City Stories: Mapping the Spatial Narratives of Singapore’s Landscapes is a research project under the direction of Kristy H.A. Kang, developed at the School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and supported by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore (URA).
As global cities rapidly change, the layers of cultural history embedded in them are often erased. How does the city communicate these invisible stories to its inhabitants? “City Stories: Mapping the Spatial Narratives of Singapore’s Landscapes” is a community storytelling platform and online resource on the multi-cultural identity and development of Telok Ayer and Amoy streets. Both streets were the earliest to be developed in the 1820s and are part of what is known today as “Chinatown” – the largest conserved historic district in Singapore.
Viewers can discover the changing landscapes of this area from Singapore’s shoreline to skyline by looking at sites of cultural heritage both tangible and intangible within the built environment. They can learn how this enclave known as Chinatown has historically been home to multiple ethnic communities whose everyday activities create a more variegated understanding of place and identity that complicates the narrative of Asian ethnic enclave formation initiated during the colonial period. In contrast to public exhibitions on urban planning that typically serve as an interface for visitors to learn about the city’s plans for the future, this project creates a way for visitors to immerse themselves in the narratives of Singapore’s disappearing past. Here digital technologies become a tool by which narratives of place and past are screened within an urban landscape that is continually shifting. This digital placemaking project engages new media to create a greater awareness of the invisible histories of the built environment and the diversity of peoples who populate it. It asks what kind of urban interfaces could be designed to communicate between the hardware and software of the city, between its urban infrastructure and its public, and what overlooked stories could be uncovered in order to enrich our understanding of the urban landscapes we walk through in our everyday.