April 20, 2018

Grant Associates wins international competition for landmark city-park in Tianjin


Landscape architect Grant Associates has won an international competition to create a new 41 hectare city park for Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City (TJEC) in northern China.

Occupying a central location in Tianjin Eco-City on the Gu Dao Canal, the design vision for Friendship Park is a park that welcomes visitors of all ages, celebrating the friendship between China and Singapore, and embodying the principles of sustainability.

Grant Associates’ masterplan aims to translate these ideas onto site by interlocking contrasting landscapes and characters – like water and land, nature and city – while maintaining a unity in the design with a continuous landform.

Grant Associates Singapore will lead the design of Tianjin Sino-Singapore Friendship Park with a phased masterplan that proposes a Conservatory of five glass biomes, housing tropical plant collections and water gardens. Other key design elements include a wetland centre, an urban dock, play areas, event lawn and amphitheatre.

Alongside Grant Associates, the design team for the Conservatories includes WilkinsonEyre Architects, environmental design consultant Atelier Ten and structural engineer Atelier One. The team will collaborate with local consultants to deliver the project, which will be the most high-profile public park within the 30 sq km eco-city. Friendship Park is also intended as an all-season, international tourist destination.

Singapore’s National Parks Board (Nparks), the original client behind Gardens by the Bay, is acting in the capacity as advisor to Tianjin Eco-City for the Friendship Park scheme. Confirmed local partners for Grant Associates’ design team include Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA).

Friendship Park is one of several landscape projects sustaining the growth of Grant Associates’ Singapore office. The practice is currently working on a series of prestigious projects in the region, including Funan Mall and Paya Lebar Quarter in Singapore, and the Vietnamese-German University (VGU) in Vietnam.

Stefaan Lambreghts, associate at Grant Associates, comments:

“Friendship Park is a hugely exhilarating and ambitious project. Our vision is to create a sustainable, playful and life enhancing landscape alongside inspiring architecture. Together this will provide a rich variety of spaces in which people can come together to play and learn, and have fun.

“The park symbolises many things. It represents the close relationship between China and Singapore, as well as the connection between people and nature, land and water, shelter and exposure. Friendship Park will exemplify the vital role of public parks in providing space for people of all ages to enjoy a rich variety of experiences with nature.”

Detailed design concept:

  • Celebration of contrasts. Friendship Park is an urban park full of contrasts, offering a variety of spaces for different user groups and experiences, in a harmonious and balanced setting. For example, the Wetland Forest contrasts with the Community Esplanade and high-rise cityscape beyond, while an elevated Ridgetop Walk gives long distance views across the site, and the Water Gardens below. This fusion of contrasting characters and landscapes makes Friendship Park a rich and complex park that truly evokes friendship.
  • Sensitive responses to a challenging environment. The park’s new landscape is crafted out of an understanding of the inhospitable nature of the current site, which is currently barren. Exposed to north-west winds and with a saline soil, the aspiration is to establish an appropriate micro-climate by creating a sheltered park environment, which will be enjoyable throughout the year. Ridges in the northern reaches of the site will protect people and nature from the prevailing winter winds.
  • Fusion of architecture, infrastructure and landscape. At the centre of the park is the Conservatory. Intrinsically linked to the park’s landforms, it forms the main focus of the park. The Conservatory’s five biomes will provide year-round shelter and interest. Enclosing a series of garden and wetland spaces, they invite people to further explore the park. A Wetland Visitor Centre, also housed in a biome, provides another sheltered space and the opportunity to learn about its surrounding delicate ecologies.
  • Sustainability. Friendship Park aims to be a beacon for sustainable design principles. This includes the establishment of a robust ‘Sponge City Strategy’ that uses a series of functional waterbodies to manage water flow, improve water quality, and, where appropriate, reduce water run-off. Measures include waterfront reed beds to filter water, and the use of permeable paving where appropriate.

The park’s environmental strategy will also utilise solar energy wherever possible. Importantly, the Conservatory is placed towards the northern end of the site, away from the shadows of the tall city buildings where it can capture maximum sunlight. A network of cycle lanes and pedestrian paths will flow throughout the park area.

Background about Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City

Initiated in 2008, Tianjin Eco-City is a bilateral project between China and Singapore aimed at creating a blueprint for the future development of sustainable cities. The basic infrastructure for Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City is complete and the first residents moved into the city in 2012. When completed in around 2020, the eco-city will house up to 350,000 people in a low-carbon, green environment that already ranks as the world’s largest eco-city. A series of celebrations are planned to take place in Tianjin Eco-City in 2018 to mark the concept’s tenth anniversary.


Public consultation on £400m Sirocco Quays revamp


The public will have the chance this week to see fresh and detailed plans for a £400m revamp of Sirocco Quays in Belfast. The huge site would encompass more than 700,000sq ft of office space, a hotel, 815 homes, restaurants, pubs, shops and cafes. It’s claimed when fully completed it could create 5,000 jobs.

During the 12-week consultation process – which is a requirement of a development of this size – the public will be able to see the master plan for the mixed-use scheme and deliver feedback to developers.

In November, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the St Francis Group and a new company, Swinford (Sirocco) Limited, had bought the land.

A previous deal to acquire the site fell through after part of it was slapped with a Government conservation order.

Sirocco Quays is located between the Short Strand and Bridge End.

Philip Silk, director of Swinford (Sirocco) Ltd, said: “We are delighted to be starting the community consultation process and look forward to engaging with local communities and stakeholders and receiving feedback from them. This development represents a great opportunity for local communities and indeed for Belfast city.

“The 815 new homes represent 2.2% of the Belfast Agenda 2035 target, while the jobs created by the construction work and the new office space will make up around 11.5% of the 46,000 new jobs Belfast City Council is seeking to create by 2035.”

Swinford agreed to buy the site in August 2016, with the deal being completed in January. Architects Broadway Malyan said the idea was to have the work completed by 2035.

Mr Silk has said that a plan for 815 new homes as part of the scheme is the “largest residential development in the city centre”.

“It will include a mix of private, rental, social and affordable accommodation.

“The new neighbourhood at Sirocco will deliver high-quality riverside living for a population of 1,600 residents, and boast new amenities including bars, restaurants and retail, all in an inspiring and exciting new environment.

“We have recognised the unmatched opportunity to extend and complement the traditional centre of Belfast, and bring the opposite bank of the River Lagan back into the life of the city.

“This is a site of significant importance to the continuing regeneration of both the city centre and east Belfast, and to the continued growth of Northern Ireland’s economy.”

The first community consultation is on 26 April at the Short Strand community centre, from 3pm to 8pm.

The second is at the Mount at Woodstock Link on Friday, then the Hilton Hotel on May 2, from 10 am until 3pm, and finally Skainos Centre on May 4.


PlaceFirst moves forward with Welsh Streets plans


Build-to-rent developer PlaceFirst has released images of its plans for the regeneration of Welsh Streets in Liverpool, a series of Victorian terraces near Princes Park which have stood largely empty for years.

In its first pilot project, PlaceFirst plans to create 24 homes from the refurbishment of the current houses on the site, creating modern and energy efficient homes for families, and turning both the street and rear of the properties into communal avenues, rather than traditional yards and alleys.

PlaceFirst is working on the wider masterplan for Welsh Streets under an agreement with Liverpool City Council, which could see up to 300 family properties refurbished and brought back into use.

Street improvements will include tree planting, landscape features and on-street parking.

New residents are able to personalise their homes, with PlaceFirst offering customers the opportunity to choose from a range of kitchen units and interior colours, which forms part of PlaceFirst’s strategy to make renting an appealing alternative to ownership.

Wilf Larder, director of operations at PlaceFirst, said: “These new images show how the first phase of development has retained the rich heritage features of the Victorian terrace, whilst bringing the Welsh Streets into the 21st century with innovative remodelling and distinctive landscape features. We are confident that features such as the avenues will give this development something unique and provide a safe, attractive environment where neighbours can become friends and children can play.”

The homes will be launched to market in May.


Grant Associates elected to SILA executive committee

Grant Associates

Mike Wood, Senior Associate at Grant Associates, has been elected to the Executive Committee for the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects (SILA).

Mike will serve a two-year term on the Executive Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the strategic direction of the non-profit organisation that represents landscape architecture professionals in Singapore.

Grant Associates has been an active member of SILA since the UK headquartered practice formed a Singapore office in 2006 after Grant Associates was appointed lead designer of the city state’s landmark scheme Gardens by the Bay. Grant Associates has gone on to consolidate its reputation in the region and win a range of high profile contracts in Singapore, South East Asia and Australia.

Grant Associates recently relocated to larger offices at Tras Street in Tanjong Pagar – a historic district within Singapore’s Central Business District – to house its growing team.

Mike Wood, Senior Associate at Grant Associates, comments: “Landscape architecture is still very much a developing discipline in Singapore. SILA has done some great work to promote excellence in landscape design and practice, and champion the landscape architect’s role within the wider built environment sector.

“With green infrastructure and large scale public realm projects high on the agenda in Singapore, now is an exciting time for members of the landscape design profession and I’m looking forward to help shape SILA’s positive influence where I can.”

Grant Associates Singapore will host a SILA Studio networking and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) event on 28th April 2017 at its new offices. Open to all SILA members, please click here for more details.


Fields in Trust supports API call to increase investment to positively impact health and wellbeing


Fields in Trust welcomes a new report from the Association of Play Industries (API) into the state of England’s playgrounds and supports calls for increased investment that will positively impact the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Fields in Trust Chief Executive, Helen Griffiths, said: “Play is the first step children take towards physical literacy and an active lifestyle and therefore investing in play spaces and securing their future should be a priority in combating the negative health impacts of a sedentary population. Parks and playgrounds are vulnerable to closure in these challenging times and it’s important that we revalue the enormous contribution they make to our communities.”

The report, published today, cites findings from the State of UK Public Parks 2016 report which found that 92% of local authority park departments have experienced budget cuts in the past three years and 95% of parks managers expect there to be further reductions in the next three years.

New research by the API found that 65 local authorities closed a total of 214 playgrounds between 2014 to 2016 whilst a similar number of closures were reported to be planned for the period to 2019. Reasons cited for closures included budgetary concerns, outdated equipment and anti-social issues.

In its conclusions the report calls for “a clear and unequivocal show of support for play and the benefit it brings to young people” and an additional investment of £100 million to deliver an increase in the number of play facilities across the country by around 1,600.

Fields in Trust provides benchmark guidelines for designated play areas as part of its Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play. The guidelines recommend a minimum of 0.25 hectares of provision per 1,000 population with a maximum walking distance from dwellings of 100m to a Local Area for Play and 400m to a Locally Equipped Area for Play. The Guidance also sets out quantity benchmark guidelines of provision of a Local Area for Play for every five to ten dwellings with an addition of a Locally Equipped Area for Play for every ten to 200 dwellings.

Sufficient provision of space for play is vital to ensure the goal of a More Active Nation can be achieved and also to tackle the rising issue of childhood obesity, which was recognised by the Government as part of their 2016 Childhood Obesity Strategy. New research by the British Heart Foundation recently found that more than 20 million people in the UK are physically inactive, stating that inactivity costs the NHS around £1.2 billion every year.