Resilience, Beauty and Common Sense: Dense Urban Landscapes in Turbulent Times

Calendar 16 April 2019
Time 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm. Registration from 3.30pm, seated by 4.00pm 
Location  MND Auditorium, MND Annex A, 5 Maxwell Road Singapore 069110
cpd 2 SILA CPD pts, 2 SIP CPD pts, 1 PDU (PEB), 2PDU (QECP), 2 PDU (ABC WP) 


Lecture Poster (PDF: 238 KB)
Lecture Slides by Mr Dreiseitl (PDF: 9.13MB)

Lecture Video and Photos



We live in turbulent times. Cities face climate change and extreme weather events, growing mental health issues, and inter-generational or inter-ethnic conflicts. Studies suggest Blue-Green sensitive design can help to address social and environmental challenges. But the pursuit of quick returns makes it difficult for designers to persuade their stakeholders and partners to value such landscapes in dense cities. Besides relying on regulations, how can we transcend conventional, short-term approaches to use common sense and prioritise qualities like resilience and beauty?

In this lecture, renowned designer Herbert Dreiseitl - most famous in Singapore for his involvement in the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park - shares successful international case studies to explore how we can nurture liveable, regenerative cities in times of social and environmental challenges.

Lecture Report

“…to bring beauty and function into the city, it is not only about making designs that look good, but about designs that really do perform.”


“… start with the environment and landscape first. Often we make the mistake of first making the buildings and road structures, and when there is some space left, we squeeze some green in. And after that, if there’s some money left, we put some trees…”


— Prof Herbert Dreiseitl


In his CLC Lecture on 16 April 2019, Professor Herbert Dreiseitl, who has worked on numerous projects around the world, shared his experiences as an artist and landscape architect.


Making his first point about building resilience, Prof Dreiseitl talked about the unexpected nature of resiliencies. He said that “when we look at how nature actually works, we see that nature is constantly reacting to changes – both natural and manmade. By observing this, we can learn about the change process and resiliency in nature. It is therefore very important to understand how cities react when we talk about resiliency or testing things, so that we understand what flexibility and resiliency is. I think understanding this kind of dynamics, flow structures and flow patterns are extremely important for us planners.”


“A park is not just green to look at. It can do things. It can function to hold back water, to let water filter, to evaporate, to have a cooling effect, to provide shade and to even filtrate the air.” Landscapes have the ability to perform differently, depending on weather conditions, he said. Citing the example of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Prof Dreiseitl pointed out that green spaces can be seen as multi-functional — to help build resilience and promote sustainability through beautiful design.


Revamping Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park also helped improve the psychological wellbeing of society. It presented the elderly with an opportunity to go out and be active, while also encouraging them to connect with the environment without feeling isolated. At the same time, the young have an avenue to see, feel and experience nature. Prof Dreiseitl shared a personal account of meeting a grandfather with his grandchild, who was playing along the Kallang stream. In their conversation, the grandfather reminisced about playing in similar environments during his childhood and was proud that he could bring his grandchild to experience similar surroundings.


Interaction with nature helps dense cities create a connection between the individual and the environment. Prof Dreiseitl adds that “it’s like creating a kind of connection with the environment, bringing back the basic connection to the environment and feeling that we are connected to something which is more than just ourselves.” He also drew parallels to his experience of helping former drug addicts in the USA. Having a connection with the society and the environment makes people willing to work towards a better environment. This way, both social and environmental benefits will be enjoyed by all.


He further suggested that landscapes and the surrounding environment should be developed and designed first, before buildings are constructed. Prof Dreiseitl acknowledged that this strategy is becoming more prevalent now but urged more organisations to leave behind the mindset of constructing buildings without considering the immediate vicinity first. Within Singapore, the many open spaces represent opportunities for agencies to beautify landscapes around developmental projects, he said, adding that the key is to be constantly aware that environment and landscape should not be left to be tackled at the last. In addition to the surrounding landscapes, rooftops are another avenue that can be beautified to enhance sustainability. Increasingly seen around the world, and especially in Singapore, rooftops are being redesigned to include more greenery to help people reconnect to nature in some form.


The topic of “forward thinking” was brought up during the post-lecture dialogue. Despite having a pessimistic outlook on the state of the environment, Prof Dreiseitl called for people to find their passion regarding sustainability and make contributions towards the environment, no matter how small. Society needs to look beyond KPIs, he said, and instead consider what it wants to leave for future generations. It is worth bearing in mind that every small step towards environmental conservation matters!


This report first appeared in the Jul 2019 Better Cities newsletter.


About the Speakers


Herbert Dreiseitl
Artist, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer for Regenerative Water Sensitive Cities.
Founder of Atelier Dreiseitl and Ramboll’s Liveable Cities Lab. Today Professor in Praxis and Independent as “Herbert Dreiseitl Consulting”


Herbert Dreiseitl is an urban designer, landscape architect, water artist, interdisciplinary planner and Professor in Praxis. He is a internationally highly respected expert with a special hallmark on the inspiring and innovative use of water to solve urban environmental challenges, connecting technology with aesthetics, encouraging people to take care and ownership for places. He has realized ground breaking contemporary projects in the fields of climate resiliency, stormwater management, urban planning and landscape architecture like Berlin Potsdamer Platz with Renzo Piano, Tanner Springs Park Portland OR USA, or Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore. He lectures worldwide and has authored many publications including several editions of Waterscapes, Planning, Building and Designing with Water. 


Wong Mun Summ
Founding Director, WOHA Architects


Wong Mun Summ is the co-Founding Director of WOHA. He graduated with Honours from NUS in 1989. He is a board member of the National Environment Agency, a member of the Design Advisory Committee of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), and a Nominating Committee member of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize. He also serves on the BuildSG Advisory Committee and Tripartite Committee as a member.