Working with the ‘Grassroots’ for Built Heritage Conservation by Mr Kelvin Ang
Date : 08 Nov 2017
Time : 16:00 - 17:30
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC

Jointly organized by the Asian Urbanisms Cluster of Asia Research Institute, and Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore.


Dr Lee Kah Wee, Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore


Planning for and of built heritage in Singapore has evolved substantially in the past 15 years. A conservation programme that started in the 1980s largely with urban planning and art-historical objectives has been subject to changing expectations from the various sectors that are interested in the subject. What are these varied expectations, are there any common ground between the groups? Planners have been placed in the middle of the discussion surrounding the proper way of identifying, protecting and managing built heritage. Planners have also been expected to be even closer to the ground to understand grassroots expectations and aspirations for a sense of identity that seem to be anchored on sites of built heritage. But who are these grassroots and what have been the different responses to them over time? What are the lessons learnt and what are the constraints that are yet to be fully overcome? Can the grassroots take on greater ‘ownership’ of the subject of built heritage on the ground? Based on observation and various roles taken on through my area of work, the talk will seek to shed some insight into areas of convergence and divergence that I have encountered, from being on different sides of the ‘fence’.

For further Reading

- Shaw B J, Ismail R. 2006. "Ethnoscapes, Entertainment and Heritage in the Global City: Segmented Spaces in Singapore's Joo Chiat Road" in GeoJournal 66(3): 187-198.
- Chang TC. 2016. "'New Uses Need Old Buildings': Gentrification Aesthetics and the Arts in Singapore" in Urban Studies 53(3): 524-539.
- Yuen B and Soh E Y. 2006. "Government-Aided Participation in Planning Singapore". Cities 23(1): 30-43.


Kelvin Ang has been working in the field of conserving built heritage since 2000. His work began with the study and recommendation of buildings and areas for possible conservation, and evolved into the subject of precinct management, education and also enforcement. In the past decade, he has also been actively involved in formal and informal grassroots activities in various capacities.


Admission is free. We would greatly appreciate if you click on the "Register" button above to RSVP.


In recent years, the multifaceted forms of civic practices—ranging from participatory urbanism, to artistic interventions, and to street protests launched by activists—have become more prominent in Asian cities, attracting scholarly attention across different disciplines. The transformations in civil society have raised the following questions: What are the emerging challenges and contingencies the varied interest groups are facing? What kind of conflicts can arise during and after instances of civil activism, and how can these tensions be ameliorated? How can social engagement, practice and research be bridged together by, and for, different individuals and agencies? When does social engagement become perceived as civil activism?

This seminar series, jointly organized by Asian Urbanisms cluster (ARI) and the Department of Architecture, critically presents and examines the novel forms of civic practices that have manifested in the Asian urban context through a transdisciplinary framework. Bringing together academics, practitioners, students, and the general public interested in urban spatial strategies in relation to negotiate the formation and role of civil societies, the seminars seek to initiate discourse on the following themes: First, to explore how the varied stakeholders involved in civil society groups, including academics and educators, activists, artists, NGOs, NPOs, informal interest groups and community associations, political parties, and governmental organizations currently de/reconstruct the contextual and physical understanding of shared urban space in Asia. It is of interest to review the main goals of the novel civic practices, and the extent in which these aspirations are realised. Secondly, these seminars seek to articulate how stakeholders engage in the process of collaborative knowledge production through these practices. More importantly, the aim of the series is to conceptualise civic practices as a product of the distinctive trajectories of socio-economic development, spatial/cultural policies, and the structures of political governance in the Asian region. To reiterate, these seminars provide an overview on the distinctive challenges and opportunities that contemporary Asian cities pose for civil societies, and the kind of local and global characteristics that are emerging in these locales.


Asia Research Institute | Minna ValjakkaSonia Lam
Department of Architecture | Cho Im Sik & Lee Kah Wee

Contact Person(s)
Minghua TAY