With more than a million units islandwide, many Singapore residents call the Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats home. From providing basic housing to building welldesigned flats and smart homes, HDB’s mission has always been to create high-quality living environments for all.
Even as HDB continues to push frontiers in design, construction, and technology, the commitment is still to keep residents and community at the heart of its work. We speak to HDB Undergraduate Scholar See Yong Feng, 28, to find out more about his role in conceptualising and designing towns with a heart.
Master Planning A Nation
As an Executive Architect in HDB’s Research and Planning Group, Yong Feng is involved in carrying out comprehensive town planning and coordination, master planning projects, and formulating urban design proposals for the master planning of large areas.
“One of the exciting parts of my work is experiencing the view from the ‘driver’s seat’ of the planning and shaping of a large proportion of the country,” he said. “Although planning is an inherently long-term process and much of my work will only be realised some years in the future, it is fulfilling to be able to play a part in this process.”
Part of his work also involves creating HDB Town Design Guides for HDB towns such as Woodlands, which require in-depth research into topics such as the historical development of the town and earlier planning concepts. Design consultants, agencies, and town councils can refer to these guides to ensure a coherent design and identity for each town, and deepen the sense of belonging of residents to their homes.
See Yong Feng
Executive Architect (Urban Design),
Research & Planning Group
Bachelor of Arts (Architecture) – University of Pennsylvania
Master of Architecture – University of Michigan
“Working on this project has helped me gain a deeper understanding of my work,” says Yong Feng. “It also helped me connect with the efforts of past generations of planners to see how the work of a planner is never-ending, and can have far-reaching impacts.”
The Best Of Both Worlds
Yong Feng’s journey into architecture and HDB began with discovering that he had a passion for art and design, and that he also enjoyed learning about science and technology. It seemed then that going into architecture was a natural choice, he explained, and joining HDB would allow him to use his passion for design to serve the public good. “HDB’s role of planning and developing towns that provide quality homes and living environments for Singaporeans aligns with my goals of providing comfort and joy through designing spaces that encourage communities to come together and bond,” Yong Feng adds.
Taking up the HDB Undergraduate Scholarship opened up opportunities for Yong Feng to further develop his passion for meaningful and people-centred design. During his summer internship with the HDB Building & Research Institute, for example, he worked on a study of trends in Green Mark submissions for new HDB developments in Punggol.
The study’s aim was to identify possible actions HDB could take in future developments to achieve higher Green Mark scores. “As I believe strongly in the importance of building sustainably, I appreciated this opportunity to learn more about HDB’s efforts to build housing that is not only welldesigned, but also minimises its impact on the natural environment,” shares Yong Feng.
A Whole New Frontier
The chance to pursue an education overseas in the US as an HDB Undergraduate Scholar opened up Yong Feng’s mind, and helped him to become a better architect. Under the liberal arts system in the US, he managed to take classes in a wide range of subjects, such as English literature, computer science and anthropology. “This encouraged me to think beyond architecture and visualise through multiple lenses,” he says.
“In addition, experiences outside the classroom, such as volunteering for a non-profit organisation that served low-income families, made me more appreciative and proud of Singapore’s strong social safety net and public housing system.”
Yong Feng did a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and later a Master’s at the University of Michigan where he got to work with cuttingedge technology, such as robotic fabrication tools and 3D knitting machines. “These allowed me to explore new ways of designing and I was able to envision how they could be used to improve our built environment.”
The scholarship also supported Yong Feng’s application to spend a semester abroad at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. “Being in a school known for its avant-garde approach to architecture taught me to think more creatively and to experiment more in my work,” he explains.
The Right Fit
Having a passion for the work that HDB does is an important consideration for aspiring scholars as this is where they will spend a large part of their life in. Yong Feng adds, “Take your time to do research and talk to people from the organisations you are interested in, or do an internship if possible, so that you can make an informed choice.”