Wednesday, July 4, 2012

DBBD: Heewoo and Mulim's arrival, World Cities Summit, Marina Bay City Gallery, and URA City Gallery

This will be a loose account of what we've been up to so far, from Debbie's viewpoint.

Day 1 - Arrival! 

We picked up Heewoo and Mulim back from Changi Airport and got them settled in to Hangout @ Mt Emily, after which we took them to a friend's surprise birthday jam at The Substation Theatre. I'm not entirely sure how "surprise" this jam was, but the very talented Bani had indeed a go at a jam with friends and some beautiful sounds were made.

IMG_7299 Bani's Birthday Jam 

Day 2 - World Cities Summit 

I took us all to the World Cities Summit as I was involved in a presentation there.

The backstory: Over the previous weekends I had attended a Urban Prototyping Weekend (UP Singapore) in which they made amazing datasets available to us (a bunch of developers, programmers, thinkers, marketeers, designers, architects, etc) and we were challenged to make an application with this data over a one-weekend hackathon. I worked on a prototype for an idea that I had in waiting for ages, called the "Postcode Postcard", and together with my friend Yuta Nakayama (a japanese design engineer working at the Design Incubation Centre's R&D department at NUS) we built a simple prototype for a postcard generator that would combine datasets from that location/postcode and generate a beautiful data visualization for that location -

This simple idea seemed to take off and we were asked to show it in a presentation at the WCS Expo Forum 2012 at Newton Circus' booth. They made a great video about the project, and I also loved Peter Hirschberg's presentation as the idea of urban prototyping as a means to convincing governments and companies to share their raw data so that people can build better apps and smarter cities from them is something that totally resonates with me.

IMG_7312 UP Singapore: "What matters now is engaging the population of a city in its own reinvention" - Don Tapscot

IMG_7313 UP Singapore: Crowdsourced data and citizen mapping 

Here are some other pictures from the Expo, which also included the lovely City Form Lab. One of the UP participants that we had met, Raul, was there at the City Form Lab booth and he was kind enough to explain the project in detail - the city form lab as a kind of urban analysis toolbox. Basically, the City Form Lab seeks to come up with and calculate certain metrics in cities (such as betweenness, straightness, etc) and to use this data to design and engineer better and more efficient cities. This quite excites me, as I had never known of the existence of such a project so close to home (SINGAPORE!) - as I have always been personally interested in the work of UK-based Barlett's SPACE group (Space Syntax) which also operates in a similar fashion, which also is focused on urban spatial analysis and its influence/effects on socio-economic activities in the area.

IMG_7316 SUTD & MIT: City Form Lab 

URA also had a booth showing another one of their awesome city centre model. I met my old classmate Joyce there who was incidentally standing by to provide information on the model. She had been working there as a City Planner for the last 5 or 6 years. At the URA, planners are assigned to specific areas and focus on the planning for that specific area.

IMG_7326 World Cities Summit: URA Booth 

Other highlights:
A robotic jellyfish in the Water Expo located at the floor below. Also ironically on the next day at the expo, there was a bit of flooding after a storm and some of the booths at the Water Expo experienced a bit of excess water...

Day 3 - Marina Bay City Gallery


There was some heavy rain in the morning which was totally unexpected. I brought in more books for Heewoo to take a look at and we also looked at some of the material that I had collected from the WCS. After that we made a trip to the Marina Bay City Gallery, taking the strange circuitious underground route I frequently use to get from Raffles Place MRT to Marina Bay Sands. It takes around 20 minutes and one will have to go through a goodly half-dozen underground "link" malls in order to get there.

I am amused by all these underground routes which have been devised to allow human traffic to flow underneath all these buildings, although I guess it would probably be a nightmare for a person who hates malls. Although I know that I do not enjoy being in malls in theory because they are sinkholes of banal consumption, something about a mall is utterly... Singaporean? I'm not sure whether to be glad or horrified to say that I associate the "non-place" of the shopping with the idea of "home". It is simply that I have found that I can travel to far off countries where everything feels new and foreign to me, but whenever I see a modern shopping mall in a foreign country, it is so generic and boring and predictable looking that it feels "at home". It is something that could have been built in any city in the world - it could even be in Singapore.

IMG_7348 Heewoo in Raffles Place

Under the giant solarpowered fans along Marina Bay

(Sadly I had to leave early for a work meeting that day at the big lotus flower... as I am planning a talk later this month for the, a project I had built for the ArtScience Museum)

Day 4 - URA Resource Centre and City Gallery

I made an appoinment for us all to visit the URA Resource Centre, arguably one of the best kept secrets in libraries on urban related records in Singapore. I know we aren't supposed to take pictures but I just need to say that I love the way how they have little individualised box files storing the information brought back by people who are sent overseas by URA to do studies about other countries. Kind like they were sent on Singapore's behalf. I love this method of information collecting and when I see this it makes the archive and URA library even more valuable and important to me.


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