Tag: city

A Connected Island, A Home Disconnected

Whether it is by sea, air or even digital space, Singapore is one of the world’s most connected cities today. It is plugged into an array of networks that are largely invisible unless there is a breakdown in their operations. The disruptions due to the recent pandemic, for instance, pulled back the curtain on the global supply chains that power everyday life in Singapore.

These networks have not only helped the city-state stay connected to a globalised society, but have also shaped its inhabitants’ image of their home. Most will recognise Singapore as a single landmass when in fact it is an archipelago of 64 islands. It is a testimony to how successful the ruling People’s Action Party government has been in moulding Singapore into an integrated urban entity since the 1960s. As part of the construction of a modern nation-state, citizens were rehoused from kampongs all across Singapore, including its surrounding islands, into public housing estates on the mainland. These physical dislocations and disconnections were the foundation for the connected island nation of today.

➜ Read the full essay at the Asian Film Archive’s Despatches

Thinking Ahead, Moving Forward

Entrances manned by security guards. Haphazardly placed paper signage for directions. Navigating endless tape to get in and out of buildings. Getting around the city can feel very much like entering a war zone nowadays. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted our everyday lives but our urban landscape too. The sudden need for new screening protocols has led to many makeshift solutions that have upended the design of places and fragmented them into ugly, awkward and even dead spaces.

While once regarded as temporary inconveniences, measures such as screening and social distancing look likely to become a permanent part of our everyday with cities planning to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease. How they are integrated into our built environment needs to be re-examined lest they permanently remake the city into a fortress.

➜ Read the full column in CUBES #102 — Rethink, Reinvent

Defining the Roots of Japan(s)

If you’ve ever wondered about what makes Japanese culture unique, this brochure Roots of Japan(s): Unearthing the Cultural Matrix of Japan tells it all. Published by Japan’s Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, this publication marks a shift in how the country promotes its creative industries, from its previous “Cool Japan” to “Creative Japan”. The aim: to communicate to Japanese and the world its unique brand of culture.

The book establishes the notion that Japan is made up of diverse cultures and briefly traces their history. What comes out of these lyrical pages edited by the Editorial Engineering Laboratory (a research institution “providing pilot models for the information age“) are exciting connections of Japan’s past, present and future. For instance, cosplay, an act of representation to bring a fantasy world to life, is traced to Japan’s Byobu screens, which once carried images of Chinese landscapes to the country’s hotel lobbies and banquet halls.

Besides outlining distinct Japanese traits, the book also theorises how its culture is generated, giving extremely fascinating insights to Japanese philosophies. Tarako (cod roe) Spaghetti, an Italian dish unique to Japan, is an instance of the trinity of concepts Shin-gyo-so, which are three basic styles of calligraphy that represent formal-casual-punk. As explained in the book:

“The pasta is cooked al dente, following the shin (authentic) Italian method, and sprinkled with dry seaweed according to the Japanese gyo (way). Eat with chopsticks rather than fork, and you’ll be so (grass) in style.”

Roots of Japan(s) was given out during the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Bali, and there’s no information if you can get them anywhere else. However, you can hear the laboratory’s director Seigow Matsuoka talk about this book at the recent Creative Tokyo event website (with a voiceover in English translation; start from 22:40). You can also look at images of the book and read notes in Japanese about it here and here.