The Heart of a Global City: The Remaking of singapore’s City centre

Global city: heritage and Bilbao effect

Ho, Elaine Lynn-Ee., Woon, Chih Yuan., and Ramdas, Kamalini. Changing Landscapes of Singapore. Singapore: NUS Press, 2013.

Part 1: Singapore, in the making

Chapter 5 The Heart of a Global City: The Remaking of Singapore’s City Centre by Shirlena Huang.


This chapter examines the state’s quest to make Singapore a city of world standing, a new kind of city- global city as well as anchor Singaporeans in Singapore- that the city’s development must not be at the cost of its “soul”, its historic past. It further discusses the various tensions that have had to be negotiated between economic imperatives and identity/heritage issues, namely Tradition and Modernity, the global versus the local.


Since the 1960s, guided by the Master Plan and government policies, urban slums, dilapidated shophouses and other buildings were demolished to make way for modern commercial development. However, with the increasing westernization of Singaporean society and the global homogenization trend, there was growing concern about the loss of the citizenry’s Asian roots. Consequently, government started conservation and restoration of heritage districts of Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Little India and the Civic District to restore Singaporean historic memory and identity.


While on the other hand, the government came up with 3 tactics for Marina Bay as a key part of the plan to sell Singapore to the world as a leading global city.

1.     Looking to, borrowing from, cities that have managed to already establish a niche for themselves on the world stage

2.     Employment of world-renowned architects and designers

The logic of hiring starchitect is that the celebrity and acclaim associated with the name of the architects will almost certainly guarantee an iconic design- the “Bilbao effect”.

3.     Staging of international events and activities


This chapter reveals the battle between heritage conservation and the force of commercialization and globalization, digging deep into the different force shaping and the evolution of Singapore’s identity. The “Bilbao effect” achieved in Marina Bay can also be viewed as a justification for the trend of hiring starchitect in the early years of

Golden Shoe Redevelopment and its extension into the 21st century.

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