Beyond the Limits of the City...
Milica Topalovic
Architecture of Territory—the ETH Zurich Chair of Architecture and Territorial Planning—dedicates its work to forms and processes of territorial urbanisation, arguing for the necessity of architect engagement at territorial scales. Since 2011 Milica Topalovic has been attached to the ETH Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore, studying the region’s hinterlands. With their return to Zurich, Topalovic and her team initiate a new phase of research on European countrysides.

This publication is an edited transcript of Architecture of Territory, the inaugural lecture delivered by Milica Topalovic on November 30, 2015 at the ETH Zurich.

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Napoli, Nile Valley, Belgrade, Nairobi, Hong Kong, Canary Islands, Beirut, Casablanca
ETH Studio Basel
Urban areas, despite facing strong forces of homogenization on a global scale, tend to produce and reproduce their own specificity, their own structures and patterns that are evolving through the uneven process of urbanization. With this book ETH Studio Basel documents its long-standing research on cities and urban regions, highlighting key aspects of specificity in the age of global urbanization. The publication presents case studies on Naples, the Nile Valley, Belgrade, Nairobi, Hong Kong, the Canary Islands, Beirut, and Casablanca that are distilling their specificities through careful descriptions, and analyzing their processes of urban transformation through the analytical lenses of three vectors: territory, power, and difference.

Roger Diener, Mathias Gunz, Manuel Herz, Jacques Herzog, Rolf Jenni, Jasmine Kastani, Marcel Meili, Pierre de Meuron, Shadi Rahbaran, Christian Schmid and Milica Topalovic contributed to the book.
Singapore, Johor, Riau
Studio Report
In maritime cultures, the sea is sometimes seen and imagined as the land: the source of livelihood, the space of everyday life and connections among people, their activities and settlements, which all gravitate toward it as the centre. Archipelagic life and structures, such as the Malay world along the Straits of Malacca and the Straits of Singapore, have evolved around the sea and relied on collaborative exchange over the water.
Once part of a sea region that was unified through maritime culture and trade, disparities and differences today characterize the tri-national space of Singapore, Johor and Riau Archipelago. Singapore represents the densely populated core and the economical focal point of the larger territory: Since the 1970s, its economy began to expand and incorporate productive hinterlands over the national boundary. As a result, Johor Bahru and Batam, two fast-growing industrial cities of over one million people each, have emerged at Singapore’s borders. They now create a de-facto metropolitan region of around eight million inhabitants.
Despite the shared maritime culture and history and high degree of economic synchronization, the three sides still need to develop a common metropolitan vision with policies and instruments for cross-border regional steering.
During the autumn of 2014, the “Sea Region” design and research studio with students of ETH Zurich, proposed territorial design strategies leading to stronger metropolitan connections in the currently divided territory. The Singapore Strait, one of the world’s most intensely urbanized seas, has always been the lifeline of the region. The project aims to return the extraordinary sea of the Strait to the centre of public discourse and possible imagined futures
for the region.
Singapore 1924—2012
Milica Topalovic
The project Constructed Land: Singapore 1924–2012 investigates the material flows of soil and the changing physical form of the island of Singapore over time. Until today, around one quarter of the land area has been added to the surface of the island-state by means of importing sand, claiming land from the sea, reshaping of existing terrain, and dredging material from the seabed. For more than a century, the transformation of topography has accompanied the change of Singapore’s urban landscape. While this process continues at an ever-increasing pace, its scale and implications are breathtaking: The project reveals constructed land as the central paradigm of Singapore’s urban development today.

The joint research collaboration on Singapore’s constructed land came into being at an intersection of two distinctive approaches to the city: the historic and the territorial. They are represented by two teams, working as part of the ETH Zürich, DArch and the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore. Drawing from detailed topographic maps spanning two moments in time, 1924 and 2012, the joint project provides a meticulous description of Singapore’s transformation over the entire national territory and during a century of intensive modernisation.

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Content List

p. 11
Constructed Land

p. 13
Development dynamics and constructed land:
Singapore as a model for a purposeful deceleration?
Uta Hassler

p. 23
Topography 1924–2012

p. 51
Constructed Land
Singapore in the Century of Flattening
Milica Topalović

p. 64
Singapore, Johor, Riau
Studio Report
Throughout history, cities have functioned as centres of political and economic power, from which the agricultural and resource-rich hinterlands were controlled. From the nineteenth century onward, new technologies, transportation modes and the opening of trade have introduced a remarkable complexity to the relationship between cities and territories. Today, it is often thought that cities rely decreasingly on surrounding territories for supply and subsistence. Instead, they seem emancipated from the constraints of geography, operating in a global web of dependencies. By contrast, the research presented in this book is based on a hypothesis that an understanding of the city-territory relationship, the ability to conceptualize it in qualitative terms, and to influence it by means of planning and design strategies, is central in addressing urban sustainability.

Singapore’s hinterlands in the tri-national region of Singapore, Malaysian State of Johor and Indonesian Riau Archipelago served as the paradigmatic research case. At first glance, the island city-state of Singapore is the city without territory. Certainly, it is the city whose production grounds and vital resources lie beyond national borders. The economic incorporation of hinterland territories in Malaysia, Indonesia, Southern Asia and beyond, have remained both a necessity and a profitable opportunity for Singapore.

The book is an extensive, well-documented and illustrated report on field investigations and studio work, carried out with fourteen students of the ETH Department of Architecture in two design-research semesters in 2012. Our cross-border expeditions in the fragmented tri-national space of Singapore-Johor-Riau enabled a collection of numerous original case studies, which create an alternative portrait of Singapore. The studies do not represent the accustomed view of Singapore as an island developed on the paradigm of a global city-state, but as a city whose present and future are tightly connected to its metropolitan region. Beyond the specific case, the book is a rich resource for redefining the notion of the hinterland at the start of the twenty first century.
A Research on Urban Transformation
ETH Studio Basel
Belgrade. Formal Informal presents the findings of ETH Studio Basel’s research in the former Yugoslav and now Serbian capital, investigating the city’s development following the international embargo against the Milosevic regime in the early 1990s until the present day.

Through the prism of complementary notions, formal and informal, the book explores Belgrade’s post socialist turmoil. Spanning between investigations of New Belgrade, formerly planned and built as the Yugoslav modern capital, and studies of the informal urban paradigm predominant during the 1990s, the book offers a portrait of Belgrade entering a new, global reality. Belgrade is presented not as an extreme and isolated case of urban transformation, but as a city whose recent history sheds light on processes now shaping contemporary European cities.

ETH Studio Basel Contemporary City Institute was founded in 1999 as part of the Department of Architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. Belgrade. Formal Informal was initiated in 2006 with a student research project carried out by the ETH Studio Basel in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade.