[can] do our part in the city. If there’s any place on earth that’s holding biodiversity, it’s the tropics.”
It’s also about sharing the space: The Enabling Village has since welcomed many special guests from the wild, including a hornbill that paid a surprise visit just a few days after the garden was completed. The hornbill was once thought to be extinct in Singapore.
A process of renewal
One major challenge of designing the garden was the existing physical environment and topography. The soil in Redhill is largely reddish clay, which poses a challenge to plants and the gardeners who tend to them.
One of the cabanas in the Enabling Village’s garden, providing shade and rest for visitors
Instead of removing and changing the soil, the landscapers treated the soil by selecting and planting plants that enrich the soil by contributing back nitrate.
“It’s not about changing the soil. It’s about understanding which plants can help to enrich the soil,” Chang explained. Once the soil composition improves, it is then possible to introduce new, even exotic, plant species gradually.
“The more bio-diversified the soil, the more chance of things happening, especially when there are millions of different kinds of fungi working in the soil. Sometimes some plants wither away because they don’t get along well with each other, but that’s just like humans.”
An Enabling Village banner at the “Village Green” block, hanging against a backdrop of thick greenery.
“It’s an ongoing process. You can’t rush nature. It’s all about succession, giving it time and allowing the garden to change.”
Look beyond the surface
The incorporation of natural water systems in the garden is another refreshing design element. Deviating from common designs that employ ornamental fish in clear water, the natural pools at the Enabling Village are free of man-made filters. The pools make use of the natural cleaning abilities of tropical plants, in an approach known as phytoremediation.
The main biopond in the Enabling Village, with the NEST and VILLAGE GREEN blocks in the background.
Chang hopes the design, which lets nature flourish and demonstrate its ability to renew itself, will serve as inspiration for future public spaces in Singapore.
“Inclusion comes in many forms, including the physical and also the metaphysical,” said Chang. “It is just a small part of Redhill. But is there something that can echo through eventually in a broader aspect? Is there a way to change how we view the landscaping of Singapore?”
“[Through this design,] we would like to allow people to encounter beauty. The role of a designer is to become a catalyst for beauty, so people who visit a place are tuned in. I think sensitivity plays a role. Everyone has it, but it’s whether this sensitivity is being activated or not.”