Identified as the first phase of development of Jurong Lake Gardens, Singapore’s third national garden and the first in the heartlands, Jurong Lakeside Garden is a 53-hectare site that looks to restore the landscape heritage of the freshwater swamp forest as a canvas for recreation and community activities. The development is envisioned to be a “people’s garden” accessible to all segments of the community and is a conscious effort to bring back the nature that was once unique to the area.
Jurong Lake Gardens, being one of the three national gardens in Singapore together with Singapore Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay, acts as an engine to transform the neighbourhood. With the gardens being one of the first development in the area, it acts as a catalyst that brings regeneration to the entire Jurong Lake District. Not only does it provide access to green spaces for the community and wildlife, it also helps Singapore to evolve into a biophilic City in Nature where the landscape elements and spaces are informed and inspired by nature.
Its success and popularity can be seen in its visitor counts, reviews and online engagement on social media. With over 4 million visitor count in both 2019 and 2020, the garden has been rated as one of the must-visit places in the West of Singapore. It has over 12000 hashtags and location engagements on various social media platforms. Positive reviews can also be seen in touring sites as well as amongst nature groups, with an average of 4.5/5 stars scoring. With the pandemic, it continues to be one of the places where people go to be immersed in nature.
Project Narrative Vision & Strategies
The vision is to create a biophilic garden where people, animals and plants can co-exist and bring mutual benefits.
Through the restoration of its landscape heritage as a freshwater swamp forest, it acts as a canvas for recreation and community activities.
Below are the 7 biophilic design principles that we adhere to during design and execution stage to ensure to reunion of people and nature:
1 Bring back the freshwater swamp!
2 Return space for water & nature
3 Preserve existing hotspots
4 Nature appreciation
5 Play with nature, play with water
6 Design to recycle
7 Design for the community
1 Bring back the freshwater swamp!
Before the early-mid 1900s, the area was a swamp that was teeming with flora and fauna before it was developed into an industrial estate. Jurong Lakeside Garden strives to bring back the freshwater swamp in all means by incorporating its root into the design.
It starts with the primary ecotones of freshwater swamp, woodlands and grasslands that make up the garden. The ecotones are then further broken down into key habitat spaces, each with unique characteristics and plant types that are suited for the respective fauna.
On top of the existing woodland, the three ecotones are further divided into its key habitats, with specific planting groups and signature species. Each of them creates a unique landscape for people to experience and wildlife to inhabit within.
Planted predominantly with Alstonia spatulate to reflect the natural history of the area, the Alstonia Island’s conditions are greatly influenced by changes in the water level of Jurong Lake. The island has conditions similar to that of a freshwater swamp, as it is constantly flooded when there are changes in Jurong Lake’s water levels, leading to a unique habitat for flora and fauna.
2 Return space for water & nature
To improve the drainage system in the garden, Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) elements such as vegetated swales and gravel swales are introduced as drainage conveyance measures. 100% of the catchment is conveyed through WSUD elements drainage before being released to Jurong Lake. Three concrete drains were transformed into completely naturalised streams, which provides new spaces for community and ecology along the streams.
Detailed model simulation and analysis of the water’s velocity and capacity are carried out to ensure feasibility and accuracy of the design of the streams. Numerous sections are cut to understand the conditions along each branching of the streams such that bioengineering bank treatments can be designed at each segment. It demonstrates the scientific approach behind the beautiful and naturalised design.
Neram Streams is one of the examples of the conversion of traditional drains into streams, to return space to nature. Once a 300m length straight concrete drain, it is now converted into a series of of braided waterways that adds up to 900m winding around islands of trees, also known as the Neram Streams. With excavation depth as much as 6m, the streams banks are precisely engineered through various bioengineering technique to ensure slope stability. The banks of the Neram Streams are planted with collections of tree species commonly found in tropical riverine forests, such as the Dillenia, Syzygium, Diospyros, Saraca and Barringtonia species. Clusters of Neram trees (Dipterocarpus oblongifolius) can also be found along the streams’ bends.
In the entire project, a total of 12,000m concrete drain were demolished and replaced by WSUD elements to return more space to nature, people and wildlife. People can now freely go down to the streams to look at the rich biodiversity over there.
3 Preserving existing hotspots: Important tree clusters
During construction, it is important to maintain a close communication between landscape architects, resident landscape architects and contractors to save additional healthy trees which may not be shown in existing surveys, while safeguarding the design. It is never too late to change for a mature healthy tree, with design intent and budget being maintained for a win-win situation. On the left is one of the many instances.
Over 3000 existing trees are preserved within the site. Trees are transplanted as much as possible, with over 200 no. of trees transplanted within site. Existing big trees such as banyans and yellow flames are preserved carefully, which provide a connected corridor for wildlife and biodiversity Over 7000 trees as well as over 550,000 shrubs and grasses were planted during construction period. Bird, butterfly and dragonfly attracting trees and shrubs are specially selected to provide food source and nesting opportunities, ensuring a vibrant habitat with rich biodiversity. Rare species such as hornbills, buffy fish owls and otters are spotted to be regular inhabitant of the garden.
3 Preserving existing hotspots: Key biodiversity zones
Existing biodiversity hotspots and dense forests are carefully preserved and enhanced. Human programmes are minimized to pathways and seating at these zones to provide a refuge area for wildlife. Wildlife surveys were carried out before, during and after construction to understand the impact and habitat groupings of the wildlife on site, from 2014 to end of 2019. Proper mitigation measures have been in place for minimizing disturbance.
From bird watching enthusiast group, a count of 205 bird species has been spotted since the opening of the gardens. It is also one of the five bird watching hotspots in Singapore with over 200 species recorded. There are also sightings of a flock of Asian Openbill Storks, migrating and stopping in the Gardens on their way in 2019. Based on the post-construction biodiversity report, 7 more species of odonates are also found due to the creation of a wider extent of aquatic habitats which include swamp, streams, wet grasslands and ponds. The thriving of these species indicates a success of these additional aquatic habitat which is lacking in the Jurong area.
4 Nature appreciation: Biophilic design in proximity to buildings
Meandering along the water’s edge, the 300m barrier free Rasau Walk offers visitors the opportunity to get up close with nature along the shoreline. Winding around islands of special palm collection and existing trees, moments of tranquil grasslands and serene lakeside scenery are uncovered at various viewing spots. With a carefully engineered slope edge, the boardwalk sits within the transitional tidal edge with varying water depths. Plants such as the sealing wax palms, nibong palms, are adapted to cope with constant inundation. In the evening, it will be illuminated with a soft glow along the edge, accentuating the curvatures of the meandering boardwalk.
Rasau Walk and Grasslands together offer an immediate immersion to nature and water, which is rare with such close proximity to the city.
4 Nature appreciation: Creation of ecotones
The picturesque Grasslands sit in between the Garden streams and the wooded areas. It forms part of the intertidal habitat, transiting from dry grassland of the inland area towards wet grasslands at the shore edge. The Grasslands form part of the intertidal habitat, transiting from dry grassland towards wet grasslands at shore edge. This is one of the ecotone found within freshwater swamp forest. With over 3.5 hectare in size, it aims to create a transition that provides refuge areas and nesting grounds for both migratory and resident avian population, as well as food sources and nesting grounds. A series of mounds are located at the periphery of the vastly open grasslands, where 3 birdhides are located at these mounds for bird watching activities. At dusk, grassland birds are seen to be hiding amongst the tall waving grasses, or flying in a flock against the sky in the vast grasslands. The charming, alluring space is one of the rare spots in urbanised Singapore that is shared by both humans and wildlife in a non-intrusive manner.
The grasslands, being one of the first curated landscapes of similar kind in Singapore, involve a lot of detailed research and testing prior to actual implementation. With the help of the horticulturist collaborators, suitable planting palette as well as the soil mixes are specified and tested months before implementation to ensure the landscape can thrive as envisioned. The grasslands has become one of the most popular photogenic spots as well as bird- watching spots in Singapore, which is not common for a beautiful landscape to offer rounds for such diverse activities.
5 Play with nature: Biophilic playground design
At Forest Ramble, a biophilic play space as well as the largest children’s nature playground in the heartlands, children are encouraged to mimic the actions and motions of animals that inhabit freshwater swamps which were common in the Jurong Lake area.
There are 13 different adventure stations for children to explore, inspired by the movement of 9 species of freshwater swamp animals. They can hop about like a frog on the trampolines at the Frog Play zone, cruise in the air on a zipline and pretend to be a Heron flying from one nest to another, test their balance and agility by bouncing from one platform to another like a Squirrel, or glide down the slithering slide at the Snake Play zone. At this biophilic nature playground, they are also encouraged to come out with their own way of pretending to be any animal imaginable that looks to conquer the place and find their own path to an adventure within the garden. It also includes multiple inclusive play areas that offer universal play experiences for children with different needs.
From the conceptualization to the execution of these thematic play zones, Forest Ramble opens a new page for playground design in Singapore, as well as offering a variety of unique play experience for children that is customised in Jurong Lakeside Garden.
5 Play with water: Recycling water from Jurong Lake
Clusia Cove is an interactive water playground where children can experience the water movements that mimic the tidal pattern, surface ripples and directional currents similar to coastal shores. It is the first close-loop water playground that utilizes ABC features as part of the recycling process. Children can build sandcastles and feel the currents tickle their shins, much like a day out at the beach. Children are seen to be creating their own streams out of sand amongst natural stones and plants, which is unique in this nature-based water playground.
A 3-hectare closed-loop water recycling system that treats Jurong Lake water naturally is used for the water playground. The biotope and UV treatment are used to disinfect the water before being pumped into this play area. The biotope makes up of a series of cells filled with sand filter media and semi-aquatic plants to absorbs excess nutrients. It serves as a natural water treatment system before finer filtration and disinfection take place in the underground UV control room.
6 Design to recycle: From waste to biophilic landscape features
With sustainability and a recreational aim in mind, the nature trail features are designed using recycled material salvaged from site during construction. They target to provide unique leisure opportunities and experience for visitors to explore the landscapes.
The Canyon is made of existing laterite boulders found across the site. They are either broken down into small pieces as infill of the gabion, or inserted as large laterite boulders among the gabion. With plants growing on the natural platform of the 5-tiered gabion wall, it aims to create canyon effect while walking along RIR from lakeside MRT southwards. It also acts as clear division between south carpark and the water playground, to provide visual and physical barrier for safety.
The Log Trail is created using woodlogs from fallen trees from previous park that have provided shelters and shades. All fallen trees in the development have been repurposed into either site furnishing, landscape features such as bird hides and bird platforms, habitat logs, pathway kerbs, or nature trail feature such as this. Kids enjoy stepping up and down the wood stump terrace, while others rest on the stumps seating under the shade. The assembly of woodlog offers a new topography for visitor to explore and reimagine the possibility of the forest.
The Lone Tree is rooted in the middle of the open grasslands amongst the tall grasses. It is made from recycled iron reinforcement bars salvaged from demolished steel-reinforcement form within old pathways from the site. Not just an artistic sculpture piece, this tree aims to serve similar ecological function as a snag or a dead tree in a wild meadow. This bare tree form becomes the perfect resting locations for either a feeding predator that is scouring the horizon for his meal, or temporary resting points for a flock of migratory bird of their journey. With long grasses waving in the foreground, the Long Tree with a perfect sculptural form is also found to be one of the most photogenic moments in the garden.
Other than the lone tree, all fallen trees in the development have been repurposed into either site furnishing, landscape features such as bird hides and bird platforms, habitat logs, pathway kerbs, or nature trail features; Recycled reinforcement bars are transformed into this photogenic tree sculpture; Concrete from demolished park structures, drains and pathways have been crushed and re-used, in the form of gravels or slabs for bioengineering, gabion infills, landscape steps or other landscape features; this is in line with our ambition to help drive a sustainable transition towards a more resource-efficient future.
7 Design for the community: during design, construction and completion
Community engagement was carried out by the client as a touring exhibition around Singapore during design stage. Townhall sessions were also held to receive feedback and interest from the public, especially the immediate neighbourhood community. During construction, events like VIP tree planting events along with a public exhibition were held to engage with the community, as well as providing them updates of the latest design of the gardens. From the public feedback received, the client and consultant team worked on responses and actions to integrate feedback into the design, to ensure the public’s requests are not neglected while maintaining the overall design aesthetics and intent of the garden.
The Jurong Lake garden aims to restore the landscape heritage, and the vision was to create a park where people, animals and plants can co-exist and bring mutual benefits.
In conjunction with the Nature in a City theme in Singapore, the garden strives to inspire people through nature, learn through nature and bring people close to nature. All in all, Jurong Lakeside Gardens is envisioned to utilize full opportunity for biophilic design within the piece of landscape, and bring unlimited possibilities within it. With its nature being a redevelopment project, existing conditions, existing habitat hotpots and existing resources on site are carefully respected and analysed. They then contribute back to the final design in various means- by retaining, relocating, recycling and repurposing. The challenge of such big construction within a habitat zone has been successfully overcome by appropriate mitigation measures and environmental sensitive construction methodologies. Jurong Lakeside Garden started as a freshwater swamp back in the old days, and returned as a freshwater swamp in an ecological as well as a design philosophical way.
Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape:
Client: National Parks Board (NParks)
Water Engineer: Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl, CPG Corporation Pte Ltd
Playground Designer: Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl, Kukuk
Arborist & Horticulturist: Camphora
Biodiversity/Wildlife Specialist: Subaraj Rajathurai
Architecture offices involved in the design: CPG Corporation Pte Ltd
Project location (For publicly accessible projects please include exact address. For Private gardens place write Country or State):
Yuan Ching Road, Jurong Lake District, Singapore.
Design year: 2014
Year Built: 2019