Traditionally, public housing development has been undertaken by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) of Singapore, to provide affordable and quality housing for the citizens of Singapore. In the recent years, in a bid to improve the quality and design of public housing, HDB has, through competitions, awarded firms from the private sector to design and propose new ways of living within public housing. Spearheaded by the Pinnacle at Duxton, we now see more of such innovative housing schemes being built, like SkyVille and SkyTerrace at Dawson. The idea was to provide more lush green spaces for residents to enjoy and these ideas will be incorporated into future public housing developments as well (Cheong, 2015). One of such innovative design ideas was the introduction of sky decks and sky gardens, which are void decks raised into the various floors of the buildings, connecting the different blocks together, and providing residents with a resting and breathing space (HDB, 2016).


To understand the usages of public spaces, and in particular the usage of sky gardens, 2 precincts within Queenstown are selected to reference each other. The reason for selecting the precincts to be within the same planning district is to minimize any potential differences in cultures or experiences that may arise from geographical differences.


The first case study is the SkyVille precinct in Dawson. It was completed in 2015, and contains 960 dwelling units, within its three blocks of forty seven- storey structures. The second case study is the Commonwealth View precinct, which was completed in 2008, containing 1099 dwelling units, within its three blocks of forty two- storey structures.


Figure 1: SkyVille at Dawson with the Sky Gardens, WOHA

Block 86- 89 Margaret Drive, 2015

Source: Photograph taken by Author, 22 June 2016

Figure 2: Individual Point Blocks of Commonwealth View, HDB

Block 89- 91 Tanglin Halt Road, 2008

Source: Photograph taken by Author, 22 June 2016


Table 1: Key Characteristics of the Chosen Precincts


The case studies were chosen to be as similar as possible, with a smaller difference between the dwelling units, and the apartment types. However, it is very difficult to get similar apartment types distribution because it reflects the differing demands of the market at different points in time.


Observations were carried out on site, on weekdays and weekends, where no unusual events that could affect the usage of public spaces happened, with weather conditions as similar as possible.


The method of observing usage is referenced with Stationery Activities Mapping (How to Study Public Life, Gehl, 2013). To record the usage of public spaces, a route was planned to cover all spaces and usages of the spaces were recorded as the spaces were passed. Activities that happen after the spaces were passed were left unrecorded. People passing through the spaces were also not recorded.


In this observation, the different usages of the spaces were not classified, and the wider sense of using the space was adopted, where it refers to users occupying and engaging the space with activities.


Block 89- 91 Tanglin Halt Road, Commonwealth View


In Commonwealth View, the spaces that were studied were the corridor spaces, where it was observed that people engaged the space in the form of hanging their wet laundry, or taking care of potted plants, and occasionally kids were seen playing along the corridors as well; the void decks; the drop off sitting area, where it was observed to be a favourite spot for the elderly to sit around and converse; the precinct pavilion; the multi generation playground, consisting of a fitness corner, an exercise corner and a playground; and a playground at the corner of the precinct.


Table 2: Usage Levels across the different Public Spaces within Commonwealth View Precinct


Seen in Table 2, the space with the greatest weekday usage across the day is the multi generation playground, except for 1 PM, where the corner playground experiences a greater usage. This is due to the proximity of the playground to a school just beside Commonwealth View, where parents and domestic helpers loiter and wait to fetch young children home from school, as seen in Figure 3 below. In the weekends, the space with the greatest usage is the drop off sitting area, where many elderly residents can be found sitting around and talking to each other in small groups. The usage level is only overtaken in the evenings, when parents and other elderly residents bring their children and grandchildren to the playground to play, while they exercise and socialise.



Figure 3: Corner Playground Filled with School leaving Children and Parents

Commonwealth View

Source: Photograph taken by Author, 6 July 2016


As for the peak in usage at 9 AM for the precinct pavilion, it can be attributed to the group of elderly residents using the pavilion to conduct exercise cum dancing lessons for each other.


Figure 4: Neighbourly Exercise cum Dancing Lesson in the Precinct Pavilion

Commonwealth View

Source: Photograph taken by Author, 6 July 2016


In the evening at 6 PM, there is an increase in the usage level for the multi generation (middle) playground more than the other public spaces as more residents can be found bringing their children and grandparents to exercise and play together.


Figure 5: Residents using the Multi Generation (Middle) Playground

Commonwealth View

Source: Photograph taken by Author, 8 July 2016


It is also interesting to note that the usage of the drop off sitting area is quite consistent across the day, unlike the other spaces, that vary with time, as it is a popular destination for elderly residents to go to meet their friends. With simple furniture and structure, a space can also be lively and attractive to facilitate usage and community bonding.


Figure 6: Drop Off Sitting Area, a favourite hangout for elderly residents

Commonwealth View

Source: Photograph taken by Author, 6 July 2016


Block 86- 88 Margaret Drive, SkyVille at Dawson


To draw a similar comparison, the corridor spaces, the void decks, the drop off sitting area, the precinct pavilion, the playground and fitness corner of SkyVille were observed. In addition to the observation of these spaces, the sky gardens were also observed.


Table 3: Usage Levels across the different Public Spaces within SkyVille at Dawson Precinct


As seen in Table 3, the sky gardens receive the greatest usage compared to the other public spaces, for both weekdays and weekends. The only exception is at 1 PM on weekdays, the void decks experience a greater usage, which can be resulted from more residents passing through the void decks and stopping to take a break, or eating their packed lunch during lunch time.
It can also be observed that at 9 AM there is a peak in usage level of the sky gardens in the weekdays, as this is due to a small gathering of elderly residents bringing their grandchildren to meet other residents, for a playtime, which increased the usage level of the space compared to other spaces.


Figure 7: Social gathering for the elderly residents with their grandchildren

Block 87 36 Floor Skygarden, SkyVille

Source: Photograph taken by Author, 13 July 2016


Figure 8: Parents bringing their children to play at the Sky Garden while they engage in conversation

Block 86 47 Floor Sky Garden, SkyVille

Source: Photograph taken by Author, 9 July 2016


It is interesting to note that at 6 PM on a weekday, there is a surge in usage at the fitness corner, and much less usage recorded at the other public spaces. Geographically, the fitness corner and the playground are close together but only the fitness corner experiences a greater usage, and the playground experiences the least usage. This might be a result from the preference of the residents in using the fitness corner over the playground, as it was observed that many children were playing around and with the exercise equipment instead of the web structure at the playground. It can also be because the adults can supervise and also exercise with their children and grandparents at the same time, which results in the increase in usage.


Figure 9: Multi generation residents using the Fitness Corner together


Source: Photograph taken by Author, 13 July 2016

In addition, another point to note is while the sky gardens receive the greatest usage levels across the different public spaces, it also occupies the greatest floor area collectively. This problem is not as prevalent in the Commonwealth View precinct as the facilities are distributed quite evenly on the ground floor. With an increased floor area for the sky gardens, a high-recorded usage may eventually lead to the lowest usage level per floor area, when usage level is proportioned to the floor area of the public spaces.


To further study in depth into the different usage of public spaces on a more common scale, one can look into usage density, where the total number of users is proportioned to the total floor area of the public space.



Using this formula, a more accurate comparison of usage patterns can be achieved as it records the number of users present per unit area of the public space.



In conclusion, the provision of the lush green sky decks provides residents with more areas to enjoy and engage with the space or their individual daily activities, and with more usage of public spaces, residents may start to break the ice and interact with other users in the long run, thereby increasing and improving the community bond within the precinct. However, for chanced or induced interaction to be more effective, the usage density should be of a higher value, when more users interact or use a smaller space.




Dawson’s SkyVille and SkyTerrace Projects are raising the bar for stylish public housing: The Straits Times. 2015, May 23. Retrieved 25th July 2016, from

Public Housing- A Singapore Icon: The Housing and Development Board. 2015, October 26. Retrieved 25th July 2016, from–a-singapore-icon