Course Offerings in Recent Years

Required Foundation 2000-level courses

YSS2220 Introduction to Urban Studies. Offering an introduction to the central concerns of the field of Urban Studies, this course inquires into why cities form, the functions they serve, they ways of life they support, and the problems and opportunities to which they give rise. Using historical and contemporary case studies from both developing and developed contexts, you will be introduced to the processes of urbanization and its social, cultural, political and economic features.

Topical 3000-level courses

YSS3222 Urban Theory. What is the city? How can theory help us to understand, explain, and intervene in it? This module explores key theoretical approaches to interpreting urban phenomena and understanding contemporary processes of urbanisation. Reading representative works from both the traditional urban studies canon and the efforts to question its assumptions, we will focus on four concepts that have provoked crucial theoretical conversations within the field: modernity, justice, economy, and infrastructure. In exploring a wide variety of texts, we will investigate both the content of their theoretical contributions and the methods used by the authors to make their arguments.

YSS3245 Key Debates in Urban Planning and Policy. Fundamentally, key debates in contemporary urban planning and policy are about how we make collective decisions regarding shared problems. Resolving these debates is not always an either-or proposition – there are multiple shades of grey and multiple potential resolutions. Nor are there any right or wrong answers. The positions one takes in these debates are fundamentally normative – they are coloured by one’s place in the world and one’s view of it. Nevertheless, these debates require decisions, In planning and policy, we are called upon to act, not just debate. In this course, we will endeavour to develop informed positions that can help us engage with others to take action.

YSS3246 Cities of the Global South. More than half of the global population is categorized as urban, with the majority of urban dwellers living in cities of the Global South and 90% of the global urban population growth between now and 2050 happening in these cities. Increasingly, the future of urbanism may remain less with New York and London, and more in places like Mumbai, Shanghai, Lagos, as well as “ordinary cities.” This course critically reflects on the processes, structural forces and everyday forms of urban life that are at the core of rapid urban growth in the global south.

YSS3269 Water and Waste in Urban Environments. This course focuses on understanding the challenges of implementing programs and policies to improve water supply and sanitation services in the urban areas of developing countries. The main goal of the course is to equip students with the ability to think critically about the design and implementation of policies and strategies to improve water and sanitation services, especially for the poor. Students will also be equipped to think about the challenges of providing services in developing countries, in relation to larger themes such as informality and community participation.

YSS3274 Urban Singapore. This course is conceptualized as an experiential learning course; with half the classes during the semester in the classroom and the other half as field experiences. The course is organized thematically. Each theme consists of two components: An initial classroom component involving close-reading, in-depth analysis and discussion of a set of largely conceptual readings and, followed in the following week with related field experience.  Depending on its appropriateness to the theme, the field experience includes briefings by relevant public authorities in the planning of Singapore, walking tours of different sites and participant observation field trips in various urban cultural practices among Singaporeans.

YSS3282 Architecture and Society. This module offers students the opportunity to inquire into the relationship between architecture and society, with a focus on the late modern to contemporary era (nineteenth century to now). The course will look at the relationship between architecture and specific social institutions (the family, secular welfare, the nation, the state), as well as attending to the role of architecture in a range of social processes, including the exercise of power, identity formation, care, production and reproduction, and consumption. It will also address the professionalised field of architecture and its social imagination.

YSS3216 Urban Mobilities. This course provides an introduction to the nature and history of urban transportation. Transportation is far more than how we get around; it determines not only the shape of cities, but more importantly economic, social and environmental outcomes. Substantive topics to be addressed include economic land use models and how they account for transport systems, behavioralist understandings of travel, private and public transportation, environmental problems, and the relationship between transport and social opportunity.

YSS3217 Urbanization in China. This course investigates the dramatic urban transformation that has taken place in mainland China over the last four decades. The scale of transformation means that it has far-reaching consequences for Asia and the world, influencing everything from climate change to the price of bread. Understanding how and why China has urbanized – and how China will urbanize in the future – is therefore of critical importance. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach, using perspectives from history, geography, political science, anthropology, urban planning and cultural studies, among other disciplines.

YSS3256 Youth Urbanism: Global Trends, Local Perspectives. This course explores the relationship between youths and their urban environments from a global perspective. More than half of the world’s young people live in cities today, where they contribute to urban life from everyday use of street space to participation in politics and transnational mobility. Yet, structures of inequality continue to frame their lives. Through the lens of youth urbanism, students examine theories, debates, and policy concerns across social inequalities, education/employment, migration, citizenship, and politics. Each week we explore a specific topic including youth surveillance, street youth, studentification, young people’s mobilities, and youth protests.

YSS3229 Urbanization and the Environment. With the majority of the global population living in cities, urbanization has become a defining characteristic of human civilization. This new era of urban dominance has brought a new urgency to understand how to balance the environment alongside urbanization. Is urbanization a problem or a possible solution to the environment and sustainable development? This course will explore contemporary urbanization with a focus on the relationship between urban and urban growth and its implications for the planet’s biological and physical systems.

YSS3265 Urban Economics. This class studies the economics of cities and urban problems by understanding the effects of geographic location on the decisions of individuals and firms. Traditional microeconomic models are typically spaceless, yet location and distance play an increasingly important part in modern economics. We will look at the following questions – Why do cities exist? How do firms decide where to locate? Why do people live in cities? What determines the growth and size of a city? Does economic growth affect urbanization? Or does urbanization spur economic growth? This course will also examine specific urban economic problems such as transportation, housing, education, health, and local government economics.

YSS3273 GIS and Demographics. Understanding the spatial components of social phenomena is a key area of expertise within the interdisciplinary field of Urban Studies. This module is therefore designed to introduce the concepts of geospatial analysis and demographic analysis. Specifically, the course offers students the opportunity to understand the operational processes of spatial data acquisition, spatial and demographic analysis, and mapping and dynamic visualization. Students will explore a variety of urban issues, such as gentrification and racial segregation, using two tools: ArcGIS software packages and STATA.

YSS3250 Cityscapes and Urban Form. Urban built environments are the result of a range of processes that reflect everything from design principles, to cultural taste, to political ideology, to economic behaviour, to technological capability. This course provides students with the analytical tools to better understand the formation of cityscapes and their spaces. The course will tackle these questions through a range of scales, from site-specific building scale to the neighbourhood scale, to mega-forms and grand projects, and beyond. We will learn about theoretical debates, as well as emblematic cases. We will also practice reading the urban landscape through a semester-long “pattern analysis” surgery.

YSS3235 Urban Spatial Reasoning and Representation. This course is focused on a range of spatial reasoning and representation skills that are commonly used within urban studies and related fields. It offers you an introduction to key tools used to analyze and represent the logic of cities, including spatial, social, morphological and functional logic. The analytical and representational tools introduced in the course are widely used in the making and management of urban environments, be that through a municipal master plan, a developer’s spreadsheet, an architectural rendering or model, or an activist’s crowd-sourced vision. As such, you will gain practical experience with transferable skills relevant to the field of Urban Studies.

Topical 4000-level courses

YSS4220 Housing and Social Inequality. Housing is an essential element of everyday life. However, it is also an investment good which tends to appreciate in monetary value over time, such that it is generally not provided by the state like other necessities as a public good. Consequently, the quality of housing for an individual or a household is dependent on their financial ability to pay for the accommodation, resulting in housing consumption being unequally distributed across social class and generations. This module examines the causal linkages between housing provision and consumption and social inequalities comparatively across developed and developing economies and their political, social, economic and cultural consequences in the legitimacy of the different governance regimes and the everyday life of their respective citizens.

YSS4234 Urban Heritage: Place, Memory, Identity. The course introduces students to various aspects of urban heritage, both as it manifests in the physical landscape, as well as in intangible social and cultural phenomena. Heritage in urban settings can encompass landscape features that are both ageing and revitalised, man-made and natural, permanent and ephemeral, invisible, and even edible. The course begins by questioning what heritage is in urban contexts and examining the pressures that processes of urbanisation and development place on existing urban landscapes and connections to place. It will also examine both academic and professional debates regarding ideas about how and why objects, buildings, landscapes, and traditions should be preserved, protected, and presented to current and future generations.

YSS4213 Community Development: In Search of the Kampung Spirit. This course explores contested strategies for advancing community development from around the world. These strategies respond to diverse social, cultural, and institutional contexts, revealing varied interpretations of what communities are and what resources and capacities are necessary for their development. In particular, we will explore the hypothesis that community development can be understood as the villagization of the urban — what Singaporeans refer to as the “kampung spirit”. We will use this investigation to inform a semester-long engagement with a community in Clementi, in order to understand the challenges and opportunities that they face. This engagement will culminate in the collaborative formulation of proposals aimed at strengthening the community.

YSS4207 Creative Cities. This course examines the relationship between urbanization and the creative industries. Increasingly, urban economic growth, built environment regeneration and community development operate in and through the logic of creativity, be they expressive spectacles, arts festivals, branding, or state-led/community-based art initiatives. This course explores the link between the arts and urban development, examining it historically and in a range of contemporary contexts. Students will both analyze the causes of the rise of creative industries-led urbanization economically and socially, as well as participate as urban creatives through various media.

YSS4105 Urban Studio. Urban Studio is a collaborative environment within which students can develop and refine independent research as part of the fourth year capstone program. The course combines elements of peer review from the social sciences with studio critique from the design disciplines to provide regular guidance and feedback on discrete pieces of the capstone project. The studio meetings serve to complement one-on-one sessions with the individual capstone supervisor.