You’ve heard of the Sultan of Brunei? (Back when Bill Gates was a nobody, the Sultan was the richest man in the world.) In a sense, His Royal Highness was our client for a project to plan the entire city of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei, in Borneo. (You’ve heard of Borneo? One of the biggest islands in the world, full of dense rainforest, orangutans, world class diving, and Mount Kinabalu…)
Planning for an entire, 100-square kilometre city in the rainforest was, as you might expect, a great challenge. Besides the overt environmental aspects of design, we had to take into account concepts distinct to Brunei, like Melayu Islam Beraja: the national philosphy promulgating Brunei as a muslim country, ethnically Malay, and a peaceful monarchy.
If you want to talk real sustainable design, you’d have to know these things inside out before putting pen to paper. And in the end, we did. HOK spent over a year on the job, with staff being seconded in BSB for months at a time, and workstations within the project’s Public Information Centre – which HOK designed and oversaw the construction of, and which was, indeed, open to the public throughout the planning process (and still is). Huge models, workshops open to the general public, and social media like the project’s own Twitter, Facebook page and website – this is modern participatory planning.
In terms of design, HOK employed our Fully Integrated Thinking (FIT) process and worked with our biologist friends from the Biomimicry Guild to come up with a plan revitalising existing urban areas along the historic river, and protecting fringe areas from sprawl, leap-frogging, and encroachment into the rainforest and surrounding ridgelines. The original Kampong Ayer settlement (a fishing village on stilts set in the river) and the downtown area are improved to work together, creating the new city core.
The plan was also implementation focused – besides pretty drawings, actual projects were identified, scheduled and costed so they could be tendered immediately as catalysts to get the redevelopment of the city started. The city’s Development Plan has been approved and is proceeding, one step at a time (for the next 25 years). It’s moving forward, and it’s real.
For this effort HOK won an award for urban design from the AIA (Hong Kong chapter). I also presented the work at the annual ASEAN engineer’s conference late last year, in Brunei.
Many thanks to all the HOKers who worked on this project, as well as those consultants who played a key part in this very comprehensive effort: Jones Lang LaSalle, Meinhardt, MVA transportation planners, the Bio-Mimicry Guild, and our local Bruneian architects OWMP.