Singapore’s Kampung Admiralty: A New Age for Social Housing

The World Architecture Festival's 2018 "World Building of the Year" provides important global lessons for social and affordable housing policy.

Sun 25 Jun 23


With calls for more social and affordable housing globally, it is timely to reflect on developments that have achieved success.

On a recent stopover in Singapore, I deliberately sought out Kampung Admiralty – the World Architecture Festival’s 2018 ‘World Building of the Year’ – to understand the design elements of an acclaimed social housing success story.

Hear from residents leading healthy and active lifestyles in one big community. Footage courtesy of @singaporeHDB

I was not disappointed in taking the detour away from Singapore’s glamorous commercial and tourist developments to find a vibrant, attractive, and functioning community hub.

Located in the Woodlands neighbourhood, adjacent to the ‘Admiralty MRT’ – a Mass Rapid Transport station in the North Region of Singapore, Kampung Admiralty epitomises “the idea of architecture as an agent acting as an advocate for social and environmental sustainability.”

A total of 104 apartments are located in two 11-storey blocks for elderly singles or couples.

More than 104 self-contained apartments have been constructed adjacent to a Mass Rapid Transport station (Singapore’s subway equivalent). (Photo credit: Darreh Soh, Patrick Bingham-Hall and K Kopter)

“Buddy benches” at shared entrances encourage seniors to come out of their homes and interact with their neighbours.

The development features ‘Buddy benches’ in shared entrances and common wears to encourage greater social interaction amongst residents. (Photo credit: Darreh Soh, Patrick Bingham-Hall and K Kopter)

The units adopt universal design principles for natural cross-ventilation and optimum daylight.

The units embrace natural ventilation and optimise daylight. (Photo credit: Darreh Soh, Patrick Bingham-Hall and K Kopter)

Completed in May 2017, the “modern kampung”, or vertical village, features facilities for the community, including a two-storey medical centre providing specialist outpatient care, an Active Ageing Hub co-located with a childcare centre, dining, and retail outlets, plus a 900-seat hawker centre, offering a wide range of facilities and amenities for both young and old.

The project embraces ‘urban greening’ with massive greenroofs supporting shared community areas. (Photo credit: Darreh Soh, Patrick Bingham-Hall and K Kopter)

Designed with various deliberate spaces to encourage community involvement and ownership, it was thriving with people.

The complex proves that social housing should be integrated into a community rather than just developed when land is available.

By placing the elderly centre-stage, Kampung Admiralty re-establishes dignity for this commonly marginalised sector.

It adopts a novel approach to creating stronger communities, particularly in the context of rapid urbanization and densification.

The concept manifests in a contemporary kampung (traditionally, a Malay/Indonesian village) and has proven to be a much-loved destination.

The ground-level plaza is designed as an “urban living room,” enabling the local community to gather in many different ways.

The ‘urban living room’ is a vibrant community activation point.

Co-locating the childcare centre with the active ageing hub, fronting the green community plaza, creates opportunities for children and adults to exercise, play and garden together.

The proximity to healthcare, social, commercial, and other amenities supports inter-generational bonding and promotes active ageing in place.

Architect, WOHA’s design is a community hub and an integrated public housing project.

It is an important precedent that showcases the greater civic role and reaches of architecture in society, developed as a prototype to support ageing in place.

An amazing amount of greenery is embedded on and within its many levels.

An aerial view of the massive greenspace that is embedded across multiple levels of the project. (Photo credit: Darreh Soh, Patrick Bingham-Hall and K Kopter)

In fact, 110% of its footprint has been covered in vegetation.

Over 100% landscape replacement was achieved through ground-level planting, greenroofs, and vertical green walls.

The eco-pond promotes biodiversity and provides a natural cooling effect for the adjacent urban surroundings.

The bioretention basin located at the medical centre provides a calm and therapeutic environment for patients while also functioning as a system to harvest, cleanse and recycle rainwater.

Kampung Admiralty has become a biodiversity hotspot, transforming the ecological value of the neighbourhood.

A view of the ‘layered’ green space. (Photo credit: Darreh Soh, Patrick Bingham-Hall and K Kopter)

The diverse planting palette, including shrubs and trees providing fruit and nectar, attracts a wide range of species.

 Water features increase this diversity by providing alternative habitats and a water source.

A biodiversity audit conducted in July-September 2018 found 50 species, including 19 bird and 22 insect species.

Social Housing, when done well, addresses social, economic, and environmental issues and can be world-leading. Let’s demand with the future delivery of social housing, that we enhance our communities and heed the lessons of the past by integrating and not isolating social housing. 

  • Mark Thomson is the director of Eco-Effective Solutions. He has developed a national reputation in Australia for championing Sustainable Design and Development as a practising Architect, Commercial Interior Designer and Environmental Consultant. He is a judge of the World Architecture Festival (WAF) and a director of Responsible Wood (Australia’s largest forest certification scheme) and Micah Projects (one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit organisations focused on homelessness and domestic violence).


  • Mark Thomson

    Mark Thomson, eco-architect, is a regular judge at the World Architecture Festival, the Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards and is a director of Responsible Wood and Micah Projects. He is co-author of The Environmental Brief: Pathways to Green Design.


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