(3) Maps and Sidewalks

Part 1: Think of a way in which you could develop an experimental map using images, sounds and stories. Some ideas… What else would we use if we didn’t use maps to find our sense of place? How would you map the sounds you hear every day? How would you map emotions? How would you map the overlooked peoples or places of Singapore?

An experimental map that uses the sense of smell may be something that is interesting to look into. One idea of such experimental map is to utilise the smells of shophouses.

For instance the distinctive smell of petal-wreaths from the shophouses in Little India, the unique smell in the shopping centre of Peninsular Plaza versus the fragrance-filled Ion Orchard, or even the mouth watering aroma of local cuisines of the hawker centres may be something that makes up the map.

One way to integrate smell is to add a smelling palette on top of an existing map such that one can smell the aroma (or unpleasant smell – you decide…) of the particular place.

Granted, such of an experimental map may somewhat be inaccurate, or may even not offer a lot of help to a lost person. However, it may work instead as a memory map to relive the experience of one’s journey. Such that the purpose of the map is not to bring you to a certain place, but to bring you back to that place.

Part 2:  Read CH 1 Annette Kim, Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (2015)

This chapter covers the impact of sidewalks of public spaces as a direct correlation to the livelihood of the locals within the city and the problems faced when trying to shift the public space into a more developed nation.

One interesting discovery to me is the importance of the sidewalk as a starting point for a public space for interaction. Personally I view the sidewalk very differently as a local versus as a tourist. As opposed to using the sidewalk as a mere commuting space in Singapore, I think that to a tourist, the sidewalk is actually a really interesting place of contact with the locals, or even to just observe the locals.

Annette Kim also writes about the issues needed to solve for a good urban design. Such issues involves politics, economy etc.

Most often than not, the upgrading of the public spaces are of works by the major corporations – namely the political governance hiring urban planners in view of upgrading the sidewalk spaces with the aim of expansion to a more developed nation. However, the major corporation needs to find the balance of the purpose of upgrading without forgetting the ultimate users of the common spaces – the locals. Of which if not would result in a disharmony and give rise to more problems instead.

“While research can uncover knowledge, planning is also a profession that intervenes in society.” Finding the right balance between analysis of actual physical spaces with ethnography research is a fundamental tool for generating a good design direction. Such can be seen from the anti-example of the ambitious upgrading project in Indore, India during the 1990s whereby despite winning internationally acclaimed design awards, ultimately failed to realistically solve the underlining problems of the slumps, due to the ignorance of understanding the locals.

The point of urban planing is to develop the nation, however it puzzles me as to why major governance still push for urban plans when it impede the locals. That constitutes to a waste of resource, money, as well as time and ultimately affects the nation to be developed. Such may be due to the lack of knowledge for an ethnography research to be conducted beforehand, but I still feel that the decency to understand the locals should have been thought of before.

The next part of the chapter focuses on the potential of mapping the blueprint of the public space in relation to have a clearer understanding of the space. Questions such as the function of the map, who the map is designed for to be used and who designed the map are explored through cartography.

Maps are often seen as a tool to direct one to a particular place. However the questions looked upon when building a map shows a lot of interesting factors. For instance the ultimate user of the map (Who?) can already generate many different ideas such as the iconography used, the size of the map, how information heavy does the map requires etc. Such explorations are really interesting to venture into with different interesting outcomes.


1. In view of a common ground for urban planning, how much can be compromised between the locals and governance for a good urban design, without taking away the essence of the locality?

2. Anette Kim mentions finally presenting a tourist map project developed and proposed to HCMC that would promote pedestrian tourism and incorporate sidewalk vending as a subversive strategy to legitimize their use of sidewalk space. In a rapidly developing country, how long will the proposed map last before it becomes obsolete due to the advancement of the country?

Author: Heng Tong Foo

in pursuit of happiness.

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