Student Awards/Creative Works

Honourable Mention of Non-Architecture “Healing” Competition: Joy Heng and Raphael Chang

Joy Heng and Raphael Chang entered an international design competition over the last summer organised by Non-Architecture. The brief was to come up with proposals to create healing cities for a post-pandemic world. They were one of 6 projects to achieve an Honourable Mention Award!

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Bartell Prize: Ernest Tan (Class of 2019)

On 22 February 2019, Ernest Tan (Class of 2019) received the inaugural Bartell Prize awarded at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies’ Human Development Conference (HDC). An Urban Studies major, Ernest was awarded the prize for his capstone research project titled ‘Living Off the Land: Sand Mining, Property Rights, and the Preferential Option for the Poor in Kenya.’ His project focused on the causes of sand mining in a peri-urban village (a hybrid landscape comprising both urban and rural elements) in Kisumu, Kenya, where villagers have been mining sand since 1978. He conducted semi-structured interviews with different members of the community, including villagers, government officials and community leaders, in which he had a set of predetermined questions but would also allow the conversation to flow organically. Ernest attributes his ability to conduct multi-method research to the interdisciplinary focus of the Urban Studies programme at Yale-NUS College.

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Objectifs Documentary Awards Champions (Emerging Category): Dave Lim

The award enables photographers to work on new or existing projects, encouraging them to discover and tell stories about their native communities. It welcomes different creative approaches to non-fiction storytelling, from conventional documentary photography to visual experiments.

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Yesteryears – Sean Cham

Yesteryears captures 50 abandoned and forgotten places in Singapore through a series of in situ self-portraits. The buildings photographed are in different states of ruination, from the crumbling roofs of Istana Woodneuk to the soon-to-be demolished Rochor Centre. These buildings represent the modern ruins of post-independence Singapore, an era that lives not only with progress but also the fleeting ruins left in its wake. In a city that is ever modernising and growing, there is barely any room for the ruin. Buildings that are deemed obsolete will be torn down to make way for something bigger and better. But in the face of the storm called progress, as German philosopher Walter Benjamin expounded in ‘Thesis on the Philosophy of History’, it is important to retain our historical consciousness.

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First Storeys (The Future of our Pasts Festival 2019) – Sean Cham

First Storeys interrogates the “kampung to metropolis” narrative, focusing on the period of large scale resettlement in Singapore from the 1950s to the 1990s. Through a speculative theatrical installation, the piece surfaces lesser-known stories surrounding the process of resettlement. The installation was housed in 300 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, the former Bukit Ho Swee Community Center. This was also the site of the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961, a turning point in the housing narrative of Singapore, which left more than 16,000 people homeless.

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Urban Studies Best Capstone Award 2019
Ernest Tan – Sand Mining as a Property-Rights Struggle: A Case Study in Peri-Urban Kisumu, Kenya

Sand mining is a relatively under-researched issue of great environmental concern. Small-scale sand mining is also a particularly contentious resource-management problem with serious social and distributive implications, especially for those whose livelihoods depend on the activity. Responding to this context, this paper aims at understanding how different stakeholders’ formal definitions, conceptual understandings, and material claims of property rights affect outcomes in the sand mining sector. Thus conceptualized, this research investigates small-scale sand mining practices in one peri-urban village in Kisumu, Kenya, where villagers have been mining sand since 1978. From April to May 2018, 45 semistructured interviews were conducted with villagers, government officials, and community
leaders. The findings show that sand miners and state agents have been able to effectively undermine the state’s regulatory claims over sand, in order to derive benefit from sand resources. Thus, this paper argues that the state-conceived structure of property rights has been reconfigured, and that state agents play a particularly important role in this reconfiguration, since they have significant discretion to legitimate alternative property claims or to exercise transaction rights. As these property-rights contestations over sand parallel similar contestations over peri-urban land, struggles over sand resources are revealed to be an important component of the institutional change that characterizes peri-urbanization.


Urban Studies Best Capstone Award 2019
Callysta Thony – Through the Wall: An Analysis of Bordering Practices in Jakarta’s Urban Periphery

Jakarta’s urban periphery has been a site of rapid transformation over the past three decades. One particular form of urban transformation is the production of exclusive residential communities within privately-developed new towns. In some cases, these gated communities are adjacent to village settlements, who are separated from the residences through various bordering mechanisms. This produces a distinct spatial configuration, an urban borderland, which is at the center of this study. This thesis investigates the production and contestation of space in the urban borderlands,
extending this literature beyond its prevalence in Chinese urban scholarship to the Indonesian context. I use ethnographic methods to study the experience of village residents residing in these bordered spaces, paying close attention to spatial practices and features of the built environment which produce exclusivity. I demonstrate how
village residents overcome their exclusion and challenges by mirroring developer-led bordering practices, and in some cases, identifying new opportunities that emerge from new borders. My findings allow me to advance the claim that borders continuously evolve and are never complete, and that bordering is an inherently conjunctive and disjunctive process.


Urban Studies Best Capstone Award 2018
Kavya Gopal – Women only please: Gendered Travel Experiences on the Delhi Metro

Gender, especially in many developing cities around the world, is still a critical factor when considering travel behaviors and experiences of women. Gender not only impacts the travel mode choice, but also travel times, general perceptions of safety and comfort, as well as access to opportunities and the ability to claim citizenship to one’s city. This thesis situates itself within this existing literature on gendering transportation studies by extending the dialogue to the travel experiences of women in a global south city such as New Delhi. I adopt an ethnographic approach in understanding the lived experiences of women commuting on the Delhi Metro. Based on 51 interviews with passengers that identify as women, this thesis examines the real and perceived threats to safety that govern women’s travel decisions as well as the opportunities and access the Metro enables for these women. The findings from this study help me advance the claim that the Metro is a relatively empowering experience for women because it accounts for women’s safety needs, even though real threats of harassment still persist.


Urban Studies Best Capstone Award 2017
Timothy Chua – The Migrant Space of Geylang: Exploring Spaces of Privacy, Entrepreneurship
and Leisure

This thesis is an intervention into the existing literature on male foreign workers and the spaces they inhabit in Singapore. It seeks to situate their nightly spatial practices in Geylang within the larger context of the socio-spatial exclusions they face in Singapore, and understand the nature and significance of the spaces produced. I adopt an ethnographic approach in understanding the lived experience of foreign workers in Geylang, which is complemented by interviews with state authorities. I explore the spaces of privacy, entrepreneurship and leisure that are produced through spatial practices in the interstitial spaces of a carpark, a street and an alley respectively. I discuss how these spaces mitigate the socio-spatial exclusions that foreign workers face. The findings from this study then help me advance the claim that these spaces are emerging public spaces catering to a specific ‘public’ of urban marginals. In addition, these spaces become (counter)public spaces that begin to challenge existing definitions of the ‘public’ in Singapore.