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Saturday, 21 March 2009

Urban Planning History

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Urban, city, and town planning is the integration of the disciplines of land use planning and transport planning, to explore a very wide range of aspects of the built and social environments of urbanized municipalities and communities. Regional planning deals with a still larger environment, at a less detailed level.

Based upon the origins of urban planning from the Roman (pre-dark ages) era, the current discipline revisits the synergy of the disciplines of urban planning, architecture and landscape architecture, varying upon from the interlectural strategic positioning from university to university.

Another key role of urban planning is urban renewal, and re-generation of inner cities by adapting urban planning methods to existing cities suffering from long-term infrastructural decay.

Urban planning as an organized profession has existed for less than a century. However, most settlements and cities reflect various degrees of forethought and conscious design in their layout and functioning.
The development of technology, particularly the discovery of agriculture, before the beginning of recorded history facilitated larger populations than the very small communities of the Paleolithic, and may have compelled the development of stronger, more coercive governments at the same time. The pre-Classical and Classical ages saw a number of cities laid out according to fixed plans, though many tended to develop organically.

Designed cities were characteristic of the totalitarian Mesopotamian, Harrapan, and Egyptian civilizations of the third millennium BCE.

Distinct characteristics of urban planning from remains of the the cities of Harappa, Lothal and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley Civilization (in modern-day nothwestern India and Pakistan) lead archeologists to conclude that they are the earliest examples of deliberately planned and managed cities. The streets of these early cities were often paved and laid out at right angles in a grid pattern, with a hierarchy of streets from major boulevards to residential alleys. Archaeological evidence suggests that many Harrapan houses were laid out to protect from noise and enhance residential privacy; also, they often had their own water wells for probably both sanitary and ritual purposes. These ancient cities were unique in that they often had drainage systems, seemingly tied to a well-developed ideal of urban sanitation.

Ur, located near the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in modern day Iraq also had urban planning in later periods. The Greek Hippodamus (c. 407 BC) is widely considered the father of city planning in the West, for his design of Miletus; Alexander commissioned him to lay out his new city of Alexandria, the grandest example of idealized urban planning of the Mediterranean world, where regularity was aided in large part by its level site near a mouth of the Nile.

The ancient Romans used a consolidated scheme for city planning, developed for military defense and civil convenience. The basic plan is a central forum with city services, surrounded by a compact rectilinear grid of streets and wrapped in a wall for defense. To reduce travel times, two diagonal streets cross the square grid corner-to-corner, passing through the central square. A river usually flowed through the city, to provide water, transport, and sewage disposal. Many European towns, such as Turin, still preserve the essence of these schemes. The Romans had a very logical way of designing their cities. They laid out the streets at right angles, in the form of a square grid. All the roads were equal in width and length, except for two. These two roads formed the center of the grid and intersected in the middle. One went East/West, the other North/South. They were slightly wider than the others. All roads were made of carefully fitted stones and smaller hard packed stones. Bridges were also constructed where needed. Each square marked by four roads was called an insula, which was the Roman equivalent of modern city blocks. Each insula was 80 yards (73 m) square, with the land within each insula being divided up. As the city developed, each insula would eventually be filled with buildings of various shapes and sizes and would be crisscrossed with back roads and alleys. Most insulae were given to the first settlers of a budding new Roman city, but each person had to pay for the construction of their own house. The city was surrounded by a wall to protect the city from invaders and other enemies, and to mark the city limits. Areas outside of the city limits were left open as farmland. At the end of each main road, there would be a large gateway with watchtowers. A portcullis covered the opening when the city was under siege, and additional watchtowers were constructed around the rest of the city’s wall. A water aqueduct was built outside of the city's walls.

The collapse of Roman civilization saw the end of their urban planning, among many other arts. Urban development in the Middle Ages, characteristically focused on a fortress, a fortified abbey, or a (sometimes abandoned) Roman nucleus, occurred "like the annular rings of a tree" whether in an extended village or the center of a larger city. Since the new center was often on high, defensible ground, the city plan took on an organic character, following the irregularities of elevation contours like the shapes that result from agricultural terracing.

The ideal of wide streets and orderly cities was not lost, however. A few medieval cities were admired for their wide thoroughfares and other orderly arrangements, but the juridical chaos of medieval cities (where the administration of streets was sometimes hereditary with various noble families), and the characteristic tenacity of medieval Europeans in legal matters, prevented frequent or large-scale urban planning until the Renaissance and the enormous strengthening of all central governments, from city-states to the kings of France, characteristic of that epoch. Florence was an early model of the new urban planning, which rearranged itself into a star-shaped layout adapted from the new star fort, designed to resist cannon fire. This model was widely imitated, reflecting the enormous cultural power of Florence in this age; "[t]he Renaissance was hypnotized by one city type which for a century and a half— from Filarete to Scamozzi— was impressed upon utopian schemes: this is the star-shaped city". Radial streets extend outward from a defined center of military, communal or spiritual power. Only in ideal cities did a centrally-planned structure stand at the heart, as in Raphael's Sposalizio of 1504 (illustration); as built, the unique example of a rationally-planned quattrocento new city center, that of Vigevano, 1493-95, resembles a closed space instead, surrounded by arcading. Filarete's ideal city, building on hints in Leone Battista Alberti's De re aedificatoria, was named "Sforzinda" in compliment to his patron; its twelve-pointed shape, circumscribable by a "perfect" Pythagorean figure, the circle, takes no heed of its undulating terrain in Filarete's manuscript. And, all this occurred in the cities, but ordinarily not in the industrial suburbs characteristic of this era (see Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life), which remained disorderly and characterized by crowded conditions and organic growth. In the 1990s, the University of Kentucky voted the Italian town of Todi as ideal city and "most livable town in the world", the place where man and nature, history and tradition come together to create a site of excellence. In Italy, other examples of ideal cities planned according to scientific methods, are: Urbino, Pienza, Ferrara, San Giovanni Valdarno, San Lorenzo Nuovo.

Many cities in Central American civilizations also engineered urban planning in their cities including sewage systems and running water. In Mexico, Tenochtitlan, was the capital of the Aztec empire, built on an island in Lake Texcoco in what is now the Federal District in central Mexico. At its height, Tenochtitlan was one of the largest cities in the world, with close to 250,000 inhabitants.[citation needed]

Shibam in Yemen features over 500 tower houses, each one rising 5 to 11 storeys high, with each floor being an apartment occupied by a single family. The city has some of the tallest mudbrick houses in the world, with some of them being over 100 feet high (over 30 meters).

In developed countries (Western Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia), planning and architecture can be said to have gone through various stages of general consensus in the last 200 years. Firstly, there was the industrialised city of the 19th century, where control of building was largely held by businesses and the wealthy elite. Around 1900, there began to be a movement for providing citizens, especially factory workers, with healthier environments. The concept of garden cities arose and several model towns were built, such as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City, the world's first garden cities, in Hertfordshire, UK. However, these were principally small scale in size, typically dealing with only a few thousand residents.

It wasn't until the 1920s that modernism began to surface. Based on the ideas of Le Corbusier and utilising new skyscraper building techniques, the modernist city stood for the elimination of disorder, congestion and the small scale, replacing them instead with preplanned and widely spaced freeways and tower blocks set within gardens. There were plans for large scale rebuilding of cities, such as the Plan Voisin (based on Le Corbusier's Ville Contemporaine), which proposed clearing and rebuilding most of central Paris. No large-scale plans were implemented until after World War II however. Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, housing shortages caused by war destruction led many cities around the world to build substantial amounts of government-subsidized housing blocks. Planners at the time used the opportunity to implement the modernist ideal of towers surrounded by gardens. The most prominent example of an entire modernist city is Brasilia, constructed between 1956 and 1960 in Brazil.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, many planners were coming to realize that the imposition of modernist clean lines and a lack of human scale also tended to sap vitality from the community. This was expressed in high crime and social problems within many of these planned neighbourhoods. Modernism can be said to have ended in the 1970s when the construction of the cheap, uniform tower blocks ended in many countries, such as Britain and France. Since then many have been demolished and in their way more conventional housing has been built. Rather than attempting to eliminate all disorder, planning now concentrates on individualism and diversity in society and the economy. This is the post-modernist era.

Minimally-planned cities still exist. Houston is an example of a large city (with a metropolitan population of 5.5 million) in a developed country, without a comprehensive zoning ordinance. Houston does, however, have many of the land use restrictions covered by traditional zoning regulations, such as restrictions on development density and parking requirements, even though specific land uses are not regulated. Moreover, private-sector developers in Houston have used subdivision covenants and deed restrictions effectively to create the same kinds of land use restrictions found in most municipal zoning laws. Houston voters have rejected proposals for a comprehensive zoning ordinance three times since 1948. Even without zoning in its traditional sense, metropolitan Houston displays similar land use patterns at the macro scale to regions comparable in age and population that do have zoning, such as Dallas. This suggests that factors outside the regulatory environment, such as the provision of urban infrastructure and methods of financing development, may play as big of a role in urban development as municipal zoning.

Article Source: www.ne.wikipedia.org

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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Strengthening Urban Heritage In Singapore: building Economic Competitiveness and civic Identity

by. Belinda Yuen

There is much in the research literature to suggest that urban neighborhoods are a key domain for the transmission of shared values and norms. Such environments offer a wide range of familiar and historical landmarks that may be important in creating and sustaining a strong sense of belonging and attachment to urban life. In a rapidly urbanizing and globalizing world, these familiar landscapes hold opportunities for valuing community and enhancing the city’s cultural heritage and unique competitive edge. 

A number of European cities have used cultural heritage as a strategy to improve their future prospects. One of the key challenges of global urban development is to preserve structures and sites that promote identity and continuity of place. Preserving the cultural landscape can help generate civic pride and foster a sense of empowerment. From a social dimension, cultural heritage is about society’s capacity for self-reflection. From an economic perspective, heritage conservation offers opportunities for cultural tourism, which is among the fastest growing segments in the international tourism market and a motor for economic development. 

According to the Travel Industry Association of America, visitors to historic and cultural-attraction sites spend more and stay longer than the other types of US travelers; they spend US $631 and 4.7 nights away from home per trip compared to the average US traveler’s spending of US $457 and 3.4 nights. Several cities have begun to invest in place-identity and heritage tourism. Philadelphia, for example, is investing US $12 million in private and public funds to make heritage tourism a lynchpin in its economic development strategy. Many cities in Europe have also started to include heritage resources on their urban regeneration agendas.  

The aim of this article is to explore the notion of cultural heritage from the perspective of Singapore. As a city-state with the goal of becoming a world-class city, Singapore has increasingly included conservation of its urban fabric as an important part of its strategic planning. In the most recent 2001 review of its long-term Concept Plan, a new focus on place-identity is introduced, with the focus on developing Singapore into ‘a dynamic, distinctive, and delightful city’. Its search is for identity in familiar places as manifested in the diversity of the city-state’s multi-ethnic people and cultures. The task of achieving this objective is not restricted to planners but presented as an opportunity to engage a wide range of stakeholders in communities. The public is invited to share and discuss ideas and possibilities of how cultural heritage assets in their neighborhoods can be enhanced and retained. Empirically, this community planning process offers enormous opportunities to take stock and reveal the heritage assets in neighborhoods that define the collective memory, or in the words of local poet Koh Buck Song ‘are gifts to a lived memory’. It is the local milieu which is fundamental in people's everyday lives. Singapore's neighborhoods are vital in offering new bases for city ‘branding’ and place-identity in the global urban world. From a theoretical perspective, Singapore’s community engagement emphasizes heritage issues as part of the public agenda and integrates participatory conservation programs within the planning process, adding empirical substance to the broader theoretical discourse on how public policy helps shape landscapes and their meanings. 

This article is structured in three broad parts. The first section provides a contextual overview of the purpose and development agenda of urban conservation in Singapore. The second section is a detailed examination of the Singapore development plan, the myriad of heritage attractions and resources in its neighborhoods, and public attitudes towards those assets. It also discusses the potential of anchoring such cultural landscapes in the heritage inventory, and the challenges to date. The final section summarizes the main contributions to reinforcing and pursuing the sense of place-identity and heritage conservation in urban development.

Committing to urban conservation
Many rapidly modernizing cities are unwittingly demolishing their heritage resources and character to nourish modern development, in the misguided belief that urban development and heritage conservation are incompatible. This need not be the case, as Singapore’s urban redevelopment illustrates. Modern Singapore started its history as a British colonial trading port in 1819. Growth of the port and liberal colonial immigration policies soon attracted traders and migrant laborers from China, India, and neighboring countries, and encouraged the settlement and development of multi-ethnic neighborhoods (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Arab, European), several of which remained after decolonization and independence in 1965. Rising prosperity during those years saw the construction of many buildings for government, commerce, and housing, from bungalows to the ubiquitous Chinese-style rows of “shop houses” that combine workplaces, retail stores, and residences in single small structures. 

Since its political independence, Singapore has thrived as a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual society comprised of three major ethnic groups: Chinese (79%), Malay (14%), and Indian (6%), along with a residual category of ‘others’ (mainly Europeans and Eurasians). As a nation, Singapore has rapidly grown from a developing to a newly industrializing country, transforming itself from an old colonial port to a modern city-state. Its present goal is to become a world-class city. As with many other rapidly urbanizing post-colonial cities, Singapore has demolished many of its historic buildings to make way for new modern skyscrapers. Its oldest boys’ school, Raffles Institution (built in 1837-41), for example, was bulldozed and on its site now stands Singapore’s tallest hotel and mega-shopping mall, Raffles City (1986). Other traditional buildings such as the Chinese-style two- to three-story “shop houses” in Chinatown were similarly demolished to accommodate high-rise residential towers to house a growing population. Urban conservation was not explicitly emphasized as redevelopment took precedence. Making a point about the overriding demands of degraded built infrastructure, poverty reduction, and unemployment, the chairman of Singapore's National Heritage Board recounts the priorities:

There was simply no time to rearrange the furniture in the sitting room while pressing matters have to be attended to in the kitchen. Indeed on quite a number of occasions there were fires in the kitchen that had to be put out promptly. In the 1960s and 1970s it was not surprising that conservation did not feature highly, if at all, in our national agenda (quoted in Roots, A Newsletter of the Singapore Heritage Society, 1994, p2).

However, on entering a period of rising economic globalization, there are increased efforts to reinforce and integrate past heritage with present developments in Singapore. As with many other cities, the influences of globalization have fostered the rise of heritage conservation as a growing need to preserve the past, both for continued economic growth and for strengthening national cultural identity. According to a Foreign Policy magazine survey of countries in 2000, Singapore is the world’s most global country. This fact has prompted the government to emphasize urban heritage to promote a sense of national identity. As early as 1988, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister C. T. Goh made this point:

We are part of a long Asian civilization and we should be proud of it…We should be a nation that is uniquely multiracial and Asian, with each community proud of its traditional culture and heritage. 

There is greater appreciation that the buildings and traditions of Singapore’s multi-ethnic communities add to the visibility of its cultural roots and territorial identity. As the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) stated in 1994, the built heritage represents ‘our history, captured in brick, plaster, wood, and stone…to lose these architectural assets would be to erase a living chapter in our history’. History and territorial identity are important for establishing “place specialization” in a rapidly urbanizing and globalizing city. The URA recently argued that:

…we need to create a sense of place, to enable collective memories and vibrant communities to thrive, to tug at the heartstrings of our traveling companions. These days, more than 200,000 Singaporeans work overseas. And many more travel frequently…

In the postmodern era, leading urban policies are now pronouncing that heritage and identity can play an important role in Singapore’s efforts to construct a modern city, while still preserving ‘the distinctive Asian identity in Singapore’. More and more urban researchers worldwide are arguing that culture is the business of cities — the basis of their competitive advantage. Sir Peter Hall, in a recent analysis of the cultural economy of cities has described ‘culture…as the magic substitute for all the lost factories and warehouses, and as a device that will create a new urban image’. Besides strengthening the city’s symbolic images, heritage conservation opens a new perspective for Singapore’s economy. As the Singapore Tourism Task Force Report concluded, ‘to woo tourists back to Singapore, Chinatown and other historical sites would have to be conserved’. The tourism value of heritage conservation is amply illustrated in analyses of heritage tourism in Europe. Culture and tourism are interdependent; cultural resources can be developed into new tourist products.
Tourism is one of the growing pillars of Singapore’s economic growth. Tourism receipts for 2002 are estimated at S $9 billion (SGD) and the long-term goal is to grow visitor arrivals and tourism receipts by 8% per annum. The latest travel brochures have begun to describe Singapore as a city where “east meets west” and ancient traditions blend with modernity. The search for citizenship identity, and the economic pragmatism of product development for competitive advantages are powerful persuasions for a new emphasis on conservation. Both factors provide greater definition to and implementation of heritage conservation in urban growth. 
Discovering neighborhood heritage assets 
To empower urban conservation efforts the Planning Act was amended in 1989. In the same year, for the first time a Conservation Master Plan for Singapore was prepared, stressing the place of conservation in Singapore’s urban planning and halting the further loss of historic buildings to urban redevelopment. Parallel efforts have since been launched to recover the built heritage and place identity. By the early 1990s, dozens of “shop houses” in historic neighborhoods were saved from the fate of demolition, and instead were renovated and conserved. Thus far, more than 5600 buildings are preserved and 0.2% of Singapore’s land area is under conservation protection, primarily neighborhoods with colonial, early period, and formal architecture such as Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam. 

As conservation develops, the planning process is increasingly focused on balancing two important considerations: a) the need for new development to position Singapore as a modern 21st century business city, and b) the need to conserve Singapore’s built heritage. The challenge is to create a thriving world-class city where Singapore is not just a workplace but also a home. This has generated a renewed policy commitment to heritage conservation for emphasizing place identity, articulated as a key element in Singapore’s Revised Concept Plan 2001, which states: 

Identity will become an important aspect in our planning process. We will continue to look into conserving more buildings in order to retain the collective character and memory of places. 
The Concept Plan is the long-term strategic development plan for Singapore. It has guided Singapore’s physical development since 1971 and is revised every 10 years. Beyond sustaining economic growth, the 2001 Concept Plan dwells on vernacular buildings and places (collective character and memory) in making Singapore a dynamic, delightful, and distinctive city. In emphasizing vernacular building design, Singapore joins with many postmodern urbanists in acknowledging that conservation should go beyond the monumental relics of church, state, and monarchy to include the process of celebrating the more familiar and beloved cultural heritage in our everyday lives.
In pursuit of a sense of the familiarity of urban places and their cultural heritage, Singapore’s planners have increasingly tapped the city’s population for suggestions and views when searching for places to conserve. This participatory planning process provides a conduit for residents to express their memories of places and identify the living culture in everyday spaces and neighborhoods. As unfolding in the current review of the Singapore Master Plan 2003, the next step in Singapore’s development planning cycle, local communities are invited to help establish strategies for identifying and conserving cultural assets in the city’s development.
The Singapore Master Plan — Identity Plan
The Singapore Master Plan is a short-term development plan, revised once every five years within the framework of the long-term Concept Plan. Public feedback gathered from focus group discussions and civic dialogues on Concept Plan 2001 have indicated that people highly value place-identity and community heritage. According to the URA, they would like to make heritage a national issue, like health and education. 
More importantly, they are for conservation to go beyond the physical dimension to include cultural expression:
The Concept Plan should conserve more of the built heritage and nature areas in Singapore…conservation should embrace not just buildings from the colonial and other early periods but also more recently developed areas which are rich in culture and character. (The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2000)
Among the various approaches to the issue, the draft Identity Plan released in July 2002 as a preliminary input to the Master Plan 2003, emphatically pointed to enhancing and retaining familiar places. It proposed include conserving local landscapes of collective memory that are part of the Singapore that citizens love, including to: 

Retain the old world charm of familiar neighborhoods: Balestier, Tanjong Katong, Jalan Besar, Joo Chiat/East Coast Road;
Retain and reinforce the existing character and scale of the built environment;

Recognize and allow existing community activities to continue and thrive. 
A central issue is how to preserve a sense of place and belonging in the context of growing demands for land uses (the population of Singapore is projected to grow from the present 4 million to 5.5 million people within the next half century). What can we do to retain the history, character, and vitality of older urban spaces as they continue to grow and evolve? These are not uniquely Singapore’s dichotomies. Cities around the world face the same dilemmas in heritage conservation: ‘what to include and what to exclude?’ ‘Well loved by whom?’ Too often we are reminded of government-driven conservation becoming no more than artificial replicas of the past, managed landscape spectacles designed to impress, emptied of life and with cultural memory lost. 
In the framework of place specialization and participatory planning, opportunities for allowing ordinary people’s interpretations and recommendations to be voiced offers encouragement to greater community-based processes in urban conservation. Citizen participation allows the images and meanings of places to develop from the bottom up. This is a primary method for enhancing local ownership and tolerance of urbanity. As Singapore’s Minister for National Development explains:

All of us who have a stake here ought to have a say in how we want this place to develop. The more we are involved in the planning, then the more aware we are of the constraints we face and the trade-offs we need to make this little red dot [Singapore] livable and comfortable. (The Straits Times, 21 Jul 2001)

A salient emphasis is on partnerships where the public planning authorities are willing to listen, engage and work jointly with the community in conservation efforts. As expressed by the URA in the draft Identity Plan exhibition brochures:
We need you (the public) to play your part. Please share your views, opinions and ideas to help refine the plans. Based on your feedback, we will refine and develop the…Identity Plan further. The implementation of the ideas and possibilities will require the joint partnership of public and private sectors with the community.
With such a strong endorsement, it is no surprise that public consultation represented by far the most extensive level of pre-draft consultation on conservation plans. More significantly, it marked a significant improvement over the government’s usual way of making plans. As the Minister of State for National Development stated during the opening of the public consultation and exhibition of the draft Identity Plan on July 23, 2002:
Instead of pre-determining how a place should shape up according to our plans, we are now looking at how what is already on the ground…can be enhanced.

The sites presented in the Identity Plan were consolidated with help from community leaders, government officials, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). According to reports in the local media, ‘the feedback has been rolling in’ with crowds coming mostly around lunch time to look at the Identity Plan. Such self-conscious identification engenders pressure to recognize, support, and leverage the energy and ideas of people to enhance the cultural assets of their neighborhoods and sustain the continuing quest of identifying whose and what heritage to conserve. It indicates that people are interested in voicing their views, sharing their suggestions, and fully expressing themselves in public dialogues. More than 20,000 people from different areas and walks of life — students, professionals, business people, housewives — have given feedback through URA’s website, exhibition feedback sessions, and other public discussions in the first two months of the plan’s exhibit, including suggesting additional places and identity nodes for potential heritage conservation. 

By the end of the three-month public exhibition, more than 35,000 people had visited the exhibits, of which about 13,400 were online visitors. About 4,200 of these visitors submitted their feedback through survey forms, emails, and letters, with 97% of them endorsing the proposals in the plan. A large majority of respondents (87%) indicated that more should be done to retain certain trades and businesses that characterize their neighborhoods. There appears to be a general excitement and desire to retain place-identity, lending legitimacy and support to the urban planners’ quest for enhancing and expanding conservation efforts. 
The planning authorities were urged to act fast and prepare a comprehensive list of buildings for possible safeguarding. They have proposed to study the recommended areas in greater detail and collaborate with relevant public agencies, the private sector, and the community to work towards complete plan implementation by 2015. The challenge is to keep alive familiar neighborhoods and enhance their unique heritage quality as the city continues its widespread and fast-paced development. The reality is an increasing need to identify and situate these traditional places within the modernizing world. Such conserved areas can provide the architectural grammar of local culture and history, a certain magic of permanence and of keeping the past alive in the present and future. A further challenge is the place-bound economics to ensure that the conserved neighborhood as a destination for tourists does not destroy what attracts residents in the first place. Some observers have described tourists as ‘landscape eaters’ and the tourism industry as an essentially exploitative process. 

From the viewpoint of urban conservation, there is strong impetus to suggest that investing in distinctiveness cannot be the lone result of statutory action. Any ‘endeavor of identity’ must embrace the community. It is widely understood that on an individual level, the richness of places and people’s attachment to them grows from their everyday use of these spaces. The richness of places in familiar neighborhoods constitutes opportunity for a new definition of heritage assets in the conservation inventory. Each neighborhood has its place-identity. This heritage presents active, living cultural resources familiarized with social meanings invested in them by the workers and residents. These are important ingredients of collective sentiments, of the feeling that ‘this is our place’.

Singapore’s growing conservation activities, despite its unique conditions of development, raises wider issues in heritage conservation and participatory planning. Singapore clearly demonstrates that heritage conservation and modernity are not necessarily in opposition. Rather they are inseparably linked in what Clifford Geertz describes as the dialectical relationship between the ‘search for identity’ which looks back to the past, and the forward-looking modernity of ‘demand for progress’. With increasing globalization, the ‘search for identity’ may be expected to play a larger role in urban development, bringing both economic growth and empowerment. The appropriation of economic benefits from conservation is a long-standing representation of the heritage conservation movement.
Conservation planning is increasingly used to justify the appropriation of historic buildings and revitalization of urban neighborhoods as products for generating economic growth, investment, and tourism. The attractions of communities are an increasingly significant factor in the spatial development of heritage tourism in many cities. Empirically, the familiar neighborhood offers enormous opportunities to take stock and reveal the heritage assets that define the collective memory. Singapore’s conservation efforts to retain the identity of neighborhoods and other familiar places has revealed the wide appeal of heritage conservation, both to the government and the citizens. 
Despite an initial lack of emphasis, conservation is today an integral aspect of Singapore’s urban planning. The need for the conservation of Singapore’s local heritage sites is as important as the need to maximize land development potential to position Singapore as a modern 21st century business city. The Singapore Master Plan 2003 — Identity Plan demonstrates that locally based identities are still highly important to most people. Perhaps, as many theorists have recognized, collective historical memories play a strong role in people’s sentimental attachments to places and community identity. This role will only grow with the advance of globalization. In an increasingly placeless and uncertain world, urban neighborhoods can play an important part in people’s personal and social identity.

Investigating the sense of place-identity within communities, Singapore’s conservation planning lends support for citizen participation in the search for local heritage. Partnership and open communication are important components. The URA view of the planner-community partnership in Singapore reinforces this sense of collaboration:

The process will demand weighing conflicting factors very carefully...Having these open channels of communication, more than ever, is vital as we write a new chapter on conservation. Together.

People in any community consist of diverse groups representing a host of interests that may lead to conflicting opinions on issues, whose views should be heard and taken. These are tough issues with no ready answers, calling for adequate preparation and building of mechanisms to deal with constraints and risks. There is a wealth of literature on strategies for community participation, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 1997 Guidebook on Participation. The Singapore search for identity in conservation underscores a common first principle of participatory development: the primacy of citizenship. It is one key strategy in the making of a distinctive city, making use of not just quantitative analyses of the urban fabric but also people’s personal views and feelings, to identify the underlying qualities of the sense of place and attachment to locality. 

The possibility of being involved in the conservation planning process opens new perspectives for strengthening the social fabric that allows ordinary people to become citizen-activists and community leaders. It is the starting point for working together to improve urban quality of life for all, especially when the public’s feedback is considered and being incorporated in the draft Singapore Master Plan 2003. Closer consideration, however, raises an important issue inherent in heritage conservation: that what is considered to be of heritage value is subjective and very much temporally and contextually bound. This is because heritage has the power to stir emotions and reinforce group identities. Consequently, those who hold the power will often seek to shape the landscapes and their meanings. They are able to define what constitutes heritage and what elements of the past should be conserved. 

Notwithstanding the great potential of heritage conservation in generating new social solidarities among the population, economic prospects and urban branding and “place marketing” cannot be ignored. Singapore in its effort to construct a modern city has given increasing emphasis to conservation of urban places and familiar neighborhoods, promoting participatory planning as a way to identify and strengthen the city’s distinctiveness. Against the widening process of globalization, community participation in heritage conservation is one way of reinforcing residents’ and workers’ feelings of belonging to and identifying with the city. The URA’s current commitment to enhancing heritage conservation in Singapore reflects an invitation to build local places together, a basic element in the making of cities in which people truly desire to live, work, play, and visit, and that promotes prosperity and improves the quality of physical and cultural life.  

Planning Process of Singapore Master Plan 2003

Source:  http://www.globalurban.org/Issue1PIMag05/Yuen%20article.htm

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