“Cities will endure, as they have for centuries, beyond the COVID pandemic” | Dr Liu Thai Ker’s plenary session at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum 2021

MORROW’s founding chairman Dr Liu Thai Ker shared his experience and critical insights on Singapore’s model in urban planning and housing policies during the plenary session “Firestarter: The Singapore Model” at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum on 18 November. The session was moderated by Mr Kieran Long, the director of ArkDes, Sweden’s National Centre for Architecture and Design.

“When it comes to city planning, it is unlike the fashion industry where you can simply dispose of or change if you grow tired or dislike any items. Urban planners must bear in mind to treat urban planning as a permanent creation.”

Dr Liu emphasised that the COVID pandemic will not change the main structure of a well-planned city, as cities worldwide have survived centuries, through wars and pandemics. With the current pandemic, most cities will eventually adapt and evolve to better deal with future calamities. There can be minor tweaks to the plans, but there should not be a major overhaul of what was readily drafted with careful foresight to endure the next 50 to 100 years. 

Every line and mark left on the master plan was carefully thought out, drawn and penned down with the confidence that this will be able to serve the land and  people well in the long run. “We must be careful that we are not advocating changes for the sake of changing”. History has shown us how cities have emerged and grown amid wars and other major disasters,  and the COVID pandemic is just another challenge cities have to face. As long as the city plans have been carefully designed with the basic needs of the people in mind, it will ensure the sustainability and resilience of the city. 

“I am not a master planner. I am a servant of the city”

When referred to as the “architect and master planner of modern Singapore”, Dr Liu commented “I am not a master planner. I am a servant of the city. When you are a servant, you find out the needs of the people so you can plan the city well.” 

The humble serving attitude an urban planner possesses will be cordially reflected in the successful and liveable city plans they lay out. Dr Liu mentioned that Singapore has the advantage of a national emphasis on sound and sustainable urban planning, and can serve as a model for other cities. 

Dr Liu highlighted the two important housing policies the Singapore government placed great emphasis on back in the 70s while he was serving in the Housing Development Board of Singapore. “We were very careful with our long-term planning, and also cautious how the mixed ethnic and income group housing policies will impact the society. The ratios and limits for every building block, precinct, and district were all carefully calculated. We took nine months just to make sure of that.” The core of urban planning lies in the people and the land, and a viable urban plan will serve the basic needs of the people. It is this core concept that is very much illustrated and proven in the Singapore model.


About Bloomberg New Economy Forum

The Bloomberg New Economy Forum brings together leaders from developed and emerging economies to transcend deepening divisions and enact real change aimed at building common prosperity. Held in Singapore, the 2021 Forum’s plenary panel sessions and breakout discussions are built around the themes of Rebuilding the Global Economy, Innovating Out of Crisis, and Navigating a Divided World. 

Other Notable Press Mentions

The Straits Times: Cities will endure, adapt beyond Covid-19 pandemic, say Bloomberg forum panellists

联合早报: 刘太格:不像服装潮流可随意扔掉 城市建设不可能因疫情说改就改