Adults and children playing with a kite in the green parks surrounding Marina Bay area in Singapore on a sunny day; Adults and children playing with a kite in the green parks surrounding Marina Bay area in Singapore on a sunny day;

Do our cities need rebalancing?

Over the past 25 years, we have worked on projects that aim to reshape and rebalance precincts, cities and regions. Our Asia Pacific origins have evolved from working on the Sydney Opera House to city-shaping transport infrastructure design, including Singapore’s Thomson-East Coast Line 3, solving cities’ food security challenges and strengthening cities’ climate action agendas through creative collaborations such as the immersive, interactive experience REWILD Our Planet.

Our relationship to the long future of our past projects serves to inform how we approach each new design. We are not simply designing to meet a brief. Instead, we aim to bring our total design values to help our clients achieve their best intentions and build a sustainable future. 

Change is inevitable. How do we solve for new priorities and ensure designs deliver what is required today – and maintain flexibility for tomorrow? One way is through the process of rebalancing.

What is rebalancing?

A healthy city is constantly evolving; it is never perfectly balanced; it is never stable and never a finished product. Its richness is embodied in its dynamism, and to an extent, an imbalance propels change and innovation and leads to better experiences.

Rebalancing is how we respond as a collective and understand the parameters we will need to design our cities with the needs of today and future needs. Balancing a city’s priorities and rebalancing them when required demands us to make complex decisions across multiple factors.

We cannot point to an absolute future, and the global pandemic has shown us many reasons why that can never be the case. Our Foresight team helps us to design for what is probable. It helps us create projects that reconsider current conditions, rebalance vision, and focus on serving the needs of today with a view toward the horizon.

Skyline view over Singapore looking at the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort Skyline view over Singapore looking at the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort

Why do we need to rebalance?

Change is our one dependable constant. For Singapore, the rapid pace of change means the city is constantly rebalancing current and future needs and cannot afford to stay static. 

Globally, we are faced with rebalancing the needs of people and the planet, and our survival depends on this. Singapore’s journey to net zero emissions by 2050 is its most significant target for achieving this. This imbalance also offers exciting new changes, including regenerative design and nature-based solutions, practical ways to make this possible and create a future where we can restore planetary health.

With household pressures mounting worldwide from the pandemic, climate events, inflation and global unrest, rebalancing is essential for ensuring citizens have equal access to resources. Cities worldwide are experiencing intensifying vulnerabilities and inadequacies of food systems. In 2020, the United Nations estimated one in three people in the world did not have access to adequate food, an increase of 320 million people since the previous year. As a result, cities must rebalance for the needs of people today and prepare a food-resilient future.

Rebalancing also helps cities maintain the needs and identity of their citizens. For a city to be meaningful, it must satisfy needs and perform cultural choices and memories. At the same time, a city like Sydney or Melbourne in Australia must remain an attractive international city for tourism, business, and investment. When we work on projects that rebalance old spaces for new needs, we must ask ourselves; do they stay true to their ideals? Do they remain valid in the role they serve in their communities?

We are what we prioritise

Nature-based targets and the fundamental relationship between humans and nature is something I think will be seen this way in future. Climate impacts themselves will require rebalancing our priorities. I expect carbon will be a critical outcome for more and more new projects. In Australia, and many other countries, First Nations people have known this for thousands of years, and we acknowledge their wisdom.

The tactics we deploy for the future require us to balance many outcomes. We can’t have single outcome issues anymore. Something must move people from A to B, but it must also decarbonise, restore ecologies, and increase inclusivity for communities all at once.

Cities are the manifestation of what we prioritise. The way we design cities today transforms the lives of millions of people. Every urban project has a chance to rebalance for a new future and add holistically to the quality of city life. We respond at all scales, from individual projects to entire programmes of improvements.

How do you learn the art of rebalancing?

To help answer this question, our team will be attending and presenting at the World Cities Summit in Singapore, exploring some of the probable answers and learning from others. Read more about our sessions on the agenda here.