Week 3 Assignment

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?

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

Singapore is working on an interactive 3D Virtual Map to be launched in 2017. I believe that the future of maps is virtual in the form of augmented reality or even projections onto actual streets and it will be interactive and in real-time. It will be a map for the people by the people. 

The tension between government efforts to modernise the city and the preservation of culture in the form of sidewalk activities is not a new one especially in South East Asia where sidewalks are part of the cultural appeal. The situation regarding the sidewalks of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City reminds of Singapore. Singapore is good example of finding a balance between cleaning up the streets and allowing the street culture, but whether or not it is good is another question.

A big part of Singapore success in moving from Third World to First World has been the government’s swift actions in housing for example the street vendors in more sanitary hawker centres or relocating a large portion of its population who lived in squatters into public housing. The Singapore government displayed good urban planning and to a large extent still managed to keep hawker food culture alive and maintain some semblance of ‘kampong spirit’.

However, many other aspects of Singapore culture has not been spared by modernisation’s tendency to demolish the old and bring in the new. Many groups in Singapore have been unhappy with plans to demolish some heritage sites such as Bukit Brown cemetery in the name of progress. Also, many wet markets have been converted into cleaned up food centres. With regard to allowing street activities Singapore is very restrictive, one needs to get permit for everything from making a speech at the speaker’s corner at Hong Lim Park, selling food, busking and even camping.

But, back to the point about land use planning and sidewalks. The Thieves Market at Sungei road in Singapore is a flea market, which has been around since the 1930s, will cease to operate a year earlier, in 2016. It is an example of the cultural heritage of vendors and hawkers that occupy the streets and sidewalks but have been lost to development. The tightening of security and alcohol ban in Little India and Clarke quay while removes the sight of drunkards somehow reduces the vibrancy of the culturally rich part of Singapore that it is.

Governments can create places that encourage informal activities but must be careful to maintain heritage and have a culturally relevant design. Singapore has begun to realise this for example the preservation the old civic district through the building of the National Gallery in a way that seamlessly blends old and new, and the listing of botanic gardens as a UNESCO world heritage site. Orchard road closures every second Saturday of the month is a step in the right direction in encouraging street culture.

With regards to the reading, I agree that there is a need to understand the history, culture, economy and social fabric when doing urban planning. A map that takes into account all the stakeholders and looks at the tangible and intangible is useful. Many in the past have made the mistake of designing public space without considering its social implications leading to under-utilised spaces. I think it is possible to regulate informal public space activities in way that preserves the livelihoods of the poor and the street’s cultural heritage but allows for modernisation and economic growth. It is encouraging to see that research is being done in a way that ensures the urban design of HCMC is sensitive to the Vietnamese people’s way of life.


Q1 Can sidewalk culture be kept alive in an age of rapid urbanisation?

Q2 How can governments take into account the fluid nature of the use of public space such as the sidewalks when doing urban planning and creating maps?

Author: Timothy Chan

Product Designer and Artist

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