Located on the north end of Singapore, Kampung Admiralty is a public housing development targeted at elderly residents that integrates healthcare, public facilities, community space, and commercial amenities in a dynamic, vertical format. Designed by the Singaporean architecture firm WOHA, the small-scale development last year was awarded World Building of the Year.
Kampung Admiralty is fine example of public policy and design coming together to foster communities, particularly by including the aging generation. Spearheaded by Singapore’s Housing Development Board—the city-state’s public housing authority that provides residences for over 80% of the population—the project, a prototype model that could impact future developments, was inspired by the desire to create a modern kampong, which means “village” in Malay.
WOHA’s design saw typical aspects of Singapore public housing—community spaces, food centers, residence and park space—transformed into a layered vertical format. These elements are traditionally operated as silos, and never combined.
“There are four distinct components of the project,” explained WOHA director Pearl Chee at the Fortune and Wallpaper Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore earlier this month. “Our interpretation consist of four programs, which we layered vertically. In the first layer, we have the lower-ground carpark and retail, with the ground level and what we call a community living space, where an open plaza and hawker center is. The centre layer is a large medical center footprint, which functions like an umbrella that shelters over the plaza. It is very open. Then there is the upper layer, from a place more conducive of semi-private and semi-public spaces.”
In that upper layer, Kampung Admiralty features a childhood learning center, which is located alongside an active aging hub where seniors can enjoy communal activities ranging from music sessions and cooking classes to simply just hanging out. Above that, an extensive landscaped area, which includes a community farm and vertical garden, provides a bounty of wheelchair-accessible green space to support an active and healthy lifestyle. Rather than just being confined to just residents, all of Kampung Admiralty’s community and garden spaces are open to the larger public.
What’s most notable in the project is that social and intergenerational interaction is fostered at multiple scales. There are interstitial spaces like shared entryways to studio apartments, which have been all fitted with features like barrier-free access, induction hobs and slip-resistant tiles in the bathrooms, to facilitate neighborly relations. There is also special programming created to encouraging volunteerism and foster micro-job opportunities by working at the supermarket or hawker center below for short periods of time. In all, a great deal of thought has been given towards keeping the older residents active and involved.
“We have met the project vision by providing an environment for active aging and promoting community boding, but we have learning points too,” said Yap Chin Beng, senior advisor of estate and commerce for Singapore’s Housing Development Board. “This project is rather opportunistic. It happened that we wanted to develop this site, but the footprint is rather small. We only have around 100 units of elderly housing. To capitalize on the facilities provided, we should have at least 300 units or even more. Not only elderly housing but also housing for younger families, so that it is truly an intergenerational project.”
Regardless of its size, Kampung Admiralty is a powerful example of how tackling the universal issue of housing seniors can be turned into a community meeting point.
For more coverage of Fortune’s Brainstorm Design conference, click here.