Mrs Koh currently serves as Director on several boards, including Keppel Land. DesignSingapore speaks with her to get her “helicopter view” on things:
On the work of the urban planner:
“You’ve got to optimise the use of land, respond to the aspirations of the people, and exploit the potential of what the city could be. Always ask what you can do to create a delightful environment for people to live, work and play.”
Mrs Koh at a media briefing in 1989 on sales of sites.
On urban planning in Singapore:
There was rapid urban renewal and resettlement from 1965 to the early-80s. We had to assemble land to attract private development to generate economic growth, create jobs and revitalise the city centre. After 15 years of urban renewal, the city was also losing its character and identity. So in the mid-80s, we reviewed the city plan, identified historic districts for conservation, and earmarked locations for high rise, high density new developments. This resulted in our city centre having a distinctive character, a juxtaposition of the old and the new, and a sense of place.
On being professional:
“Your bosses may not be planners and thus may not have the planner’s perspective. So it is your job to give your professional advice. Do not be a ‘yes’ man. Speak your mind. Give the reasons for your proposal. Live up to your professional integrity. For me, practising urban planning for 34 years had been a journey of joy and pain. It was not an easy task to be professionally responsible, whilst managing many national needs.”
On particular spots in cities she enjoys:
“New York’s Times Square, the neon lights, the buzz – it’s amazing. Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, spreading all the way to the harbour – how beautiful! These are cities with a distinctive character and identity. They are timeless.”