With ever increasing population in Asia’s major cities, the escalating density of the built environment has led to fewer green and open spaces. With dwindling views and access to nature and recreational facilities, there has been increasing pressure to maintain and increase productivity of existing open spaces in cities as well as finding alternative ways to create new ones in already choked cities.

60 Richmond Housing Cooperative

Teeple Architects however has a found a new way of bringing in the urban landscape to buildings itself rather than finding free space for open spaces in cities where land is premium. The 60 Richmond Housing Cooperative Project in Toronto shows how open, green and recreational spaces can be integrated into the building structure itself in a low budget and sustainable manner. While most texts and readings of this project focus on its sustainable features, it has an interesting design in terms of the layout of its programmes. This project is a dense, mixed-use, 11 storey urban apartment block that consists of restaurant and retail on the ground floor. By using large blocks and voids, open air and indoor public amenities are integrated into the building environment with ample landscaping that are seamlessly connected vertically and horizontally and are accessible and visible by all residents.

Ground Floor Plan

On analysing further, it can be seen that it is a typical mixed use block with commercial activities on the ground floor. This allows people from surrounding areas to access them. As the restaurant is run by the residents of the apartment, it allows for social interaction between residents as well as between residents and outsiders.

Second Floor Plan

Amenity spaces are also well connected by primary circulation routes. The inward looking outdoor amenity space acts as a junction and focal point which helps to liven up the inner courtyard space. This allows a good view of the playground and amenity space from majority of the units. Thus it permits privacy, security and promotes interaction amongst residents.

Sixth Floor Plan

However, from the plan it can be seen that the lifts and lift lobby may not be in an ideal position. The lifts could have been near the central void thereby increasing the view on arrival as well as making it more accessible to all units.

Ninth Floor Plan

Nonetheless, floors that do not have any internal courtyards or amenity space still provide a view down to landscape levels on lower levels through large voids in the centre of the building.

Sustainability Diagram

Besides design, sustainability features such as organic farming and community gardens provide a good opportunity for residents to indulge in social bonding activities as well as help to liven up the interior of the building. There is good vertical connectivity of the gardens and outdoor areas. Seamless green connections ensure a continuity of green and open spaces and thus avoid arbitrary patches of green areas with no link to each other.

While this project has been a very successful project in Canada, it provides a good model for many Asian cities including to Singapore to learn from. This design concept of this project can be used as a strategy to tackle the issue of lack of open and recreational spaces. As land is very scarce in Singapore, most housing projects are dense high rise structures with hundreds of units in a precinct but very few recreational, social and commercial spaces. This project shows how such spaces are possible in dense housing as well as how continuity among such spaces can be achieved. It also illustrates a better vertical connection of greenery between landscape on the ground and landscape on higher floors that also enhances visual quality of inward looking spaces which are mostly unused residual spaces in the case of Singapore HDB buildings. Schematics of this project’s plans can be multiplied and replicated to form a precinct that can have better connected and utilised roof/sky gardens and recreational spaces closer to homes. This can be a variant or alternative to the existing E-deck typology.

Schematic Multiplication