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About this book

This book examines how institutional and environmental features in neighbourhoods can contribute to social resilience, highlighting the related socio-demographic issues, as well as the infrastructure, planning, design and policies issues. It is divided into three themes – infrastructure, planning, and community. Infrastructure examines how physical features such as parks and street patterns influence neighborliness and resilience, while planning studies how urban design enhances social interactions. Lastly, community discusses policies that can forge social bonds, either through racial integration, grassroots activities, or social service. Overall, the book combines research and empirical work with scholarly models of resilience and governance philosophy, focusing on Singapore’s urban planning and social policies.

Table of Contents


The Ecology of Neighbourhood Resilience: A Multi-disciplinary Perspective

Policy makers and planners increasingly recognise the importance of social resilience in driving collective response and action, and build community capacity to cope with and overcome adversity when they arise. It is also recognised that social resilience involve consistent efforts to build stronger and more cohesive communities in themselves, not only to respond to adversities and warding off future threats, but also as a means to strengthening social ties and addressing inequities that may exist for vulnerable or marginalized groups. This is in line with the aspirations of the New Urban Agenda which was adopted as a shared vision by the global community for a better and more sustainable future—one in which the tenets of inclusiveness, equality, participatory involvement and strong governance are vigorously promoted. The essays in this book contribute to the on-going discourse on these thematic areas and, using Singapore as the contextual backdrop, highlight how cities can embrace this new urban paradigm in the way they are planned, designed, developed, governed and managed.
Lai-Choo Malone-Lee

Fostering Social Cohesion in 21st Century Singapore

This chapter discusses how the People’s Association (PA) has worked, and is working to foster social cohesion in Singapore. In particular, it focuses on the changes in contemporary Singapore that pose a challenge to the PA’s work and how the organisation is now updating its approaches to adapt. In particular, the PA faces challenges from an increasingly complex global environment, technological disruption and changes in Singapore’s social fabric. To keep relevant, the PA is shifting towards deeper relationship building and strengthening its outreach to more segments of society. It is also concurrently upgrading its Community Clubs located across the country while also taking its programmes beyond the clubs and into the neighbourhoods. By building social cohesion and a strong grassroots movement, the PA contributes to the overall strengthening of resilience among Singaporeans.
Desmond Tan, Eugene Teng

The State of Ethnic Congregation in Singapore Today

Social harmony has been the bedrock of Singapore’s prosperity and success since the city-state gained independence in 1965. Being a multi-racial and multi-religious society, there is a political impetus to ensure that Singaporeans have opportunities to interact with people from other racial or socio-economic background. This is crucial in order to promote cultural empathy and understanding, and consequently greater social resilience. For the policymakers, a key platform to achieving this objective is via its residential policy, with the aim to avert the formation of ethnic enclaves, which are known to be common fault lines of social tensions. The Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) was implemented in 1989 to ensure each block of public housing has a mixture of households from all races. While the EIP has served its intended purpose, the analyses in this paper reveal that some neighbourhoods continue to show a higher concentration of selected ethnic communities, which may, in the long-run, impact social cohesion. The paper offers a few suggestions on urban planning and intercultural engagement.
Chan-Hoong Leong, Eugene Teng, William Weiliang Ko

Building Social Resilience Through Parks and Common Recreational Spaces

There is an increasing body of research that validates the connection between the quality of the physical environment and human health. In particular, the provision of public parks that are easily accessible to city dwellers is considered highly valuable. Green open spaces, in addition to their environmental benefits, have the potential to increase people’s physical activity levels. With apt designs, parks offer a multi-sensorial environment that stimulates and improves mental health. These multi-tasking spaces also bring about social benefits; they provide opportunities for users of urban parks to interact with other users, and for users to become attached to the area (place attachment). Social interaction and place attachment are thought to contribute toward social cohesion, a collective identity and community support. These are all characteristics of resilient cities. Singapore’s National Parks Board has undertaken a series of research studies in collaboration with medical professionals, that seek to understand these important aspects of social resilience in cities.
Angelia Sia, Ee Heok Kua, Roger Ho

Urban Mobility and Resilience: Transport Infrastructure Investment and the Demand for Travel

Urban mobility is a key ingredient to fostering social interaction and resilience. At the neighbourhood level, enhanced mobility can be achieved through investment in transport infrastructure, which in turn can promote greater community interaction and exchange, and in the process contribute to social resilience. This study examines the influence of transport infrastructure investment on household work and non-work travel demand in Singapore, with the main purpose of investigating whether improved transport accessibility brought by transport infrastructure investment prompts additional out-home trips; and if so, to what extent and in what way does transport infrastructure investment influence household travel demand. Our study indicates that the travel demand for both work and non-work purposes is mainly determined by households’ socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. Rail transit accessibility and expressway proximity do not influence travel demand significantly. Land use mix and population density have a positive influence, though small in magnitude, on household travel demand, and consequently on mobility, which contributes to greater social resilience.
Siqi Song, Mi Diao, Chen-Chieh Feng

Participatory Design to Co-create Community Spaces

The extensiveness of public housing in Singapore, where more than 80% of its residential population lives, underscores the importance of the design and provision of shared amenities and communal spaces in shaping social bonding. Building social resilience in neighbourhoods has to do with creating opportunities for residents to interact on the assumption that residents who are socially connected in their immediate neighbourhood are also more likely to be involved in helping others and in contributing to the well-being of the neighbourhood. This chapter discusses a research project that aims to establish a participatory design approach to co-create community spaces in an existing neighbourhood. It is expected that the outcomes of this study will reveal key challenges in implementing participatory planning in local neighbourhood context and offer insights into potential avenues for strengthening community’s capacity to initiate collective action, which is essential to support long term social sustainability and resilience of neighbourhoods.
Im Sik Cho, K. C. Ho

Bringing Arts Closer to Local Communities: Spatial Opportunities and Impacts on Community Bonding

‘Arts and Culture Nodes’ is an initiative launched by Singapore’s National Arts Council (NAC) in 2012 to bring quality arts closer to where people live, foster regular arts engagement, enrich public life and build stronger community bonds. The key mechanism employed was not only creating a comprehensive network of partnerships with artists and various neighbourhood institutions, such as community and recreational clubs, libraries and non-profit organisations across the island, but also activating a range of neighbourhood public spaces as more informal arts and culture venues. This chapter first outlines the research conducted in five Singaporean neighbourhoods to investigate spatial, social and participation impacts of the ‘Nodes’ initiative. Guided by the ‘Neighbourhood Arts and Culture Impact Assessment’ (NACIA) framework and the conceptual lenses of placemaking and cultural ecology, this chapter then discusses the roles and capacities of arts and culture initiatives in building sustainable community arts development and resilient local urban communities.
Zdravko Trivic

Place Familiarity and Community Ageing-with-Place in Urban Neighbourhoods

Successful ageing requires the active involvement of society and the concomitant self-responsibility for keeping healthy in old age. Resilience, both at the individual and community level, is an important component of successful ageing. A life-course perspective of active ageing which considers the temporal evolvement of an elderly person over a lifetime, and not simply a snapshot account of old age, is needed to integrate time and place as a singular space relative to older adults’ experience of their living environment. With this perspective, beyond the usual agency framing of individual resilience at old age, community support of active ageing becomes quintessential as a part of the collective resilience of urban neighbourhoods. Here, place familiarity is crucial in engendering psychosocial and urban resilience, which affects seniors’ wellbeing. At the individual level, this community-oriented approach to active ageing operates as a wellspring to draw upon against adversities, and collectively as part and parcel of resilience building at the neighbourhood level. This paper illustrates the close association between place and active ageing in contributing to older adults’ experience of highrise, high-density urban neighbourhoods that are common to Singapore. It advances the concept of collective urban and psychosocial resilience.
John Chye Fung

Designing for Resilience in Public Housing: An Architect’s Perspective

In master planning, design features can play an important role to forge strong communal bonding and resilience. Shared spaces such as common corridors, void decks, ground floor backyards, and connected walkways can act as catalysts for enhanced social participation and interactions. Fundamentally, planning must seek to bring people together and promote social cohesion so that when disasters happen, they will pull together to address emergent problems. Policy makers and planners have to adopt an integrated approach at the early planning stage to seek input from other stakeholders to respond effectively to the evolving needs of the community. They can also pay greater attention to flexibility, support the ageing community and integrate environmental features. Nursing homes for instance, can blend into urban neighbourhoods so that they become part of the residents’ social life. Architects need to empathise with the diverse points of views from other disciplines and the end users, and nurture a symbiotic relationship with the different segments of the community.
Man Kok Siew, Ivan Kurniawan Nasution
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