Bukit Timah Railway Station node landscape designed by Grant Associates opens to the public in Singapore
Pioneering landscape architecture practice Grant Associates has designed and implemented the landscape and planting strategy for the Bukit Timah Railway Station, one of the main nodes along Singapore’s Rail Corridor, which has now been officially opened to the public.
The Rail Corridor is a former railway line that stretches 24km north to south of Singapore. With the railway activities abandoned more than ten years ago, the Rail Corridor is rich in heritage and biodiversity. During the pandemic and with many stretches and nodes still to be completed, the Rail Corridor has become a popular place for Singaporeans of all ages to enjoy the outdoors by foot or bicycle.
The transformation project for the URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) includes the recently-completed Bukit Timah Railway Station, a 4.3 ha site around the historic Railway Station and Station Master House, and the soon to be completed 8 Mile Platform, a 0.7 ha site which will serve as another access point and rest stop for the Rail Corridor.
Grant Associates was part of the design team, led by Kay Ngee Tan Architects. The project team also included Dr. Yeo Kang Shua, Nipek, Keon Consult, Icon Engineers, BCM Consultants and the contractors Towner Construction and Garden Works. NParks served as an advisor to main client URA.
Grant Associates’ focused approach to the landscape and planting looks to define the open spaces and sets the scene by framing views and screening adjacent developments - providing visitors with the opportunity to appreciate a heritage experience within an authentic and biodiverse setting.
Existing trees have been retained as much as possible while more greenery has been incorporated, working around various constraints including underground infrastructure. Older trees have been carefully integrated in the new design, and where soil depth has been limited, specific plants like Bird Nest Ferns have been introduced as green features to mask the underlying infrastructure in a joyful manner.
This project has, at its heart, been about creating a space for people to connect with nature and heritage in a natural setting that is reminiscent of the olden days. It provides a welcoming node to the Rail Corridor, a place for rest but also for exploration and discovery of both heritage and biodiversity. Ten years after Gardens by the Bay first opened, Bukit Timah Railway Station demonstrates the diversity of landscape work we have taken on with our Singapore office and our ability to not only provide a planting palette that is appropriate for the local environment, but one that is also steeped in local traditions and a historical narrative.
To enhance Bukit Timah Railway Station's green heritage setting, plant species commonly found in kampungs back in the 1950s and 1960s were planted by the experienced team at Grant Associates. Visitors will take a step back in time as they enter a lush orchard with edible plants and fruit trees such as mango, belimbing (starfruit) and cempedak.
The Bukit Timah Railway landscape delicately delivers a sensible planting scheme that balances the desires of nature and heritage. We worked closely with both URA and NParks to create a balance between the need for a community space, the celebration of heritage, the enhancement of biodiversity and the practicalities on-site. Throughout the project, we maintained a pragmatic approach while staying faithful to the original aspirations and concepts; it is more about curating a living space than about defining a precise landscape. Wherever possible, we have kept existing planting and even allowed for self-sown trees or plants. We retained, for instance, the massively sprawling Acacia tree at the visitor entrance, even though it is considered a non-native tree, and in front of the Station Master House we kept and tidied up Ficus whose roots are sitting on multiple piles of loose bricks. Through rounds of coordination works from concept to construction, we have managed to keep these odd but beautiful creatures; looking at them now makes all our hard efforts worthwhile.
The single-story former Railway Station Staff Quarters has now re-opened as a small food and beverage establishment. At the front of the building, the Heritage Garden surrounds visitors with the colours and fragrance of flowering shrubs like the Mussaenda and Hibiscus, reminiscent of a time when such shrubs were planted to decorate the station and railway line. At its rear, a Herb Garden is planted with herbs and spices, commonly used for traditional cooking like chilli and ginger.
Grant Associates looks forward to the completion of the next main Rail Corridor node at Buona Vista in 2024.