Melissa A. Reese

Centre for Sustainable Asian Cities at the National University of Singapore

Melissa ReeseMelissa Reese is currently a research assistant at the Centre for Sustainable Asian Cities in the National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment. Her work their focuses on culture and its link to sustainability in the context of Singapore. She holds a Masters of Urban Planning with a specialization in international development from New York University and a Bachelors of Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia. Her research interests include affordable housing, informal settlement upgrading, and sustainable development in Asian cities.

Culture and Sustainability: Exploring the Nexus in the Context of Globalizing Asian Cities

Authors: Melissa Reese, Lai Choo Malone-Lee and Chye Kiang Heng

The sustainable urban development discourse traditionally looks at a range of social, environmental and economic aspects of development, and it is only recently the this discourse has begun to examine culture for its role in relation to sustainability in the context of cities. Our research contributes to this ongoing discourse by examining culture’s relationship to sustainable urban development in the unique context of Singapore. As a city with traditional Asian roots that is now facing multiple global influences, including exposure to international visual, performing and other art forms, Singapore provides a unique opportunity to examine the nexus of culture and sustainability in a globalizing city. Culture matters in the context of urban planning policies in Singapore, because like many developed cities across the world, Singapore has come to realize the benefits of investing in and promoting culture as a method of encouraging social cohesion and economic development of creative industries.

The scope of culture in itself is a broad and ever evolving concept; and in the context of cities it includes both intangible and tangible dimensions, as well as local and global influences. Culture in cities also serves both as a means to sustainability, a form of capital or resource for sustainable development, and a goal in relation to the social dimension of sustainable development.

To explore these complex relationships, we have identified four dimensions and twelve headline indicators with which to evaluate culture’s contribution to sustainability in Singapore. These dimensions include: The Presence and Definition of Culture, Cultural Milieu, Culture’s Economic Contributions and Cultural Education. Using a process of multiple expert consultations and internal brainstorming, a list of over 90 indicators was shortlisted to a set of twelve headline indicators. To supplement this quantitative data, international case studies were examined to distil principles that can provide Singapore with additional examples of how culture can contribute to sustainable development.

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