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Community decks - The "Unvoided decks" (UPDATED ON 25/12/12 CHRISTMAS DAY!)

The void deck is a feature of all public housing flats in Singapore. It is an empty deck space which residents pass by every single day to get home. Why not have a better usage for community purposes in these decks?

Photo of Karl Mak
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NOTE: Idea republished after IDEO's website crash. I lost quite a few good comments, but none the less I decided to retype most of the content that was lost.

Before rapid urbanization, Singaporeans thrived on community-styled living in small traditional villages known as 'kampungs' which were sprawled across the entire island.

50 years later, most citizens live in a high rise apartments located in the sky. This rapid transformation has killed off a large part of the community spirit which older generations still reminisce about until today.

Currently, these decks are merely large empty spaces with the occasional older folks making use of the deck tables and chairs for a lazy afternoon chat with friends.

Let's make better use of this valuable space. Remove the void. Take away negative signs that deter children of residents from interacting in void decks and term them into community decks that encourage and foster the community spirit.

  1. Use the existing resident committees in existing residential areas to take ownership of specific community decks
  2. Allow external organizations to propose a use of the space for non-profit purposes
  3. Resident committee decides what projects to approve

  • National Sports Council - To organize exercise activities for residents on a regular basis i.e. table tennis tournaments for residents, yoga sessions, stretching exercise sessions for old folk
  • National Arts Council - Allow of artists to use the walls and pillars as artistic space, busking week during festive seasons, music classes, art classes
  • NGO's - Allow for NGO's to showcase their work and exhibits i.e. promotion of green causes, promotion of health causes etc.

  • Resident's flea market
  • Resident's sports tournaments
  • Block parties - Supporting the National soccer team together through a communal screening at the community decks
  • Resident's picnics and dine out
  • Resident's community art sessions to decorate their own decks
  • Resident's gardening efforts

How does your concept inspire collaboration between individuals, private sector organisations, and the government in an effort to create cleaner neighbourhoods?

Organize events together as residents, businesses, NPOs, government bodies. Spread positive messages collectively as a community to encourage and foster shared governance of a common space shared by everyone. By making the space for non profit usage, it gives opportunities to different groups to collaborate and brain storm for ideas that wouldn't have been possible with commercial event spaces. These ideas should be targeted with a theme of adding value to the community.

How might your concept be scaled in a way that creates even more connections between people?

Let the residents decide for themselves what they want to do under their block. Make it bottom up, not top down. Let them take ownership of the kind of activities they want to see happen. With so many resident committees across the different neighborhoods, we will see a variety of events, and creative usage of the community decks as decided upon by their own residents.

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

Let us start in one neighborhood, one block at a time. Poll the residents, get them talking about what excites them and let them execute. Go one neighborhood at a time and see if the residents enjoy taking ownership of the community decks. Residents will probably need a buy in time to understand and grasp the reality of the possibilites with such a space.

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. How easy would it be for citizens to get involved and take initiative for this idea?

Very easy; this would rely on ground-up participation from the beginning. - 50%

Somewhat easy; there are ways for citizens to get involved, but an outside organiser may be needed to sustain and grow this concept. - 50%

This concept needs to be led and maintained by the government or private business. - 0%

2. Can you build this concept on top of something that already exists, like an organisation, physical space, or system?

Yes. This could fold into, or extend from, something that already exists. - 75%

This concept taps existing networks for a few things, but also needs a lot of new processes, materials, relationships, etc. - 25%

This concept requires a new system to be built to support it. - 0%

3. After the initial launch and support, could this concept be sustained and cared for over time by the community it's designed to serve?

Absolutely! This concept is easy to keep going. - 75%

It depends. There are opportunities for growth, but it's not yet clear how the concept would thrive after launch. - 25%

Probably not. A lot of effort would be needed to keep this concept going. - 0%

4. Does this concept create community?

Yes. It naturally brings people together and inspires them to take care of one another. - 75%

There is potential to create a thriving community. - 25%

No. It doesn't galvanize people to come together for a common cause or interest. - 0%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 75%

I liked it but preferred others. - 25%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


In the 70s and 80s there used to be void decks everywhere. Every HDB block has a void deck below that has a Mama Shop (Mini 7-11) that sells selected groceries, sweets and daily necessities. However the Government has stopped creating buildings with void decks since the late 80s. The number of void decks are diminishing quickly and those that still have them are typically in the older areas of Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh and Jurong.

I remember when I was around 10-12 years old, I used to take a bus to Macpherson and there would be literally tens of table tennis tables underneath a row of 4-5 HDB blocks. It was really fun. We also used to play soccer below void decks. Now you're seeing them disappear quickly.

I don't think what you're proposing is viable because there just aren't enough void decks around. Those that still has void decks in them are typically due for rebuilding later and therefore it doesn't really make economic sense. The Singapore Government is all about making profits and it's hard to see them invest into a project that doesn't have a specific ROI.

Even if it went ahead, it would not create enough traction because there just isn't enough volume. There's also not enough novelty in the idea because it's hard to create enough buzz about it. Corners of existing void decks are either RC, Childcare services or Tuition centres.

Edmund Ng

Photo of Karl Mak

Hi Edmund.

An evolved version of this idea was pitched to the CEO of NEA earlier this year at Singapore's first makeathon hosted by IDEO which I was a part of.

Just to share with you his feedback, he loved the idea and it's definitely something they have took back to their department to consider implementing. I would beg to differ that everything the Singapore Government implements has to be based on a ROI consideration, but this is not a platform for such discussions anyway.

Open Ideo is a great platform for fellow Singaporeans and global citizens to brainstorm and share ideas to build up each other's concepts that could become a reality. This idea has gone a long way and I also know of private groups pushing for similar projects in various local projects working with void deck spaces. (There are still plenty around).

Hope to see some ideas coming from you!

Photo of DeletedUser


I've so many facts to prove that the Government is truly based on ROI but maybe we just live in different dimensions in Singapore so you might think differently. I have yet to see any real void deck projects that have come into fruition or have created any great impact but do wish that this vision will be realized eventually. :-)

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