SINGAPORE CHRONICLES: URBAN PLANNING (Heng Chye Kiang and Yeo Su-Jan)
2017 | 112 pages | Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies (NUS) and Straits Times Press
The Singapore Chronicles series, launched jointly by the Institute of Policy Studies (National University of Singapore) and Straits Times Press, are short primers covering a wide range of topics on Singapore over the course of the nation’s 50 years of independence (1965-2015). The primer on “Urban Planning”, co-authored by Heng Chye Kiang and I, examines the significant role that land planning plays in Singapore’s physical transformation and economic development while also exploring future challenges in the light of demographic changes, technological advances, and environmental pressures.
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SINGAPORE: PHYSICAL PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT (Heng Chye Kiang and Yeo Su-Jan)
From Knowledge to Development: New University Challenges for a Contemporary Urban Development | 2016 | Flavio Janches, Roberto Amette, Cesar Jaimes and Marcelo Corti (Eds.) | pp. 114-141 | Argentina: Universidad de Buenos Aires
Singapore is a unique specimen of rapid urban transformation. In 1965, when Singapore attained sovereignty as a republic, there was trepidation and uncertainty (felt within and beyond Singapore’s shores) about the young nation’s long-term future as a small island-state. Singapore was in a fragile state of affairs having emerged from almost 150 years of colonial rule to then be removed from the Federation Government of Malaysia after a brief two-year merger with the Malayan peninsula. By 2015, which marked Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence, the country was not only ranked the third richest nation in the world by Forbes Magazine but also the world’s second-most competitive economy according to the World Economic Forum ‘Global Competitiveness Report’ and rated the most liveable city in Asia for expatriate living based on ECA International’s location assessment system. While such rankings and their indicators of measurement require considerable critical inquiry, they effectively underline the significant macro trends of geopolitical and economic progress achieved by Singapore in a relatively short span of five decades.
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TOWARDS GREATER SUSTAINABILITY AND LIVEABILITY IN AN URBAN AGE (Heng Chye Kiang and Yeo Su-Jan)
50 Years of Urban Planning in Singapore | 2016 | Heng Chye Kiang (Ed.) | pp. 287-303 | Singapore: World Scientific
Singapore celebrated 50 years of independence in 2015. In commemoration of this milestone, a local publishing house has contracted a book on Singapore’s urban planning journey. This particular anthology features articles authored by Singapore’s pioneer architects and urban planners as well as local experts and thought leaders in the field of urban development. I worked together with Heng Chye Kiang (editor) and World Scientific (publisher) to produce the book, which was launched in October 2016. In Chapter 16 of the book, Heng Chye Kiang and I co-authored an article on the emerging sustainability issues related to globalisation and urbanisation in Asia with a specific focus on Singapore and the strides within governance and research to develop the island-state’s resilience and responsibility towards a sustainable urban future.
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RETHINKING SPATIAL PLANNING FOR URBAN CONVIVIALITY AND SOCIAL DIVERSITY: A STUDY OF NIGHTLIFE IN A SINGAPORE PUBLIC HOUSING ESTATE NEIGHBOURHOOD (Yeo Su-Jan, Ho Kong Chong, Heng Chye Kiang)
Town Planning Review | 2016 | Volume 87 Issue 4 | pp. 379-399
In Singapore, land constraints have steered planning policies toward higher-density living such that strangers must coexist in even closer proximity than ever before. As arenas for the enactment of everyday routines, neighbourhood nightlife spaces have the potential to generate a convivial atmosphere for social interactions among different users. Drawing on fieldwork in Toa Payoh Central, we begin by examining the physical environment as the point of departure for our observations on the social and civic qualities of a quotidian neighbourhood after dark, and from which we then discuss spatial planning for inclusive public spaces at night. The findings reveal that good quality public spaces can help promote urban conviviality and social diversity in a globalising city like Singapore.
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THE PRACTICE, RHYTHM, AND INTENSITY OF EVERYDAY (NIGHT)LIFE: PERSPECTIVES FROM SINGAPORE (Yeo Su-Jan and Heng Chye Kiang)
Future Urban Intensities, Mn’M edition | 2014 | Satoshi Honda (Ed.) | pp. 102-107 | Tokyo: flick Studio and IKI
In recent years, there has been a burgeoning of urban policies and planning strategies aimed at developing the nightscapes of contemporary cities into entertainment milieus for leisure and play. These urban spaces of nightlife consumption are lauded by neoliberal urban administrations for their economic contribution in driving employment, tourism, and civic boosterism. At the same time, however, this emphasis on rejuvenating the nighttime economy in the city centre is creating greater inattention towards the everyday nightscapes—everyday (night)life—of ordinary people. Taking the global city of Singapore as a departure point, this empirical study investigates the urban qualities of everyday (night)life by examining the practice, rhythm, and intensity of the nighttime economy in three quotidian neighbourhoods which include: (1) Lembu Square, an ethnic quarter in the inner-city; (2) Toa Payoh Central, a residential precinct in the heartlands; and (3) Holland Village, a neighbourhood enclave in the urban fringe. Adopting a three-fold qualitative approach that combines the research methods of flânerie, photography, and narration, this study conceptualizes and contextualizes the everyday (night)life from a ‘view from below’ perspective thereby providing visual and textual acuity into the neglected spatialities and temporalities of everyday places at night.
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AN (EXTRA)ORDINARY NIGHT OUT: URBAN INFORMALITY, SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY AND THE NIGHT-TIME ECONOMY (Yeo Su-Jan and Heng Chye Kiang)
Urban Studies | 2014 | Volume 51 Issue 4 | pp. 712-726
A night out in the metropolis can offer a plethora of hedonistic experiences in urban spaces such as waterfront districts, shopping boulevards and cultural precincts. In stark contrast to this post-modern spectacle of contemporary nightlife are the mundane night-time activities that pervade the everyday spaces of ordinary people. Here, we are confronted with a tapestry of a different material culture—one that has evaded the lacklustre and homogeneous pattern of urban bars, pubs and clubs. This paper will illuminate the sociospatial dimensions of everyday (night)life in the neighbourhood of Toa Payoh Central, Singapore, and will demonstrate the resilience of urban informality in an increasingly formal and regulated global city like Singapore. It is contended that everyday (night)life has a significant role to play in the making of vibrant and liveable cities by helping to foster social sustainability in the forms of accessibility, tolerance, diversity and participation.
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SINGAPORE DÉRIVE: TAMPINES NEW TOWN (Yeo Su-Jan)
Subjectivities in Investigation of the Urban: The Scream, the Shadow and the Mirror, Mn’M edition | 2014 | Darko Radović (Ed.) | Tokyo: flick Studio and IKI
On Subjectivities in Investigation of the Urban: The Scream, the Shadow and the Mirror puts forward a simple but contentions issue – the need for non-reductive approach to investigations of the urban. It is deliberately polemological. It aims, in the tradition of Michel de Certeau, to “force theory to recognise its own limits”. The book joins discussion about the necessity to address complex urban phenomena with complex methods. It theorizes need for new sensibility in urban research and design, by directly addressing the most contentious aspect – namely the inclusion of subjectivity and sensuality in urban research. Theoretical exegesis is complemented and illustrated by three visual essays by Milica Muminović, Ilze Paklone, Tamao Hashimoto and Rafael Balboa, which bring together various records from fieldwork sessions which, inspired by the Situationists practice of dérive, were conducted in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore, in collaboration between Keio University, Tokyo, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Chulalongkorn University and Silapakorn University, Bangkok, and National University of Singapore. The focus of these methodologically radical experiments was on recognizing, identifying, capturing, (re)presenting and sharing diverse spatial expressions of urban intensity, with an emphasis on the commonly suppressed feelings, intuition and sensuality.
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URBAN INFORMALITY AND EVERYDAY (NIGHT)LIFE: A FIELD STUDY IN SINGAPORE (Yeo Su-Jan, Hee Limin, Heng Chye Kiang)
International Development Planning Review | 2012 | Volume 34 Issue 4 | pp. 369-390
In recent years, cities at the cusps of postmodernism and cosmopolitanism have begun to recognise the social and economic gains generated by urban nightlife in terms of employment, tourism and civic boosterism. One would therefore expect to see from the ‘contemporisation’, commodification and control of urban nightlife a gradual demise of urban informality on the city streets at night. Taking the global city of Singapore as a departure point for our investigation, we argue that spatial and temporal urban modes of informal practices are not only alive and well but also co-exist alongside the formal night-time economy. Adopting a three-fold ethnographic approach that combines the research methods of flânerie, photography and narration, this field study uncovers everyday (night)life as it unfolds in the Bangladeshi ethnic quarter of Singapore’s Little India. In so doing, this paper contributes to wider understandings of urban informality by revealing the significance of informal urban nightscapes on the everyday lives of urban dwellers and discussing their implications for a global city like Singapore.
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ENCOUNTERS WITH THE EVERYDAY (NIGHT)LIFE IN A GLOBAL CITY: URBAN INFORMALITY AND SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THREE QUOTIDIAN NEIGHBOURHOODS OF SINGAPORE (doctoral dissertation)
Open Access: http://scholarbank.nus.sg/handle/10635/49441
In recent years, there has been a burgeoning of urban policies and planning strategies aimed at developing the nightscapes of contemporary cities into entertainment milieus for consumptive play and leisure; in this way, driving employment, tourism, and civic boosterism while also attracting foreign direct investment and creative talent in an era of globalisation. At the same time, however, this emphasis on rejuvenating the nighttime economy in the city centre raises critical questions about inclusivity and social equity after dark. This study therefore brings to attention the neglected everyday nightscapes of ordinary people by asking: How is the nighttime economy in quotidian neighbourhoods produced and consumed, and how can everyday (night)life contribute to the making of a more inclusive city at night?
Adopting a deductive research approach that combines the experimental methodological trialectics of flânerie-photography-narration, this empirical study investigates the spatial practices and temporal rhythms of everyday (night)life in three quotidian neighbourhoods of Singapore: Lembu Square, an ethnic quarter in the inner-city; Toa Payoh Central, a residential precinct in the ‘heartlands’; and Holland Village, a commercial enclave in the urban fringe. In so doing, this study demonstrates that the informal spatiotemporal modes of everyday (night)life can contribute to the making of a more inclusive city at night by enabling social sustainability in four ways: (1) accessibility to community resources by the wider population; (2) tolerance of plural sociocultural norms; (3) diversity of people, businesses, and design aesthetics; and (4) participation by civil society.
It is becoming more and more challenging, however, to safeguard the ideals of social sustainability in contemporary cities where urban conditions are made more complex by the insurgent influx of capital, people, and cultures. In order to address these contentions, this study suggests a ‘niche’ approach for the urban management of public spaces after dark that would enable buildings, sidewalks, and streets to be informalised in specific places and at specified times, thereby creating an urban ecological habitat where formal/informal and daytime/nighttime activities can survive, persist, and coexist. Findings from this study open out new avenues through which to understand the spatiotemporal dimensions of the built environment at night and implications of an informal urban nighttime economy against the backdrop of a global city. To this end, it is hoped that this study can help to better inform policy-makers, planners, architects, and all concerned with the making of vibrant and liveable urban environments.