International competition “Runway for Your Imagination”


Paya Lebar Air Base, Singapore


800 hectares


Rejuvenating Former Paya Lebar Airport
Coded Forest
Singapore University for Resilience and Recovery in Nature
Residential Tower


Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore.


02/2020 – 06/2020

Team Members

Yann Follain, Shreya Khandelwal, Karthik Shanbhogue

“And from the belly of our modern past rises a new tower, a new beacon, a new beginning”

Rejuvenating the former Paya Lebar Airport would require the reimagining of the entire former Paya Lebar Airbase(PLAB) site as well, thus creating the perfect opportunity for us to rethink current standards of planning in relation to environmental sustainability, resilience and technology. Our proposal therefore is done at 2 levels. One of the macro scale through broad urban planning, while the other is through the micro scale in architectural design.

As the National Parks Board (NParks) prepares itself to transform Singapore into a “city in nature” from a “city in a garden” in the next 10 years, it is within this same vein that we see PLAB as that “new nature” that co-exist with the city and within the city, thereby increasing the amount of natural landscapes within the heavily urbanized eastern region of Singapore and making PLAB a new nature destination for families and nature lovers. In a post Covid-19 Singapore, we also recognize the increasing importance to lessen dependency on imported food and water. PLAB location between various water catchment areas like Bedok Reservoir and Serangoon River gives rise to its potential to be a complementary water catchment area and connection between these adjacent catchments.

We therefore envision PLAB to be a new model for modern planning that restores nature in its purest form back into the built environment. It will be a Coded Forest that is essentially a network of intelligent forests that feeds essential information for growth and survival to researchers and residents through the use of technology. These forests will be connected via water channels and tributaries carved out of the former airport’s taxiways and runway that serve as important conveyance means for people, services and goods-a subtle reminder of how the runway and taxiways used to connect the airport to the world.
The former Paya Lebar airport will therefore be transformed into a key feature to this Coded Forest and be repurposed to become the new Singapore University for Resilience and Recovery in Nature (SURRIN). And with the military airbase moved to its new home in Changi and plot ratio limitations of surrounding areas lifted, a new landmark comprising a podium and high-rise tower constructed in timber will arise from the building’s belly to house new residents, teaching staff or students who will in turn activate spaces within and around SURRIN. This would ensure that the new mixed-use building will be teeming with life, incorporating all elements of live, work and play and offering it a new lease of life.

SURRIN will be a new environmental research institute, the first of its kind with its curriculum focused on nature, nature-based learning, traditional medicines, organic produce and sustainable forestry practices. It will be a global hub for research in integrating nature and nature-based activities/practices in the built environment and will be organized into 4 distinct zones, namely Reconnect, Rediscover, Reinform and Revitalise. These zones will be plugged into the new DNA of the Coded Forest, complemented by F&B and services that are aligned to the overall theme. With this new tower, podium and new breath of life in the former Paya Lebar Airport, we usher in a new era for the Eastern Region of Singapore towards an alternative urban environment- one that is sustainable and resilient and can be emulated throughout the island.