Sunday, March 6, 2011

Proposed skywalk icon impractical, will be an eyesore

Mar 6, 2011

Mr Harry Tong ('Build 'skywalk' mall as national icon'; Feb20) proposed that Singapore consider building its next icon in the form of a 5km-long, three-storey-high, open-air skywalk pedestrian mall running above the existing Orchard/Bras Basah roads and stretching to the Marina Bay area.

Beyond the factors of feasibility and costs, there are at least three major issues with this proposal.

First, the idea of a skywalk as an above-ground connector between buildings emerged from the need to protect pedestrians from crime and inclement weather in certain North American cities.

[We have inclement weather here too. And floods too.]

Because of its original design intentions, the skywalk also drains pedestrian traffic from the street level, thereby impoverishing the existing street life without necessarily compensating for this loss, since pedestrians typically use the skywalk only to move between destinations.

[Have you seen Orchard Road? It can do with some draining (of pedestrians as well as rain water). In any case, window shoppers are not so dumb as to window shop on the streets. They go into Ion, wander thru to Wisma, then into Ngee Ann City/Takashimaya, pop out onto the street only because that is the only way to link to the next shopping mall. People on the street clearly want to move to their next destination anyway.]

If a skywalk is built here as proposed, it will impoverish the present vibrancy of street-level activities on Orchard Road without any certainty of recreating such activities again above ground.

Second, a skywalk on the scale of what Mr Tong proposed would be more of an urban travesty than a national icon. It will cast a shadow over everything below it.

Imagine the underside of such a long skywalk. It will be similar to the underside of a concrete highway. Can this serve as an attractive space for vibrant street life?

[Here I think there is some concern. A almost fully enclosed skywalk will lead to a build up of vehicle exhaust which would potentially make the "Underwalk" a health hazard. But this need not be so, with proper ventilation and eventually if/when we switch to more electric vehicles. And the unimaginative concrete tunnel is the brainchild of an unimaginative brain.]

Third, the need to rely on yet another icon to attract more tourist dollars is unsettling.

'Icon' means the representation or imagery of some identity - an icon is thus not the real thing. To rely continuously on different representations to sell Singapore to the world undermines the commitment to the kind of social solidarity, and hence civic identity, that iconic representations cannot offer but which every unique city or state integrally requires.

[LKY is iconic. We should tell him he is not coke, i.e. not the real thing. I don't even know what this point is about. Probably an iconic rant with no real substance. Probably taking a word out of context, and arguing semantics. Yeah, I'm sure every tourists to Singapore is here to see our civic identity. We should charge admission for it.]

For these reasons, the proposal for yet another eye-catching icon, whether in the form of a skywalk or some other urban structure, needs to be considered carefully.

Jeffrey Chan

[Get off your high horse and walk. If you like high horses, you might like the skywalk.]

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