Singapore's Polish influence

Not many may have heard about Polish architect, Krystyn Olszewski, but reports and feedback from peers indicate to me that he played a huge part in shaping Singapore's built environment in its formative years. Consider these:

  • First came to Singapore in 1968 at the invitation of then Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
  • Was a member of a United Nations team of consultants to the State and City Planning Office and was appointed chief designer of Singapore's Comprehensive Long-Term Concept Plan. The plan was officially announced in 1971 and most of its fundamental proposals have since been successfully implemented, leading to Singapore as we know it now.
  • Spent 15 active years of his professional career in Singapore and contributed to the Singapore's early Concept Plan from the comprehensive long-term city plan for the island's development to the local project of the Singapore Science Park and the design details of the first MRT stations. The main features of the plan can be found on the map drawn and signed by Mr Olszewski in 1969.
  • On April 9, 1971, The Straits Times quoted Mr Olszewski as a stern advocate of moving the international airport to Changi, in expectation of rapid development of air traffic and the airport's growth.

So, should the SG50 Committee acknowledge Mr Olszewski as one of our Pioneers? Or as suggested by the Polish Ambassador in the ST article,  "I believe that, for example, a street in the city centre that he helped to reshape - or one of the MRT stations that he designed - could be named after him, even if his Polish surname seems difficult to pronounce."

Article at Straits Times


Dementia in the city

This article at Bloomberg explored the difficulties of an urbanite who had to take care of her mom who is suffering from dementia in Tokyo. As her mom has a strong urge to go out of the house (to the point of resorting to violence if denied), Akiko one day decided to let her mom, Asayo, wander around.

After that first walk, something remarkable happened. As Asayo rediscovered her freedom, her anger disappeared and her mood lightened. She was laughing, flirting with strangers and regaling her daughter’s friends with tales of her youth.

Akiko started off following closely behind her mom but eventually embraced the support of her local urban community; the businesses, restaurants, policemen, who help to look out for Asayo.

It's an interesting story about how the urban community got together to support one of theirs. Also, I start to wonder how the experience of a dementia sufferer and its caregiver in a dense and complex urban environment, would be different from one in a slightly less dense one.

A primer to Builtscapes

The year is 2015. In the coming decades, living in a built environment will become the default state of living across the planet and this 2014 UN report provides a glimpse into that future

  • The world’s urban population is expected to surpass six billion by 2045.  
  • Today, 54 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050.
  • By 2030, the world is projected to have 41 mega-cities with 10 million inhabitants or more.
  • In 2014, Asia is home to 53 per cent of the world’s urban population and this is expected to rise.

Back here in where I live, Singapore has spent a good 50 years building up a city that is the envy of many, and one wonders what the next 50 will be. South-east Asian cities such as Yangon, Jakarta, Penang and many others, are all on various trajectories of urbanization and let's not forget how everyone's claiming that they are going to build a "Smart City".

In today's context, every story is a story about urban life. Every day, I discover discussions on urban theories, urban policies and politics, technological developments, real estate developments, new design proposals and all sorts of urban/architecture related news and even for me, it is difficult to keep up and I wonder how the average person does. 

The year is 2015. Blogs are dead, which means it's probably the best time to start a new blog. And here's the pitch for this blog: Builtscapes is my personal journey to discover and understand what's happening to the cities around us through the eyes of the regular urban citizen. It is a blog for and about people who care about living, working and playing in cities. Because it is written from my personal point of view, there will be some personal preferences and biases and I think, that's the beauty of it – just like how every one of us thinks we can do a better job at designing our cities.

Also, just like how a city is never quite completely finished, this blog will constantly evolve over the coming months. So, let's get started shall we? Onwards!

"What is the city but the people?"  

– Sicinius in Shakespeare's Coriolanus