Between 1960 and 1995, Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB) radically transformed the housing landscape of Singapore, and did so through an emphatic commitment to the high-rise typology. This lecture uses this period of accelerated, bureaucratically-managed, high-rise housing delivery to inquire into the cultures of technological experimentation and innovation that enabled this radical transformation. Using insights from Science and Technology Studies, the lecture argues that the work of the HDB was to assemble a large socio-technical system that was not only technologically reliable, but also socially acceptable. How the HDB achieved this is examined using one specific technology upon which high-rise livability depended: the lift. The analysis draws on archival and oral history work with engineers and social scientists from the first decades of Singapore’s public housing development.
About the Speaker
Professor Jane M Jacobs is Head of Urban Studies at Yale-NUS College. She is currently a Visiting Professor with the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, where she is collaborating with Dr Belinda Yuen on a history of building technology innovation in Singapore’s public housing system, a project supported by the Chen Tianqiao Research Programme on Urban Innovation. Prof Jacobs has a PhD in Geography from University College London, and has published widely on the history and cultures of urban development. Her books include Edge of Empire: Postcolonialism and the City (1996), Cities of Difference (1998) and Buildings Must Die: A Perverse View of Architecture (2014). She manages the pleasant confusion of sharing a name with the influential but now deceased urbanist, Jane Jacobs, and so has become an expert in professional disambiguation!
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