Rome was not built in a day

Building a city is important work that takes time. Even the latest technology to assemble buildings at Lego speed can’t change this. Cities, at least the best ones, need time to grow organically. Just like a pair of new sneakers, we need time to break into them, grow as we fit, and finetune that fit as it grows.

Although a city cannot be bought off the rack, we can look at the different elements that make up a city.

Food as heritage and time markers

Food is a natural binding agent. It gathers friends, and attracts strangers. In cities such as Singapore, food is as big an experience as any other, and has become a big part of our heritage. Food heritage speaks of stories, not just about its origins but also how certain dishes are tied to history and a city’s development.

Chicken rice used to be sold in balls for portability by labourers, coloured ice balls were staple treats around the Chinese Opera stages, kacang putih (mixed nuts wrapped in a paper cone) existed when cinema seat numbers were handwritten on the tickets (no, nachos with cheese was not a thing yet).

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Flavoured ice balls reminiscent of the past 

Art as a knowledge vessel

Many people think that art is disposable – something you get to when times are good. It is not a mode of survival for an individual, but it is indispensable for a city. A city without its art is like a city with no voice – arts reflect the way of lives, topics that tug at the hearts of people who live around it, they are the storytellers that are more vivid than textbooks.

Art is like a bag of treasures, every item in the bag bears a piece of the tapestry that makes up the society. When we saw Singapore’s installation at the Venice Biennale last year, Singapore and our seafaring origins were presented to a global audience with a unique perspective. Art is like achoming pigeon – the message it carries binds a city’s people, no matter near or far.

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Artist Zai Kuning and his installation at the Singapore pavilion, Venice Biennale 2017

Architecture – Form and Function

Architecture traces a city and etches out an identity. Almost like how a company needs its logo, every city has its signature architecture that sets the city apart from a copy bought off the rack. Shanghai has the Oriental Pearl Tower, Singapore its bayfront skyline of the SuperTrees, even Hong Kong with its high density layout – every city has its position markers.

However, architecture bears a heavy burden with its multi-role responsibilities – as cities become more dense, and world population rises, we look to architecture to create quality spaces. Cities normally achieve quality of life and efficiency through the mixture of spaces, functions, and services that are accessible to the population.

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Hong Kong

As cities undergo urban transformation, it may be useful to think of them as ecosystems – it needs the continuous involvement of everyone in the city, not just left to the government and private investors. Join us as StraitsJourneys explores the different aspects of what makes a city, through our various experiences available soon.


StraitsJourneys is a place for travelers to find and book deep travel experiences tailored to specific interests. The experiences are presented by carefully selected local experts. We expect to launch in early 2018. In the meantime, register your interest in StraitsJourneys and be the first to receive our stories, updates and offers.

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