03 February 2010

Recognizing Singapore

My familiarity of Singapore astonishes me.... because although I have visited the city before (I was just a kid then) surely my memory is not that good!

So why is this place familiar?

I wondered if it had to do with - its Rotterdam like obsession for sterility or may be it is its brilliant transportation that reminds me of London..

or the verticality of its business district that I'm able to relate to some other cities I've been to..

or probably its greenery to that of the transformation that spring brought to the Northern European cities?!!

So why is Singapore - Singapore.. or rather what is it that makes this city what it is?

The city is quiet a collage..

A collage of different people.. different cultures.. and most of all of different cities.. but clearly its most crucial asset is its geographic position... If you were a tiny island with hardly any natural resources embarking on an ambitious journey to accelerated development and global prominence you couldn't possibly be situated in a better location than this - at the crossroads of the East and the West!!!

You may wonder how this can make Singapore a familiar place? It's because I've spend my entire childhood and teenage years in a city that has been (and is still) trying to emulate this exact process of using its relative geographic position (half way between the East and the West) to become the next Singapore but at an even more ambitious scale - a sort of Super Singapore. I am talking about Dubai. As someone who grew up in what was at the time a scanty city which could any day be eaten up the huge deserts around it.... I have seen it develop at break neck speed into an awe inspiring city of dreams, but sadly most of its dreams turned out to actually be mirages.... and it is today to most the ultimate symbol of human greed - the scale and frivolity of Dubai's development makes Singapore much criticized brutalities on its land and people seem mild!

Step for step Dubai has used Singapore as a model for its own development.. there was the initial phase of setting itself up as an international hub for transport of both people and goods (think of Changi airport and the bustling ports of Singapore in relation to the Dubai International airports and the gigantic port at Jebel Ali);

then there was the mad rush of building housing for a population that wasn't yet there (project like Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai international city etc.. are like the projects done by Singapore's Housing and Development Board);

the aggressive greening of its territory as a sort of denial of its desert origins (similar to Singapore's tropicalization of its terrain);

adding kilometers of new beaches for the thousands of sun searching Europeans (Singapore is notorious for the same); however the global economic slowdown has melted Dubai dreams of its final push towards becoming a Super Singapore and its final layer of ultimate pleasure - where it was to built its own version of Singapore's pleasure island (Sentosa) as the out of scale Dubailand theme park and its sprinkling of 'culture' in the form of the Dubai Contemporary Arts Museum and the Dubai Opera House to match Singapore's impressive list of Museums and its Esplanade theaters - has been put on hold indefinitely.

So in a bizarre sense I am able to relate not only to the idea of Singapore but also to criticisms against it - making it a bit too familiar..

(all photos in this posting are from Singapore, their equivalent projects from Dubai have been posted on this blog earlier..)

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