Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is one of the largest parks in Singapore. Built in 1988,1 the park was revamped between 2009 and 2011 under the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) Programme launched by PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency.2 Subsequently, the park was reopened in 2012.3 Spanning 62 ha, it stretches along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 from Upper Thomson Road to Bishan Road.
An iconic feature of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is the naturalised river meandering through it. The three-kilometre waterway was converted from a concrete canal that channelled the Kallang River at the edge of the park.4 When the water level in the river is low, visitors can walk down the gentle river banks to get closer to the water; but during heavy rain, the parkland next to the river doubles up as a conveyance channel and carries excess water downstream.5
Concrete slabs from the original canal have been stacked up to create a mound called Recycle Hill. An award-winning sculpture by Kelvin Lim Fun Kit titled An Enclosure for a Swing can be found at the top of the hill, where visitors can enjoy a good view of the entire park.6
There are three playgrounds within Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park: the Water Playground; the Adventure Playground; and the Inclusive Playground. The Inclusive Playground was designed in consultation with therapists and children with special needs, and includes wheelchair- accessible equipment for children such as a swing and merry-go-round.7 It was modified from an existing playground and launched in 2015 as Singapore’s second inclusive playground.8
Another inclusive feature is the Therapeutic Garden. Launched in 2017, the garden is designed with a sensory environment and elderly-friendly facilities to promote the mental well-being of its visitors, including those with dementia.9 There are plenty of open spaces for outdoor activities elsewhere in the park, as well as dedicated spaces for gatherings and community events, picturesque ponds and a dog run.10
Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, with 66 species of wildflowers, 59 species of birds and 22 species of dragonflies identified as of 2016.11 The Purple heron, Collared kingfisher, White-breasted waterhen and Scaly-breasted munia are some of the bird species commonly seen at the park.12 A community-initiated butterfly habitat has also drawn more than 20 species of butterflies since it was initiated in 2012.13 The most well-known animals at the park, however, are a family of otters. The family of five, dubbed the “Bishan 5”, were first spotted at the park in 2014, and grew to 16 members by 2017, before the father’s death in 2018.14
Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park was originally called Bishan Park when it was completed in 1988.15 The 42-hectare park cost the Housing and Development Board (HDB) over S$8 million to develop and was built to serve as a green buffer between Ang Mo Kio and Bishan new towns. Designed by HDB’s landscape architects, Bishan Park incorporated the existing natural forest and also featured a frangipani garden, a palm court lined with palm trees and a lake with a floating amphitheatre. There were also jogging and cycling tracks, a fitness corner, a football field, a multi-purpose court and a children’s playground, among other features.16
In 1992, Bishan Park became the first park in Singapore to be made accessible via the park connector network. The five-kilometre stretch linked Bishan Park to Braddell Road, and was part of the Parks and Recreation Department’s vision to build an island-wide network of corridors along drainage canals that would allow users to jog or cycle from one park to another seamlessly.17
Rejuvenation under the ABC Waters Programme
As part of PUB’s ABC Waters Programme, the canal running through Bishan Park was identified for major upgrading in the 2000s. The project was then expanded to include the rejuvenation of Bishan Park, and became a collaborative effort by PUB and National Parks Board (formerly the Parks and Recreation Department). In redesigning the waterway and park, landscape architects from Atelier Dreiseitl Asia (now Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl) were engaged to work with engineers from CH2M Hill.18
The park was officially reopened as Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in March 2012 following the S$76-million revamp.19 Some existing features were enhanced, while new ones such as restaurants and three new playgrounds were added to create a more vibrant recreation destination.20
A major component of the project was the transformation of the utilitarian canal into a beautiful, natural-looking river meandering through the park. This marked the first time that a concrete canal in Singapore was naturalised and integrated with a park, allowing visitors to get close to the water and improving connectivity within the park. The project also saw soil bioengineering techniques being used for the first time in Singapore to convert a canal into a river.21 These techniques involve the combination of natural materials, such as plants and rocks, with traditional engineering to stabilise the river banks and reduce soil erosion. Some 10 techniques were tested out at a test bed constructed in Bishan Park before seven were eventually selected and applied along the main river.22
In addition, a cleansing biotope was created to provide a water cleansing system for the river and ponds at the park without the use of chemicals. The cleansing biotope consists of carefully selected plants that help to treat the water naturally by filtering out pollutants and, at the same time, beautify the park. Some of the treated water is channelled to the Water Playground for shallow water play. A network of bioswales, or vegetated open channels, was also introduced to slow down water conveyance and facilitate the removal of coarse pollutants.23
2012: WAF (World Architecture Festival) Landscape of the Year Award; Singapore Design Award, Adventure Playground; Waterfront Center Honor Award, Excellence on the Waterfront Award;24 President’s Design Award25
2013: LIAS (Landscape Industry Association of Singapore) Award of Excellence, Silver Award26
2016: ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Honor Award, General Design;27 BCA (Building and Construction Authority) Universal Design Mark Award28
Centre for Liveable Cities
1. “Keep an April Date with Bishan Park,” Straits Times, 27 March 1988, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, “Bringing Kallang River into Bishan Park,” press release, 2 October 2009 (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20091009011); Yu Pei Fern, “Bishan Park Reborn; There’s a Different Kind of Buzz in One of S’pore’s Biggest and Most Popular Parks, Following a S$76m Makeover,” Today, 11 March 2012, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Lee Hsien Loong, “The Opening of Bishan Park – ABC Waters,” speech, 17 March 2012, Prime Minister’s Office.
4. National Parks Board, Singapore, Your Guide to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (Singapore: National Parks Board, n.d.), 1.
5. Tan Nguan Sen, “Revitalising Singapore’s Urban Waterscapes: Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters Programme” Urban Solutions, no. 1 (July 2012), 15.
6. Charmaine Lim, “A River Runs Through It” NParks Buzz 13, no. 2 (2012); Kelvin Lim, An Enclosure for a Swing, n.d., metal sculpture, Facebook
7. PUB, Kallang River @ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (Singapore: PUB, n.d.); Ng Huiwen, “Kids in Wheelchairs Now Can Swing with the Rest with Opening of Inclusive Playground,” Straits Times, 22 August 2015; “Wheelchair-Accessible Playground Comes to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio,” Channel NewsAsia, 22 August 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
8. Benson Ang, “Playground in Sembawang Caters to Children with Special Need,” Straits Times, 12 April 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
9. National Parks Board, Singapore, “NParks Opens Two New Therapeutic Gardens in Parks,” press release, 19 September 2017.
10. Lim, “A River Runs Through It”; National Parks Board, Singapore, Guide to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, 3.
11. “2016 ASLA Professional Awards” Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park,” American Society of Landscape Architects, accessed 21 August 2019.
12. National Parks Board, Singapore, Guide to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, 3–5.
13. National Parks Board, Singapore, Guide to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, 7; Marissa Yeo, “Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park to Blossom into Habitat for More Butterflies,” Today, 24 July 2015.
14. Nurulnadiah Md Noh, “Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Otter Family Grows with Birth of 5 New Pups,” Straits Times, 12 February 2016; “Father in Famous Bishan Otter Family Dies,” Channel NewsAsia, 5 May 2018. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
15. “Keep an April Date with Bishan Park”; National Parks Board, Singapore “Natural River through Bishan Park,” news release, 15 February 2012; National Parks Board, Singapore, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (Singapore: National Parks Board, 2018), 7.
16. Judy Tan, $8.5 M Park for Ang Mo Kio and Bishan,” Straits Times, 14 June 1986, 9; “HDB Building $8.5 Million Bishan Park,” Business Times, 14 June 1986, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
17. S. Dhanabalan, “The Opening of the Park Network System, Kallang River Phase I,” speech, Kallang River Park,” 14 August 1992, Ministry Information and the Arts (From National Archives of Singapore document no. SD19920814); Yaw Yan Chong, “Vision of a Park City,” Straits Times, 2 April 1989, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, “Bringing Kallang River into Bishan Park”; “Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl (former Atelier Dreiseitl) Joins the Ramboll Group,” Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl, accessed 15 August 2019.
19. Lee, “Opening of Bishan Park”; Yu, “Bishan Park Reborn.”
20. National Parks Board, Singapore, “Natural River Through Bishan Park.”
21. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, “Bringing Kallang River into Bishan Park”; National Parks Board, Singapore, “Natural River Through Bishan Park.”
22. Building and Construction Authority, Singapore, Annex A: Creating a Natural River Using Soil Bioengineering (Singapore: Building and Construction Authority, n.d.)
23. National Parks Board, Singapore, Guide to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, 4; Public Utilities Board, Singapore, “Bringing Kallang River into Bishan Park.”
24. Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl, “Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl (former Atelier Dreiseitl) Joins the Ramboll Group.”
25. Ministry of Communications and Information (2012–), “13 Outstanding Designers and Designs Honoured with Singapore's Top Design Accolade – the President's Design Award 2012,” press release, 4 December 2012). (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20121211002)
26. “Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park,” Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl, accessed 21 August 2019. 27. American Society of Landscape Architects, “2016 ASLA Professional Awards.” 28. Building and Construction Authority, “BCA Universal Design Mark Award 2016 – Early Engagement Key to Inclusive Design in Buildings,” press release, 12 May 2016. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20160512004)
Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore, The Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters Programme: Water as an Environmental Asset (Singapore: Centre for Liveable Cities, 2017)
Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore and Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Water: From Scarce Resource to National Asset (Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, 2012). (Call no. RSING 333.91095957 WAT)
Ng Joo Hee, “How We May Tame Storm Water,” Straits Times, 18 November 2016, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
The information in this article is valid as at August2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.