Behind the Block: Urban Planning in Singapore

Singapore is unique. As the only island city-state in the world of 726 sq km, it has to cater to the needs not only as a city, but as a country. It is small country with limited land capacity and as a result, urban planning is a highly centralised, long-term and integrated. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is a government agency and the national land use planning authority in Singapore. Together with other government agencies, they set forth the general rules governing the urban planning process.

If you are interested to see the result of such extensive urban planning, do check out the Singapore City Gallery located within the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Not only will you be able to learn more about urban planning in Singapore from the agency responsible for it, the Singapore City Gallery also tells the story of Singapore’s dramatic physical transformation to become one of the most liveable cities in Asia. For me, one of the highlights in the gallery is that you will also get a chance to see Singapore (and the city centre) in miniature.

How to get there:

The easiest way to get there is to take the subway/MRT to either “Chinatown” (purple line) or “Tanjong Pagar” (green line). From both stations, it is a 10 min walk to the Urban Redevelopment Building. The building looks like this:

Singapore City Gallery

(Note: A new subway station “Maxwell”, just right next to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, is scheduled to open during Q2/22).

Update (Dec 2022) : “Maxwell” Station (brown line) is already opened, and it is a 5 minute walk from Exit 2.

Upon reaching, enter the building and take the escalator to the second floor…

Singapore City Gallery

where you will see this:

Singapore City Gallery

The Singapore City Gallery is spread over 3 floors:

Singapore City Gallery - Opening Hours

Before going up, I recommend starting your visit on the first floor which has a macro-perspective of Singapore with a 1:1000 representation of the whole island of Singapore. There is a 3 min projection mapping show every 20-minute interval to see how key planning considerations come to life.

Singapore City Gallery


The first part of the gallery sets the stage by sharing the various facets of planning and the vision of the URA to create a green, vibrant and liveable city.

Singapore City Gallery

Planning a City State

In a series of panels, take a walk through time from the early days of Singapore (Pre-50s) to today (2000s) to learn the various urban planning milestones and long-term planning initiatives undertaken to not only overcome the high unemployment, poor infrastructure and overcrowding in the city centre to become the city that we know of today.

Singapore City Gallery - Pre-50s Post-war period Singapore City Gallery - Housing the nation 60s Singapore City Gallery - Providing a quality living environment 80s Singapore City Gallery - 90s More choices for housing and jobs

Our Planning Process

How do our town planners turn plans into reality? In essence, URA undergoes a systematic planning and development process. This comprises of the Concept Plan and the Master Plan that guide the physical development of Singapore. The Concept Plan is a strategic long-range land use and transportation plan that guides Singapore’s development over the next 40-50 years. Broad strategies from the Concept Plan would be translated into detailed plans in the Master Plan, which guides development over the next 10 – 15 years.

Singapore City Gallery - Our Planning Process

How Our City Works

In this segment, learn the various urban systems (water, energy, waste, green and transport needs) and the hidden infrastructural networks that support everyday living for the residents.

Singapore City Gallery

Shaping Singapore

This exhibit is interactive and allows you to create your own wish list and pick what you would like to see in Singapore of the future.

Singapore City Gallery

Conservation Management

Conserved buildings and structures give a young nation (of less than 60 years old!) a sense of identity, character, and a sense of history. To me, one of the most fascinating things about Singapore is the fact that traditional Singapore blends seamlessly with the new, making neighbourhoods so much more charming by adding contrasts in scale, colour and texture.

Singapore City Gallery

Central Area Model

This is one of my favourite parts of the gallery and you almost feel like a giant looking down on the island.  This model is one of the largest architectural models of its kind. The Central Area Model represents just 16km2 of Singapore (2% of the whole land area of Singapore). Fun fact: did you know out of the 16km2, almost ½ of it is land reclaimed from the sea?

Singapore City Gallery Singapore City Gallery0 Singapore City Gallery Singapore City Gallery Singapore City Gallery Singapore City Gallery

Smart Nation CityScape

Singapore’s Smart Nation vision is to transform the city through digital technology and initiatives, from tech-enabled urban planning to apps and digital infrastructure that improves everyday lives. It is amazing to take a sneak peek into what you can expect in Singapore city of tomorrow!

Singapore City Gallery - What is smart nation?

Mapping Singapore

The last part of the gallery is a must for map-lovers! Through a series of 40 maps and plans, look at how Singapore has evolved over the years.

Singapore City Gallery

Besides being a place where visitors can learn about Singapore’s nation planning efforts, the Singapore City Gallery is also an informational and educational hub for the public to appreciate city planning, urban development and architecture. This is a great place to spend an afternoon in Singapore. I recommend allocating anything between ½ – 2 hours to visit this gallery. And after that, don’t forget to check out the famous Maxwell Hawker Centre for some amazing Singapore street food across the road.

Opening hours:

Monday to Saturday: 9am – 5pm

Recommended amount of time: 30mins – 2 hours

Admission: Free

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