26 July 2021

On Superclusters

New Town Developments, which usually dominated by Landed Residential programs, is a contemporary reality that we can't deny. There might be argumentations against their existence, but in the meantime they are there, they are big, and they are growing.

One of the Landed Residential typology that usually is offered by New Town Developments is Supercluster concept. That is multiple Clusters within one larger Cluster. One Subcluster is usually ranging from 3 to 5 hectares in size, which make one Supercluster with 4 or more Subclusters ranging around 12 to 60 hectares in size.

A typical Supercluster Scheme

A Cluster in general offers exclusivity, privacy, and maintained Residential character within its boundaries, below are the positive and negative qualities of Supercluster concept.

The Positive

  • Offer larger Exclusivity and Privacy for its residents.
  • Maintain Residential Character to a larger extent.
  • Provide Safety within its controlled neighborhood.
  • Due to the higher unit quantity in a Supercluster, more Internal Facilities can be created, which are connected through internal connectivity routes to all the Subclusters.

The Negative

  • Because of its large size, Superclusters are car-dependent; the distance between Residential Units to the external (public) road is usually beyond walking distance, and the Subclusters are not in direct connection to the external roads.
  • In effect, Residential Units in a Supercluster don't have good connectivity to nearest public transportation point as well as larger urban facilities.
  • Superclusters have long impermeable perimeter, which blocks direct/close Urban Connectivity of its surrounding area.
  • The Exclusive quality of Superclusters is debatable in opposition with Inclusivity as the better quality of a Residential neighborhood.

While some of the good quality of the superclusters are still arguable whether it is really good, like for example exclusivity quality, admittedly there are some good quality of it like safety as well as internal facilities and connectivity.

The Landed Single Family Residential nature of clustered neighborhood also arguably a less sustainable form of Residential, but for the time being it is the reality of our society with its spatial preferrence.

And now we have arrived to the question: what alternative can we make, to create a Neighborhood which has the good quality of the Supercluster system without having the bad one?

The Alternative

The first thing to address is Urban Connectivity or Permeability. We will put Public road across the Supercluster, which means we are dismantling the Supercluster.

That way the Supercluster will no longer block the surrounding Urban Connectivity and the internal Subclusters and its units will be better connected to the external roads, have closer distance to larger Urban Facilities, as well as partially solving the car dependency problem.

The Middle Roads that run through the Supercluster will act as intermediate between Public and Private realm, it is Public while still able to maintain Residential Character, and to some extent can still be controlled by the neighborhood, which hopefully will solve the Exclusivity vs Inclusivity problem.

By treating Internal and External Connectivity as layers, we can have a Permeable and Inclusive Neighborhood that still maintain large extent of Residential Character and Internal Connectivity.

An Alternative Scheme of Supercluster

While the Subclusters are now separated by Intermediate Roads, we can maintain the looping Internal Connectivity between them with Pedestrian Bridges that will also connect to the Internal Facilities. It can also be extended to be connected to neighboring Superclusters, or even to nearby Transit Point.

Of course these bridges will create additional cost to the development, but it might be able to be compensated through putting more Commercial lots around the outer edges, especially on the corners of the middle roads, some portions of Low Rise Residential programs might also be suitable for a permeable Residential Neighborhood, and in the long term the much improved Urban Connectivity of the area will push for a better Public Life, which of course worth the cost.

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