Is nature natural? Can the urban be rural? Are cities made of open spaces surrounded by buildings or buildings surrounded by open spaces? Led by Professor of Urban Studies Nick Smith, the freshman set out to one of the oldest cities in the United States to exploration of the conceptual and material construction of nature as an integral component of urbanization, identity, and the public sphere. Students had sessions with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and attended lectures by faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Design respectively. They also explored and immersed themselves in public spaces through fieldwork and mapping exercises.
The Creative Cities class went on a morning fieldtrip to explore the nearby One North urban cluster and visit Infinite Studios and IMDA to talk to people from the local media industry. One North is made up of multiple ‘polis’s that provide infrastructure like office space, research and production facilities, and combines this with residential complexes, leisure and F&B. One North is a key local example of purpose-planned town that attempts to serve the needs of the growing sectors of knowledge, design and media industries through shortening proximity and increasing network strengths.
Students from both classes visited Bandung, the capital of Indonesia’s West Java province. Students were given a tour by local students from various universities around Bandung city, where they learnt about the developments and plans that were shaping the growth of Bandung. Students also explored Rancaekek, a peri-urban area also known as a desakota that sits on the edge of Bandung city. Through a tour around Rancaekek and visits to the local wet market, housing project and kampong, students were able to contextualize the theory of desakotas learnt in class to the lived experience of mixed land use. Conversations with the locals and the student tour guides were extremely helpful in understanding how the land tenure policies and economic, social and transportation networks between Bandung city and Rancaekek contributed to the growth of the desakota.
As part of a Week 7 Learning Across Boundaries (LAB) project, a group of Freshmen students together with Prof. Nick Smith visited the rural areas of Anhui, China. There, they accessed and compared the development trajectories of a few villages. They also engaged the local villagers and village officials and gained a deeper understanding of the benefits, problems and attitudes toward development and tourism. Through looking at the different experiences of each village, students gained an appreciation for how development policies need to be tailored to suit the local context, and how dangerous copying the development models of other villages can be.
The students in Introduction to Urban Studies 2015 visited Batam, an Indonesian island a mere 40 minute ferry ride south of Singapore, located in the Riau Archipelago. Why would an urban studies class go to a nearby island, which is largely non-urban? Well, a city is always embedded in a region. One of the ways to understand a city is to look beyond its limits to the territories that it relies upon and which may also rely upon it. In the case of the island city-state of Singapore, this includes territories that are in the nearby nations of Indonesia and Malaysia. Batam is linked to Singapore by the multilateral agreement that created the SIJORI Growth Triangle, which joins Singapore, Indonesia’s Riau and Malaysia’s Johore, in one economic zone. In Batam, the class saw port, industry and tourism facilities as well as formal and informal housing, all linked directly or indirectly to the fact that Batam is part of SIJORI.
As part of the Divided Cities 2014, Prof Jane Jacobs led a trip to Singapore’s Chinatown. The class visited Singapore’s Chinatown as a variant example of an urban ethnic enclave. Students were asked to identify which features of the built environment and social life indicated it was a ‘Chinatown’. They were asked to then think about how ‘Chinese’ those features were, and to what extent they thought them to be authentically so.
The researchers and scientists at ETH’s Future Cities Lab are great supporters of the Yale-NUS Urban Studies programme. Our students visit their nearby laboratory-studio often and researchers there assist with Yale-NUS courses, lead fieldtrips and support internships. In our Placemaking RC4 Lab of 2014, FCL researchers showed students historic maps that revealed the land the College is built on used to house rubber plantations, then British colonial barracks, then a golf course.
In the first semester of the College, Prof Jane Jacobs teamed with philosopher Prof Matthew Walker and ran a Week 7 Learning Across Boundaries Programme (LAB), titled ‘Placemaking RC4’. Yale-NUS is a new College in a new but temporary building: how were students going to start to feel at home and to make their own history? They began by visiting the neighbours, which included visiting the nearby HDB housing estate at Casa Clementi with the help of a local volunteer group called Vertical Kampung, which helps build community in HDB estates.