Seeking an Ideal Public Space

Winner of the Master Plan Category of the Singapore Rail Corridor International Design Competition: “Lines of Life”

Scroll Down

At the Rail Corridor International Competition three team members were quoted as saying, “This is a dream project.” This international competition was held with the intent of revitalizing the old site of the Malayan Railways, which ran a total length of approximately 24km north to south across Singapore. The rail line’s nickname is the “Rail Corridor.” The competition was hosted by the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). The wish of the URA was “revitalization as an extraordinary public space that engages the senses.” What precisely was to be built was not determined. For this reason it was for Nikken Sekkei an opportunity to propose an ideal public space.
At the Rail Corridor Competition team members from a variety of fields including construction, urban planning and landscaping went beyond their areas of specialization to challenge themselves as one. “Lines of Life” won the Master Plan Category, but what kind of proposal was it?




Deeply Rooted in the Lives of the People

First we went to the location, and as we walked along the site of the railroad we discussed the issue as a team. During this walk we perceived Singapore as a multi-ethnic state, as there were diverse communities existing along the site. We also tangibly sensed the area to be abundant in nature. The area is already loved by those living in the area as a place to take morning walks, to walk to work, or for artists to present their works. We strongly felt precision in building the Rail Corridor necessary so it will serve as a repository for the diverse people that live in the area.

What We Saw When We Changed Our Viewpoint

As one feature of the railroad was the fact it cut the nation into east and west, we first considered to revitalize the area in a “stitching” format to connect the communities.
Next we decided to consider the railway site not as an axis running the length of the track, but rather as a space of laterally-connected “front gardens” for each neighboring community. In doing this we felt we would be able to instill the context of each community and place in terms of nature, historical legacy and culture into the Rail Corridor. It was our belief that the newly created public space would serve as a link to the surrounding communities.
The essence of the master plan we proposed was a vision for the nurturing of the Rail Corridor together with the country, developers and people living in the area. In not simply providing people with a usable space but having them become concerned parties working together in the creation of the space, we feel this public space will become one with value to individual people

Who Owns Public Spaces?

In Japan there is a feeling that public spaces belong to everyone, not to one individual person or entity. However, we believe an ideal public space is capable of eliciting a genuine response in the daily lives and sentiments of individuals, and can make people feel as if the space exists for them.
The hope of our team is for the Rail Corridor to be nurtured into becoming this kind of space, and for the creation in the future of a public space holding to the same line of thinking in Japan.


  • Wataru Tanaka

    Wataru Tanaka

    Senior Executive Officer
    Head of Global Business Department
    Principal, Global Business Development Group
    Principal, International Office Management Group

    Mr. Tanaka joined Nikken Sekkei in 1988 after completing his master’s degree at the University of Tokyo. He also holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Harvard University. At the company, he has applied his vast knowledge and experience in architecture, urban design/planning and landscape design to help complete large-scale projects such as Tokyo Midtown (2007). Since 2010, he has been active overseas, focusing on urban design, public transit-oriented development (TOD) and public space designs. He is a member of the Japan Institute of Architects (JIA) and the City Planning Institute of Japan (CPIJ).

  • Shoji Kaneko

    Shoji Kaneko

    Landscape Architect
    General Manager
    Urban Design and Planning Group
    Urban and Civil Project Department

    Shoji Kaneko is an urban designer and landscape architect graduated from the Kyoto Institute of Technology (B.Arch) and University of Washington (MLA). Prior to joining Nikken in 2012, he was trained for a decade in the United States. In recent years, he has led a wide range of projects in Japan and abroad, such as the Rail Corridor in Singapore, Kashiwanoha Aqua Terrace, and Takanawa Gateway City. He works to create sustainable cities, public spaces, and landscapes through interdisciplinary design, integrating the fields of urban design, architecture, landscape, and civil engineering. He has received awards from the Japan Institute of Landscape Architecture (JILA) (in the works category) and the Civil Engineering Design Prize of the Japan Society of Civil Engineers (JSCE), among others. He is a director of the Japan Landscape Architects Union (JLAU), and a visiting professor at Ritsumeikan University.

  • Taku Suzuki

    Taku Suzuki

    Landscape Architect
    General Manager
    Urban and Landscape Design Group
    Urban and Civil Project Department

    Joined Nikken Sekkei in 2014 following 10 years of employment at design offices in the United Kingdom and the United States. He graduated from the Chiba University Faculty of Horticulture, and completed a program in landscape urbanism at the AA Graduate School. Since joining the company he has been involved in many overseas projects based upon his rich design activity experience in Europe, the Middle East and China. He places emphasis on the careful understanding of a place’s particular natural features, culture and history, and works to create environments that enrich the lives of individuals. His work crosses scales from public space design to urban planning. He is a registered landscape architect (CMLI) in the United Kingdom.

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to the use of cookies. Our cookie policy.