Architecture and the Performance of Citizenship in a Global City: Singapore, 1965-2015

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In this dissertation, I present the ways in which architecture was used to perform citizenship in post-colonial Singapore from 1965-2015. During the first fifty years of independence, architects, alongside other artists and activists, contested the restrictions and exclusions of de facto and de iure citizenship through alternative proposals for the urban built environment. I make the case for an alternative architectural history based on those buildings which are excluded from the canon by virtue of their being unbuilt and rejected projects. Through archival research and interviews, I provide an historical narrative and visual analysis of these alternative proposals for architecture and politics. I argue for an understanding of both citizenship and architecture’s agency as performative. I begin with the Singapore Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) Group’s proposals and continue with examples its co-leaders’—Tay Kheng Soon and William Lim—alternative unbuilt projects. The rejection of these architectural projects by the state reveals the rejection of the postcolonial social democratic politics on which they were based. This evidence demonstrates the continuity between British colonial control and one-party planning. I conclude that these architects were the forefront of envisioning and advocating for an alternative democratic ideal. Their contributions paved the way for visual and performing artists as well as civil society organizations to continue contesting the state’s oppressive politics.





Bullock, Nathan Foster (2019). Architecture and the Performance of Citizenship in a Global City: Singapore, 1965-2015. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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