The island city state Singapore, which is almost the size of Mumbai, stands as one of the megacities with a prospering tourism industry attracting over 16 million tourists, about 3 times the total population of Singapore.
Among the many popular destinations it vaunts, Clarke Quay is one that expands as a flourishing riverside commercial, residential and entertainment precinct with a historical value. The winner of ‘2007 Cityscape Architectural Review Award’ and the Cityscape Asia Awards, apart from begetting ‘Best Waterfront Development in 2008’, its awards bear testimony of the fact of its boom. From Marina Bay, a walk along the Singapore river will take you through the three quays of the city, each offering a different atmosphere.
Boat Quay features historical sites and a buzzing riverfront vibe, Robertson Quay charms the leisurely wanderer, while Clarke Quay caters to the party crowd, appealing to more than 2 million visitors a year.
SIGNIFICANCE IN URBAN DESIGN
Clarke Quay is a perfect example of strategic urban design and historic conservation through ‘adaptive reuse.’ It is referred as a modern example of riverfront transformation and redesigning of unappealing architecture façade of old townhouse structures and warehouses to modern day restaurants and cafes. Character of the place: During day time, boat cruises offer rides with delicious cuisines for brunch, a vivid view of
colourful buildings, a serene atmosphere for tourists relaxing, eating and enjoying the cityscape overlooking the river.
At night, the beer bars, wine cellars and an array of seafood restaurants offer a scene of ‘a human zoo’ i.e. of a crowd socialising, partying and grooving on the boats that become pubs and flaunt vibrancy with their colourful lighting, music mixed with smell of beer, wine and smoke.
Complementing element of space: Creative articulation of space is perceived at this quay which makes it a pedestrianised street and beautiful riverside promenade. It also enjoys an interesting contrast in function of place in both history and present as well as day and night.
Rhythm in visual element: Buildings painted in pastel shades with many having rooftop establishments vaunting a view of Singapore’s skyline make them a picturesque spot by the riverside, unfolding a story of the renovation process of the then godowns and shop houses into trendy bars of today.
People and activities: Locals, expats and tourists can be spotted at the place in large numbers. A host of family-friendly activities and cultural visits are organised that are perfect for daytime with Bumboat cruises that run from 9 to 11pm and navigate up and down the river like colonial times; rendering the overall experience to nothing less than a treat to all senses.
Clarke Quay festival village, the biggest conservation project for the Singapore river, was opened in December 1993. Later, it was managed and owned by CapitaLand. Works were initiated to restore the area to impart the place a better tenant mix. The development also saw key modifications to the exterior and riverside areas. Alsop Architects, an international architecture practice was assigned the work of redesigning the shop house facades, streetscapes and riverfront dining areas to be implemented in 2 phases.
Clarke Quay before 1980s
In 1819, the quay was declared a free port and it soon crammed with shipping activities. Clarke Quay, named after Sir Andrew Clarke, the then governor of the Straits Settlements, had been a busy shipping place for more than a century since the 1840s. Between 1850s and 1990s, most of the buildings were two-storied shop houses and godowns. The river was Singapore’s primary sewer and it started to get polluted.
In 1977, the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew called for a comprehensive Singapore river cleanup programme owing to which it shifted from a working area into a recreational waterfront. The project got completed in 1987 with all the industries, squatters and hawkers removed.
Clarke Quay from 1980s to 2002
In 1986, a Tourism Product Development Plan was drawn up to revitalise the river district by dividing it into three sub-zones: Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay wherein each area was to be regenerated by activities like entertainment, hotels and retails.
In 1989, Clarke Quay was acquired by the government and given conservation status owing to its historical importance and unique architecture (identified for its sensitive combination of conservation and adaptive reuse of its warehouses and two-storied shop houses). The first phase of revitalisation commenced in the 1990s after the entire area was leased to a single developer – DBS Land (later CapitaLand). Under stringent Urban Design Guidelines, restoration was to be carried out by a private developer, as per ‘R’ rules – ‘maximum Retention, sensitive Restoration and careful Repair’.
In 1998, a continuous promenade was constructed, which extended up to the west end of the river, around 3 km on each side with a width between 10-15 m providing space for dining areas overlooking the river. The Clarke Quay was finally converted from a family oriented festival market into a pub zone. And in 2001, it became a tourist-oriented place with pubs, discos, restaurants, and factory outlets.
In 2003, CapitaLand announced the new renovation plan to re-design the streetscape and waterfront and to address the climate issue without creating an internal air conditional mall.
Thus, along the riverfront, a series of “lilypads”, that are elevated dining platforms, were created to maximise the waterfront experience, and lights that resembled traditional Chinese lantern were put up, enlivening the river’s edge.
To deal with the climate issue, huge canopies were installed in all internal streets and courtyard cantilevering over the shophouse roofs; these were called “angels”, supported by steel frames (comprising mini-fans and a water feature sprouting water at 16 degree C). A central water fountain erected in the courtyard was to help with cooling along with an overall climate control system to reduce the temperature at a gentle 28 degree C in the afternoon.
Implementation of this new plan was divided into phases (in 2004):
1st phase – completed in Jan 2005 with the new “lilypads”.
2nd phase – started from 2005 with installation of huge canopies “Angels”.
The Urban Redevelopment Agency (URA) was engaged in the design process to ensure renovation abiding the
conservation guidelines; the renovated Clarke Quay was opened in December 2006 with a 24-hour entertainment license and 100% occupancy rate. The rental revenue doubled compared to the beginning of the regeneration in 2004.
At present, five blocks of restored warehouses feature restaurants and nightclubs. There are also moored Chinese junks that have been refurbished into floating pubs and restaurants. The Satay Club and several establishments vacated Clarke Quay to make way for new tenants and the upgraded Clarke Quay features the Zirca, The Clinic and the Forbidden City by the Indochine Group. The Clarke Quay area is different from 1993. One of the most popular attractions is its exciting host of CQ’s signature events happening once every quarter.
With a total site area of 21,428 sq m, Clarke Quay lives on as an exemplary model of a conserved historical landmark located along the Singapore river and at the fringe of the Central Business District, inviting tourists and locals back to the historic waterfront.