration of all the design strategies systemically reviewed and tastefully put together to provide the most benefits to users. It is also heartening to see the translation of the extensive literature review of scientific papers into tangible strategies and quantifiable figures for design and planning requirement, which is important in generating effective design rooted in science.

HDB has since adapted the finding from the research into the HDB Biophilic Town Framework and incorporated it into the landscape project brief and design checklist for all Build-To-Order (BTO) projects.

Nature, Place & People Forging Connections through Neighbourhood Landscape Design can be downloaded for free from World Scientific at

By Audrey Xu

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