Tengah Town Play Field: Rethinking Sports Spaces in Singapore

Home / Programme / Bachelor of Science (ASD) / Courses / 20.112 Sustainable Design Option Studio 2 / Tengah Town Play Field: Rethinking Sports Spaces in Singapore

Studio Master

Andrew Lee

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Albert Einstein1

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and courage of your lungs.”
Jesse Owens2

Setting the scene

Before the days of the internet, cell phones and its endless supply of apps, a good gift could be an Arena swimming piece, a Chopper bicycle, or pair of Panther cross-country shoes. Indeed, for many of us, an adventurous foray may include a night swim in salty sea water, a ride on a two-wheel vehicle along gravel and mud tracks, and a run up a steep hill. Challenging our bodies whether it is gliding in calm waters, or perching on a saddle along an uneven route, or straining against gravity as we run up the incline hill, are often the inspiration behind this popular proverbial quip – “Isn’t life an adventure?” Sports, whether it was swimming, cycling, cross-country running, or the modern-day triathlon, was a “physical education”; a way of training our bodies to interact with our sensory-rich environment filled with increasing awareness – awareness of topographical levels, of distance and time, of muscle power and heart rates, of effort and elevation, and of wind and speed.

Sports and Urbanization

Singapore is a contemporary city environment with busy roads lined with cars and public transport; lively sidewalks with commercial activities and soaring skyscrapers interiors with escalators and glass elevators. Most Singaporeans get around our physical environment through automatic modes of transportation – through MRTs, buses, cars, and increasingly through PMDs. Such automatic modes of transportation unwittingly limit opportunities to move our human bodies; our human bodies start to dull in our abilities to interact with our sensory environment. The COVID pandemic situation further limits our daily movement. We are sitting more and longer by working from home and learning from home. Our human bodies are dulled further and longer. Trying to provide spaces for sports in Singapore is becoming more challenging where citizens live an increasingly home centric and sedentary lifestyle with limited space and limited participation in sports or physical exercises.

Can anything be done to reverse this trend? Can anything be done to encourage greater sports participation in the design of our sports facilities and urban environment?

Quantity Factor: Increasing the number of sports facilities through rapid deployment and upcycling

One suggested solution is to increase the number of small to mid-size sport facilities by the rapid upcycling of existing buildings. Upcycled buildings offer a quick way of increasing and fitting-out sports facilities without long development periods.

Example 1. Streetmekka3 by Effekt Architects in Viborg, Denmark is an example of an upcycled sports venue. This facility is formerly a deserted industrial hall which has been repurposed for street sport and youth culture comprising of different skills and ball games at grade level, and a small skating hall and dance studio at the upper level.

While upcycling may be a rapid and sustainable way to increase the stock of sports facilities, it may not be a suitable solution when it comes to new greenfield sites like Tengah Forest New Town. There will be few, if any, existing buildings to repurpose and increase sports facilities and spaces.

Convenient Factor: Increasing the opportunities to engage in sports through co-locating sports facilities with other mixed uses

A second solution is to build multi-purpose sports facilities that are co-located with other mixed uses. Residents can work out with a swim in the pool, work on the cycle, or treadmill machine in the gymnasium before picking up their groceries in the supermarket. Residents need not visit the sports facilities just to exercise but do other chores or meet up with friends along the way. Integrating daily lifestyle services into sports facilities make it more convenient and social to visit sports facilities. While there may be the challenges of coordinating and working with multiple stakeholders, amenities, and synergistic programs, this may be a better long-term and sustainable solution with intensification of land usage. Singapore has been a pacesetter in this respect – it has rowed-out integrated buildings that can house multiple sports spaces. These sports spaces are co-located with community spaces such as community clubs, theatres, libraries, and polyclinics and commercial spaces such as retail shops, supermarkets, and hawker centres. Resident-centric sports facilities such as Our Tampines Hub and Heartbeat@Bedok4 are co-located within mixed use developments. These facilities are used for staging sports competitions, concerts, and other large-scale community events.

Example 2. Sports Park cum Convention Centre5 by Approach Design in Hangzhou, China is an example of a co-located and multipurpose sports venue. This facility has a green roof sports park featuring a 760m running track, football field, numerous sports courts, children sand pits, and community gardens that hovers over and concealed a 9m high convention centre/exhibition hall. When not in use the vast exhibition hall is converted into a “sports warehouse” containing basketball, badminton, and table tennis courts. Besides the need for additional conference spaces, the facility also provides sports spaces that offers more to the nearby community.

Proximity Factor: Increasing the number of sports facilities in proximity to surrounding landscape and outdoor settings

A third solution looks at the how humans can adapt to their surrounding environment. Physical exercises and recreational activities do not need to be housed inside buildings and facilities. There are urban playgrounds, parks and workout spots throughout the island of Singapore. These are fitted into the very fabric of the city with people doing tachi in the park, cycling along park connectors, or working out with fitness stations under viaducts. We can make use of the spaces that are available in so many ways. We can innovate and adapt how we can fit physical activities into these spaces. If we are living by the waterfront, water sports can be the main activities – whether one is into swimming, yachting, kayaking, windsurfing, or dragon-boating. Adapting to spaces in our environment may provide solutions with less demands and pressures on land as compared to large-scale sports buildings. Sports facilities that are integrated to the topography and urban environment may reach a wider neighbourhood crowd as sports is made more visible and accessible.

Example 3. Adidas World of Sports Campus6 by Behnisch Architeken and LOLA Landscape Architects in Herzogenaurach, Germany, is an example of a sports campus comprising of buildings with unique workplaces nested among outdoor sports facilities. Bright asterisk-shaped public spaces and a new swirling lake forms a strong landscape composition in contrast to the facades of the new buildings. The 12m wide asterisk bands form the main connecting paths in the landscape and their intersections mark the meeting spaces where adidas employees can gather. On and around these colourful asterisks, a diversity of sports is located for track running, soccer, tennis, climbing, basketball, and trampoline work. Over time, the campus will be defined by an array of buildings and sports facilities surrounded by gardens and landscapes.

Design Brief

Throughout history, sports, sports events, and sports facilities have formed a major part of life in our society. Why do we need sports facilities? How have they evolved throughout history, and what do they reflect as the dominant views of societies? In ancient Greece, sports were intertwined with the religious nature of the society. Sports events were held in honour of the religious gods and were staged on the stadium carved out of hillsides and sports facilities were co-located with religious facilities on Olympia. In ancient Rome, sports were designed as a method of military training for the soldiers. Sports facilities were often part of military training areas and sports events were held on symbols of power or archetypal stadiums like the Circa Maximus and the Coliseum as “blood sports”. Sports, in the ancient era, had links to religious ritual, military training, spectator entertainment, and a display of power by the ruling elite.

In the modern period, sports became more organized with rules and took place within enclosed sport facilities where performances were measured and recorded. Sports, in this era were linked to the “celebrity athlete” and the emphasis was on sports as entertainment. Sports would provide more entertainment for the urbanized people. The trend was towards spectating as opposed to participating. Growing television spectators became the drivers of sport facilities design. Stadiums regained their positions as important civic buildings and continued to be built for international events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. The development strategy of sports facilities in urban areas had centered on the idea that large facilities generate physical activity within the neighbourhood and had a catalytic economic effect on the community and urban environment. However, in the current period, the global spread of the coronavirus has brought competitive and spectating sports to an abrupt halt and many sport facilities sit empty. How will sports facilities in urban areas adapt and change in the coming years?

Rather than signaling the end of sports facilities, the post-pandemic era will likely feature even greater need for recreational spaces and sport facilities – for sports participation, health, well-being, and community bonding reasons. Sports spaces will continue to be rethought – from standalone sports facilities to co-located and vertically-stacked sport facilities in dense urban settings to co-located and horizontal-arranged sports facilities in urban park settings – sports facilities need not be just about indoor settings that permit only a limited number of sports participants. Sports spaces need not stay out of sight and be housed within buildings but made visible in spaces between buildings, landscape parks and the urban environment. People need not get fit just within the indoor settings, but also along cycling lanes, jogging tracks, fitness stations, and play fields that are nested among trees, stepped platforms, and undulating hill slopes in outdoor settings. Sports facilities can develop over time, like an array of buildings, gardens, landscapes, and fitness spots.

This way sports facilities can go beyond the functional provision of sports spaces to facilitate community interaction and bond. The more community activities are staged in spaces between buildings, landscape parks and the urban environment, the more visible they are and the more readily they allow community interaction and bonding.

Sports spaces can be adaptable and useful to reconnect the human body to nature, increase health in the city, and develop well-being and community bonding in the city.

Tengah Town Play Field

Housed within the Tengah Forest New Town, the Tengah Town Play Field TTPF is intended to provide vibrant sporting and recreational spaces for residents in the HDB town. The site area of the TTPF is 0.7Ha sqm. It is located within the Tengah Plantation District, enclosed by a residential development site, Tengah Garden Avenue and a linear park near Tengah Pond. Tengah residents will have access to public sports facilities within a 10-minute walk (about 400m) from their home, enabling greater sport participation. The TTPF will provide communal sport facilities and spaces that, together with active programming, will foster social mixing and make sport accessible to the residents of Tengah Forest New Town.

Students will explore the following objectives in the design of TTPF in Singapore:

  • Include enjoyable user experience for all ages, abilities and mobility.
  • Optimise space usage through the design of multi-use spaces.
  • Increased connectivity with adjacent developments.
  • Integrate green spaces and sports activities.
  • Integrate sustainable and passive cooling strategies.

Schedule of Facilities

The TTPF will be a family and youth gathering place, packed with ActiveSG family-oriented programs and activities, and allowing both parents and children to enjoy sports together. The facility will reach out to the active seniors and PWD with barrier-free access and tailor-made programs. All-inclusive gyms with fitness equipment suitable for all users will be explored in the TPF. The TPF shall facilitate the delivery of sports programs for people of different abilities and skill levels.

The TTPF shall comprise of the following facilities:

Swimming pools (2100 sqm)

  • 8-lane sheltered lap pool (50m by 21m excluding ramp, deepest depth of pool shall be 1.8m and minimum depth of 1.2m at both ends)
  • Learning pool (approximately 525 sqm excluding ramp, 0.9m depth)
  • Interactive/Wading pool (approximately 525 sqm, 0.3m depth)

Gym (1000 sqm)

  • Gym exercise area to have a minimum clear headroom of 4m

Fitness Studios (300 sqm)

  • To accommodate 2 Fitness Studios

Table tennis room (240 sqm)

  • To accommodate 6 tables

Sheltered basketball court

Social area with vending machines (100 units)

Toilets, changing rooms and family / nursing room (for pool users, gym users and general public in non-paid areas)

Staff facilities

  • Ticketing office / gantries
  • Office / meeting room
  • Lifeguard room
  • Storage room
  • Cleaner’s room
  • First-aid room
  • Server room

Pick-up / drop-off point

Back of House

  • Filtration pump room
  • MEP rooms
  • Electrical substation
  • Fire command centre
  • Electrical consumer switch room
  • Detention tank
  • Refuse bin point

Car Parking

Bicycle Parking

For the first half of the semester, students will explore the outdoor spaces of the TTPF as sports grounds. Such sports grounds are envisioned as “choreographed landscape/park” for sports, sports events, sports facilities, and public spaces. They are continuous extensions of the topography; not hard-edge constructions that stand apart from the landscapes. Sport activity and user experience may benefit from changes in topography and scenery. Such outdoor sports settings may include the following design considerations:

  • Topography is seen as a varying ground condition to organize sports facilities.
  • Buildings are seen as a composition of objects within a park environment.
  • Spaces between buildings are seen as community meeting spaces and opportunities.
  • Spaces between buildings are seen as main circulation connection between the sports facilities and surrounding context.

Students will develop an outdoor sport setting complete with drawings and physical models that is integrated into the landscape or park.

For the second half of the semester, students will explore the indoor spaces of the TTPF as a series of multi-functional buildings integrated into the landscape or park. The multifunctional nature not only allow for all-weather sports grounds but can be used for promotional events, video shoots, or other community activities. Placing a variety of sports such as swimming pools, table tennis, and basketball in proximity can provide adjacent attraction and stimulating experiences. Such indoor sports settings may include the following design considerations:

  • Indoor spaces are integrated with the topography.
  • Indoor spaces are “flexible grounds” for a diversity of sports to be staged.
  • Indoor spaces are to be seamlessly linked to outdoor green spaces.
  • Spaces between buildings and common circulation areas are naturally ventilated.
  • Adaptable design that allow futureproofing and changes.

Studio Set-up

The studio explores the idea of rethinking sports spaces in Singapore. Students will investigate opportunities to redefine sports spaces in Singapore by challenging a series of aspects related to integration of nature, public spaces, sustainable design, passive cooling design, circularity, utilization of resources, and innovative strategies in co-located and mixed-use sports facilities.

Students will be structured in groups of 3 students for a total of 4-5 projects. Each group will identify a relevant research question applied to a specific site and translated it into an architectural design.

Observation – Sports People in Action [1 week]

Observe sports people in action on the given site.

Record sports people in action using observational film technique and diagram to develop user empathy.

Derive the needs of sports users from the observational films.

Precedent Study – Sports Facility [1 week]

Study a sports facility precedent for each theme.

Study the outdoor and indoor sports settings, workflow and programs used in each sport facility precedent.

Site Analysis – Sports Grounds [1 week]

By implementing the derive techniques virtually, students will analyse the digital site according to the following categories:

  • Time (tracing the history of the Tengah Forest site)
  • Space (tracing the natural physical features such as the topography, vegetation pattern, drainage pattern as well as man-made features such as surrounding buildings)
  • Environment (tracing the climatic conditions such as temperature, sun path, wind, rainfall)
  • Movement (tracing the circulation pattern of the active flaneur on foot, bicycle and car)
  • Experience (tracing the psychogeographic and cognitive perception of the site)

Sports Facility Design/Outdoor Setting [3 weeks]

Generate ideas of outdoor sports settings that can provide for participation, training, competition, spectator viewing, and social interaction through hand sketches, massing models and cad drawings.

Sports Facility Design – Indoor Settings [4 weeks]

Generate ideas of indoor sports settings that can provide for participation, training, competition, spectator viewing, and social interaction through hand sketches, physical models and cad drawings.


1 Ilundain-Agurruza, J. & Austin, M. W. (2010). ”Getting in Gear: An Introduction to Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone”. In Ilundain-Agurruza, J. & Austin, M. W. Cycling – Philosophy for Everyone. UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 201.

2 Austin, M. W. (2007). ”Chasing Happiness Together Running and Aristotle’s Philosophy of Friendship”. In Austin, M. W. Running & Philosophy – A Marathon for the Mind. UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 369.

3 Gonzalez, M. F. “Streetmekka Viborg / EFFEKT.” ArchDaily, October 2018.

4 Seet, L & Ee, D. “Co-located Community Hubs: Understanding how a Collaborative Inter-agency Governance Approach can Rejuvenate our Neighbourhoods.” Centre for Liveable Cities, February 2020. https://www.clc.gov.sg/docs/default-source/commentaries/bc-2020-02-community-hubs.pdf

5 Astbury, J. “Convention Centre in Hanzhou with Sports Park / Approach Design.” ArchDaily, April 2019.

6 Lopez, N “Adidas New World of Sports is Star Themed / LOLA.” ArchDaily, December 2016.

Reading List

Play and the City: How to create Places and Spaces to Help Us ThriveAlex Bonham – 2021

Daidalos 72: Architecture Goes LandscapeAngelil et al – 199


Week Date Program Remark
01 19/05 Observation – Sports People in Action
Precedent Study – Sports Facility Precedent
Project Introduction – SportSG, HDB, SUTD
02 24/05 Observation – Sports People in Action
Precedent Study – Sports Facility Precedent
Site Visit No 1 – 26/05
To be confirmed
Observe sports in action during the SUTD Sports Week (23/05 – 03/06)
03 31/05 Site Analysis – Site Conditions Site Visit – 2/06
To be confirmed
04 07/06 Site Analysis – Site Conditions
05 14/06 Sports Facility Design – Outdoor Setting
06 21/6 Sports Facility Design – Outdoor Setting
07 27/6 Recess Week
08 04/07 Mid-Review Week
1 x Site Model 1:1000
1 x Massing Model 1:1000
2 x A1 Drawings
To be held on 07/07/22
Review Panel – SportSG, HDB & SUTD
09 12/07 Sports Facility Design – Indoor Setting
10 19/07 Sports Facility Design – Indoor Setting
11 26/07 Sports Facility Design – Indoor Setting
12 02/08 Sports Facility Design – Indoor Setting
13 09/08 Sports Facility Design – Indoor Setting
14 08/08 Final Review Week
1 x Site Model 1:400
1 x Massing Model 1:400
6 x A1 Drawings
To be held on 11/08/22
Review Panel – SportSG, HDB & SUTD