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Queen Street makeover: Wider walkways, public art and a play space

Giving the area more colour will be 10 new concrete benches painted by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts students, says the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

SINGAPORE: Residents and visitors to the Bras Basah and Bugis (BBB) area can look forward to a more vibrant Queen Street - enhancement works there, which began in the first quarter of 2013, have been completed, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 19).

To create a safer, pedestrian-friendly environment, the stretch of Queen Street between Bras Basah Road and Middle Road went on a “road diet”, with kerbside parking lots removed to create expanded sidewalks.

With widths of up to 10 metres, the URA hopes these expanded sidewalks will make it more conducive for arts and cultural events to be held in the area. “The local stakeholders can now have the choice to close selected portions of the road for activities when they organise events,” said URA CEO Ng Lang. 

Queen Street is part of the Bras Basah.Bugis precinct, which was selected to be developed as the arts and cultural district. The precinct already hosts several art museums, galleries and schools. 

The pedestrian space in front of the Singapore Art Museum at 8Q has been extended by about 3 to 5 metres. The Waterloo Centre also features wider sidewalks and a new public space for holding events. Kerbside parking lots have also been removed. At the Albert Street junction before Bugis Village, colourful paving and a slight elevation of the road remind motorists to slow down, making it safer for pedestrians to cross.  

As part of the revamp, 10 new concrete benches, located along the sidewalk leading from the Bras Basah MRT station to Singapore Art Museum at 8Q, will be painted by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) students from Aug 18 to 20.

First-year NAFA students were asked to submit designs on the theme “Bold and Beautiful”. Of the 308 designs received, 10 were selected by representatives from NAFA, the URA, the National Heritage Board and the Singapore Art Museum. The completed artwork will be unveiled during the Singapore Night Festival this Friday (Aug 22).

“We are glad to have the support of NAFA, a local stakeholder at the BBB precinct, in our quest to beautify and enliven one of the public spaces at Queen Street. With the students’ art work, the benches not only provide seating for the public, they also serve as public art that relates well to the arts enclave in which they are located,” said Mr Ng.

Nafa lecturer Dr Lim Poh Teck welcomed the area's enhancements, believing these would give students more space to showcase their work. He also hoped that the Government would provide more of such areas for young artists. “Maybe we can make use of old HDB flats - those that are going to be torn down can be turned into arts studios. I think that is very important for the development of art in Singapore," he suggested.

URA will also set up a pop-up “play space” at Waterloo Centre. Members of public can interact with three sets of 3D jigsaw puzzle based on playground structures – the old school dragon at Toa Payoh, the watermelon at Tampines and the elephant at Pasir Ris.

The Artsplace will be available to the public from Aug 22 to 31 from 10am to 7pm. It will be opened later on the four nights of the Night Festival - Aug 22, 23, 29, 30 - from 10am to 11pm.

Queen Street is also home to several hotels, and tour coaches often stop at the roadside to pick up tourists. This has been taken into account, said URA’s Director of Urban Design Chou Mei: "What we have done in response to feedback is make sure that we also create some space for the other users," she said. "Where we can, we expand the sidewalks so that there is space for events and people. But in front of the hotels, we also make sure there is enough space for coaches to alight their passengers. In front of places like HDB flats, we also make sure that there is enough turning space for the cars to enter the developments."

URA said there are currently no plans to close the street on a permanent basis, as there are several hotels, residences and places of worship located at Queen Street. But the agency said it is supportive of temporary road closures, either on a regular basis or in conjunction with a specific event. 

This is already happening for streets like Haji Lane and Circular Road, and businesses in those areas have reported an increase in footfall and revenue,Mr Ng noted. "People are enjoying the new spaces created. We saw a similar opportunity at Queen Street to create more space for people." 

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