Innovation, artistry, and sustainability shine in ULI Awards for Excellence: Asia Pacific.

From open spaces in Singapore and a remote part of China, to revamped retail malls in the Philippines and Australia, to a residential greenbelt that gives vertical lift to apartment living, the five winners of the 2010 ULI Awards for Excellence: Asia Pacific show a diversity of approaches in applying the ideals of design and innovation to projects that not only enhance the value of developments themselves, but also engage visitors and improve the quality of life for millions of people who experience these projects.

This year’s winners—chosen from submissions showing a wide variety of innovative ideas and good execution—are Dragon Lake Bridge Park in Bengu, China; Greenbelt 5 in Makati City, the Philippines; Newton Suites, Singapore; Rouse Hill Town Centre in Rouse Hill, Australia; and the Southern Ridges, Singapore. All share a bond in using the latest technology and sustainable design practices, combined with artistic innovation.

Submissions were reviewed by a panel of top Asian land use development and design experts. Jury chairman Nicholas Brooke, chairman of Professional Property Services Ltd. in Hong Kong, praised winners as “great examples of success that showcase creativity, innovation, and long-term thinking.” These projects also demonstrate that design and innovation need not be sacrificed because of the current economic climate, he said.

gluckman_1_200Dragon Lake Bridge Park involved an ambitious project to rehabilitate a polluted lake in Bengbu, a poverty-stricken city in China’Anhui province, and not only restore it to use, but also make it a showcase asset for area residents. The multifaceted project was launched in 2004 with a master plan for an area covering nearly 15.5 square miles (40 sq km). Over $40 million was invested in the overall project.

The scope was extensive, starting with a complete cleanup of the lake and restoration of the entire wetland environment, plus the planting of massive new greenbelts of trees. A promenade skirts the revitalized lake, and a pedestrian walkway makes it an accessible— and environmentally friendly—option for city residents. A rock beach makes the lake popular with families.

The project includes exhibition and art gallery space, outdoor sculpture, and a series of walkways and terraces for different viewing experiences. “The Dragon Lake Bridge Park project is exemplary in terms of environmental and investment considerations,” noted juror S.C. Liu, chairman of MyTopHome (China) Holdings. “It not only improves the hosting city’s environment, but also serves as an investment attraction, which in turn rejuvenates the city as a whole. It serves as evidence of how a well-planned project can bring multifaceted advantages to a city and its people.”

gluckman_2_200In the Philippines, powerhouse local developer Ayala Land strove for a variety of innovative features in Greenbelt 5, a massive retail development on nearly 19.8 acres (8 ha) of land in Makati City’s central business district in Manila. Key to the design was sensitivity to the traditions of the Philippines and the project’s role as a showcase for the country’s best designers and products.

The exterior resembles the texture of woven textiles, a nod to the long heritage of Filipino weaving. Much of the interior design has a Filipino flavor, and an entire section, the Filipino Zone, is devoted to local design and materials. Divider panels between shops and railings have a pattern inspired by native bamboo, and a variety of local woods are used throughout.

Striving to represent more to the community than just a shopping experience, Greenbelt 5 set aside space for art exhibitions and performances in a section with steps and terraces inspired by the rice fields of the north. Greenbelt 5 also integrates the nearby Ayala Museum into the design.

“Greenbelt 5 advances the quality and innovation of retail centers in the Philippines and is a reference for retail centedevelopers in Asia,” commented juror Paul Husband, managing director of Husband Retail Consulting Ltd. in Hong Kong. He praised the local artisanship and park views throughout the center.

gluckman_6_175Apartment buildings are rarely seen as works of art, but the 36-story Newton Suites block in Singapore manages to combine an array of energy-efficient features with well-crafted architectural elements to create a showpiece of creative urban design. Patterned planes of textured panels and protruding balconies not only provide the kind of greenery-view outdoor space at a premium in Singapore, but also shade and cool the building. Horizontal, angled mesh sunscreens filter strong tropical sunlight without darkening the space, and the mesh exterior provides views that change from various angles. Perhaps the most striking element of the building is what the developer calls protruding sky gardens—vertical belts of greenery running up the side of the tower that add color and warmth throughout.

“This site was not only well designed but also unique from the urban green aspect,” said juror Hokyu Lee, chairman of Savills Korea. “I gave high scores for the vertical green approach, which will be very useful for the future.”

gluckman_7_200Rouse Hill Town Centre in Rouse Hill, Australia, a large, ambitious project on a 47-acre (19-ha) site, is a rare joint effort between Australian officials and the private sector to plan a modern town center complete with public space, parking, and retail outlets. Launched in March 2008 and developed at a cost of $470 million, Rouse Hill Town Centre opened fully leased and has won praise for its extensive environmentally friendly features.

Developers say the center’s ecological footprint is 32 percent smaller than that of a standard regional shopping center in New South Wales. With fountains, an outdoor food court, and a wide array of public space, the town center has become a prime gathering point.

“It is an urban design noted not so much for the visual impact of the architecture, which is respectably designed, but for the meticulous attention paid, down to the last details, to user comfort, environmental sustainability, as well as appropriateness of spatial scale and mix of use,” said juror Rocco Yim, executive director of Hong Kong’s Rocco Design Architects Ltd. “The planning strategy in spatial allocation and movement system is simple and effective, and environmental features employed are practical and functional. The handling of the relationship between indoor and outdoor, and their apparent seamless transition in many instances, is particularly commendable.”

The Southern Ridges in Singapore is an innovative, visually arresting project that links greenbelts and neighborhood parks into a grand patchwork park. The artistic covered walks and wavy bridges have proved to be an attraction themselves, drawing city residents to experience this novel park.

gluckman_8_200To address Singapore’s limited land area and high population density—nearly 5 million people share just over 270 square miles (700 sq km)—a unique approach to increasing green recreational options was undertaken by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and other Singapore organizations. Using existing parkland and linking it to various isolated tracts, they created an undulating urban oasis, connected by a variety of elevated pathways. Simply strolling over the forest and foliage on elevated walkways has become a popular urban outing enjoyed by over a half million people.

“This project has moved the concept of green links and neighborhood parks to a totally new level by joining up a number of parks into a major integrated parks and recreation system,” said juror Ross Holt, chief executive officer of Australia’s LandCorp. He praised Singapore’s “big-picture thinking” in linking parks to create “a range of diverse recreational and natural history opportunities for locals and visitors alike.”

ULI’s Awards for Excellence program has evolved over the years from honoring one development in North America to become an international competition with multiple winners. The ULI Awards for Excellence: Europe (now covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa) was added in 2004, followed by the ULI Awards for Excellence: Asia Pacific and the Global Awards in 2005. All types of projects have been recognized, including office, residential, recreational, urban/mixed use, industrial/office park, commercial/retail, new community, and rehabilitation, as well as public projects and programs. Read more about the ULI Awards for Excellence.