In Singapore, Coast-to-Coast Railroad Reclamation

Singapore Lines of Life

Little has changed at the Green Corridor since Malaysia turned the 24-kilometer parcel of land, which connects Singapore’s southern ports with the Malay Peninsula, back over to Singapore. Once covered in railroad tracks laid at the turn of the twentieth century, the corridor was stripped bare in 2012 as part of the Malay-Singaporean handover, and like most things deserted on this equatorial island, nature moved fast to reclaim its lost space.

Today it’s a mostly untended, though certainly not unloved tract frequented by bicyclists, runners, and other active locals. Until now advocacy groups, like Green Future Solutions, have successfully helped keep this prime real estate undeveloped — by which I mean to say it hasn’t been demolished or earmarked for fancy, “eco-friendly” condominiums — but inevitable change is on the horizon. In this instance, however, the change might be positive.

After reviewing five proposals for the Green Corridor’s development, last November the Urban Redevelopment Agency (URA) chose Lines of Life, a collaboration between firms in Singapore (Tierra Design) and Japan (Nikken Sekkai), as the winning concept. Reached over email, Taku Suzuki, a senior landscape architect at Nikken Sekkai, told me the “proposal is a celebration of the corridor’s immense spatial reach, an ecologically rich natural environment, a timeless legacy and the diverse culture and people of Singapore.”

Indeed.

Though at this point turning an old, disused railroad into a landscaped park is more welcomed global trend than revolutionary concept — see Paris’s Promenade Plantée and New York’s High Line, for starters — the Lines of Life scope may be beyond compare. At roughly 24km, the Green Corridor is some 17km longer than the aforementioned parks combined; Singapore’s tropical climate and rich biodiversity, too, will challenge the teams to balance preservation with development.

Singapore Lines of Life

The new Green Corridor will, of course, have proper pedestrian and bicycling lanes. Running or biking between the republic’s northern and southern coasts, unhindered by motorized traffic, will be pretty neat as it is, but what’s perhaps most innovative and interesting are a series of themed “activity nodes” incorporated into the thing.

At the “Community Cave,” for example, you can go rock-climbing; the “Passage of Light” will have state-of-the-art reactive lighting; in Suzuki’s words, the old Bukit Timah fire station — or the “Green Connector” in Lines of Life speak — “plays the important role of stitching the fragmented greenery and wildlife, at a grand scale, with [an enhanced] ecological network.”

I’m not sure what exactly that means, but color me curious.

It may yet be some time before the project is consummated. The URA has Lines of Life on the road at the moment, discussing it with communities along the corridor, gathering feedback, and examining its potential impact. If and when greenlighted, Suzuki says it’ll roll out in stages, which could mean the finished product is still years away.

Something tells this runner it’ll be worth the wait.

“We hope the project will become a catalyst to urban growth and community bonding, and gradually become a central spine that symbolizes a new, healthy, and active lifestyle of Singapore,” Suzuki said.

Lines of Life renderings courtesy of Nikken Sekkai.

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