Getting around in Penang; hearth and home in Singapore

Getting around in Penang; hearth and home in Singapore

I’ve been meaning to write something about Penang’s Transport Master Plan, which is an ambitious but (I think) highly-flawed document. That piece is still in the works as I read up more about the plan, but in the meantime, the new Penang Monthly has hit the shelves. My byline appears twice in this issue.

The first piece looks at transport and mobility for those without cars of their own. I know some of these challenges well enough — when I lived in George Town, I got around mostly on foot, sometimes by bike, and by bus when I wandered further afield.

For this piece, I spoke to confirmed pedestrians, cyclists, people in wheelchairs, and fans of ride-sharing apps to tease out how Penang’s public transport networks could be improved. What becomes clear, I think, is that planners must go beyond the abstract act of ‘planning’ and truly understand the needs of users. If we’re to break the stranglehold the car has on our cities, Malaysians need viable alternatives to the private automobile.

The second piece anticipates my recent move south.In HDB Republic:,’ I look at how Singapore’s Housing and Development Board, as well as the Urban Redevelopment Authority, manage the challenges of housing, homeownership, and heritage in this land-strapped island nation.

Singapore’s rapidly changing skyline is the product of intense spatial pressures, but increasingly, authorities here are engaging with questions of architectural heritage and urban identity when making decisions about what stays and what goes. In this respect, I think Singapore offers valuable lessons for a city like Penang and indeed the rest of the world. How do we root our sense of place in an ever-changing city?

I hope you enjoy both these articles!

Header image: Singapore’s Central Business District skyline. Image courtesy of the Urban Redevelopment Authority

Liquid assets: two pieces on Penang’s water infrastructure

Liquid assets: two pieces on Penang’s water infrastructure

I’ve written two pieces for the March issue of Penang Monthly. The first is a look at the island’s colonial water infrastructure, illustrated with historic picture postcard views. In a place known for its built heritage, the sometimes hidden heritage of the state’s waterworks turns out to be an important legacy. You can read the full story in Penang Monthly.

The second article addresses more contemporary concerns about water management. Penang is Malaysia’s thirstiest state, and while the state’s water management is the most efficient in the nation, climate change and federal politics both have the potential to stop the taps flowing. Once again, you can read more in Penang Monthly.