80% of Singapore residents are in favour for more roof gardens to be implemented for a better Communal Living Environment (Wong, Wong, Ong & Sia, 2003). However, elevated Green Spaces in Singapore (like Roof Gardens) have always been thought to be a concept of recent years. In fact, many would be surprised to find out that such elevated green space have long existed in Singapore way back in the 1980s.


Bras Basah Complex was built in 1980s, attempting to bring back night life into the core city area. During the late 1970s and the beginning of 1980s, the decentralization of the population from the city centre to the new towns saw a sharp decline in night life in the city center when offices and shops ceased operations (Heng & Low, 2009). To solve this problem, low cost, high rise housing was re-introduced in the Central Area during this period.

These residential developments and communities also introduced a new genre of public space to the city centre (Heng & Low, 2009). Such spaces include elevated green spaces (Roof Garden) and can be found in Bras Basah Complex (Figure 1) as well as many other public residential complexes around the city area (Figure 2).


bras basah complex roof






Figure 1: New Elevated Green Space of Bras Basah Complex in 1980s (National Archives of Singapore, 1980)



Figure 2: Public spaces related to residential community (Heng & Low, 2009)


Over the years, the community at Bras Basah Complex have changed. The elevated green Space still look pretty much the same, with some additions of functions. The space today also attract many other nearby community for mass activities, and are often used by city dwellers who wish for some silent moments within the busy city.



Figure 3: Bras Basah Complex Today (2013)


The large elevated green space for communal activities (Figure 4) built in the early 1980s with concrete flooring and some circular planters still exist today. From the conversation with residents residing there, these spaces are sometimes used in the evenings for mass dancing. These spaces are also frequent not only by the residents, but also many other residents nearby due to the lack of open green spaces in the nearby vicinity. It is mostly used in evenings due to the heat in the afternoons.


Figure 4: Elevated Green Space (a.k.a Roof Garden) at Bras Basah Complex (2013)


More plants could be observed to have been planted over the years. Residents could also be seen to personalise these green spaces by having their own plants along the void deck areas next to the elevated green space outside the Resident Committee Area (Figure 5).

IMG_6014Figure 5: Residents plantings at Communal Green Area


Seats could also be observed in the area (Figure 6). But the lack of shade discourages people from hanging out in the open during the afternoon and on hot sunny days. Most residents prefer to dwell at the void deck areas.


Figure 6: Seating Areas in the Elevated Green Space


As per typical HDB Estates, Pets are not allowed in this open space. However, from the short site observation, there are still residents who bring their pets down to take a walk. This question the necessity of these rules, if they are still relevant or necessary in communal spaces.


Figure 7: Rules & Regulations on the Elevated Green Space


To better serve the residents, more facilities and functions are added on to the roof space in 2006. In figure 8, we can see the addition of new facilities, namely the fitness corner and playgrounds.


Figure 8: New Facilities Added on in 2006


However, there are some undesirable “aesthetics” that one can observe within the premises  The green space facing the drying area of the HDB units created a rather unsightly spatial quality (Figure 9) that deter people from hanging around the area. As observed, although the area provided quite adequate shade, residents prefer to hangout within the void decks or other parts of the green space. One of the reasons quoted from them is the “unsightly and dirty environment in that particular area”


Figure 9: The Undesirable Green Space


Last but not least, it is interesting to mention that the elevated green space provided such a quiet and conducive environment that many youths enjoy hanging out during the weekends (Figure 10). This group of teenagers are playing guitar and doing craftwork in the void deck on a weekend during my visit. Although they aren’t the residents from the estate, such quality of elevated green space have  no doubt managed to attract youths. Quoted from them, this is the only quiet place within the bustling city that they could retreat.

IMG_6028 FIgure 10: Youths hanging out in the vicinity during weekends


From the initial site visit and research, it is interesting to discover that elevated green space is not a new concept. It had long existed starting from the late 1970s. It is also interesting to rediscover this space after so many years upon completion,  how the space have evolved and is so unique that it manage to not only attract residents but also people around them to use the space.

In Bras Basah Conplex’s case, the lack of green open space in the proximity have led to residents and commuters around the city area using this elevated green space more often and more intensively.Perhaps the key to creating successful elevated green spaces does not lie only in spatial design afterall, but site context.




  • Wong, N, Tay, S, Wong, R, Ong, C, & Sia, A. (2003). Life cycle cost analysis of rooftop gardens in Singapore.Building and Environment, 38 (3). Retrieved May 18, 2012, from ScienceDirect database.
  • Heng, Chye Kiang, and Low Boon Liang. “New Asian public space: Layered Singapore.” Urban Design International 14, no. 4 (2009): 231-246.
  • Fig 1: Source from National Archive Board of Singapore (1980)
  • Fig 2: Source from New Asian Public Space: Layered Singapore by Heng C.K. and Low B.L. (2009)
  • Fig 3 to 10: Photography by Larry Yeung (2013)