Asian Property Review asks Michael Grove, principal of Sasaki Associates, the masterplanner and architect of Forest City, all the hard questions. Michael comes with an impeccable background – recent projects include work throughout mainland China, including the development of a masterplan for the Shishan District of Suzhou. Suzhou is home to historical gardens and museums dedicated to ancient Chinese culture which attract 38 million domestic tourists each year. Michael was also involved in the planning and urban design for the Olympic Green in Beijing, the principal venue for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Photography courtesy of Sasaki Associates.
A controversial island-based metropolis in Malaysia, Forest City will combine residential and commercial buildings – with high rises and green parks intermingling, looking out towards the ocean and the surrounding marine Seagrass Preserve.
APR: What is the design inspiration for Forest City?
Grove: In simple terms, Forest City is inspired by a vision of what a 21st century city could be with respect to its relationship with its environment. This approach meant that integrating the specific ecological context of a coastal location in southern Malaysia needed to play a critical role in the design of the city. Coastal features of the region – mangroves, protected reefs and coves, and seagrass beds – provide habitat and buoy the coastline’s natural resiliency. We wanted Forest City to achieve similar results – a strategy for a new city derived from the natural world, rather than an attempt to conquer it. By placing the Seagrass Preserve at the centre of the four islands, it creates a visual focus for the city similar to how many other world-class cities focus on their waterfronts to establish their visual identity. But at Forest City, the focus on ecological conservation is meant to be much stronger, allowing people to form a deeper connection with Malaysia’s unique coastal ecosystems.
“From a physical planning perspective, rising sea levels were the primary factor guiding Forest City’s design approach. “
APR: What are some of its most outstanding and unique features?
Grove: The project is still in its infancy, so many planned features are still to be realized as the city matures. Some of the most innovative attributes, however, include convenient transit links to Singapore, pedestrian-dominated streets and plazas, a seamless blend of buildings and landscapes.
Since the beginning of the project, we understood that the opportunity to build on reclaimed land comes with great responsibility. The master plan sought to ensure that the development will contribute to a robust and sustainable ecosystem. From a physical planning perspective, rising sea levels were the primary factor guiding Forest City’s design approach.
Edge conditions are designed to absorb the impact of increasingly powerful storms, as well as to provide landscapes with the necessary space to evolve as waters rise over time. Four per cent of the total land area at Forest City is dedicated to a gradually ascending coastal zone that allows for shifts in the landscape as the high tide line rises over the next century.
Beyond the edge, Forest City’s future success also relies on an efficient transportation system that promotes a compact and walkable urban environment. Density and civic uses are organized around transit centres, ensuring that over 80% of the development is situated within a 10-minute walk of public transportation.
The system is organized with a multi-layered approach designed to prioritize pedestrian connections. Infrastructure related to vehicular traffic is located at the ground level, while a contiguous landscape creates public space adjacent to transit stations at the top level of the infrastructure podium. This approach envisions a new paradigm for the public realm – a 4 million sq m contiguous rooftop landscape that links all development parcels, accommodates stormwater, reestablishes native habitats, filters runoff, and provides recreational opportunities in an entirely automobile-free experience.