Dr Donald McNeill –
Conditioned space: volumetric urbanism and the production of Singaporean territory

Professor of Urban and Cultural Geography,
Australian Research Council Future Fellow,
Institute for Culture and Society,
Western Sydney University

RSVP here


THURSDAY, 30 MARCH 2017, 6–7:30PM
UTS DAB, Level 4, Landscape Architecture Studio (CB06.04.05), 702-730 Harris Street, Sydney

Refreshments provided.


This lecture examines the relationship between territorial development strategies, and the practices – both technical and political – of developing volumetric urban space. In doing so, it frames buildings as being envelopes through which state accumulation strategies can be deployed. It draws on a key site of post-independence Singaporean urbanism, the development of the Marina Bay area, to examine how dimensional urban development has been combined with metrological practices to produce new territory.

Conceptually, the lecture works between recent political geographic understandings of the volumetric, and various forms of engineering, planning and architectural expertise in the production and terraformation of urban space. The lecture considers the role of civil and structural engineers, air-conditioning expertise, and new mass rapid transport, elevator and people-moving technology in producing these volumetric affordances. Here there is a growing interest in capturing the land values offered by building both vertically (through skyscrapers) and into subterranean space, particularly through complex and interlocking mega structures in order to maximize site revenues. It is argued in conclusion that the built environment of global cities such as Singapore need to be understood using several modes of materiality, including the calculative, the dimensional, and the terraformed.


Donald McNeill is Professor of Urban and Cultural Geography, joining the Institute for Culture and Society in 2011, having previously held positions at the Urban Research Centre (Western Sydney University), King’s College London, Southampton and Strathclyde. He is a recipient of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, in the field of ‘Governing digital cities’, running from 2012 to 2016. For information on this project see the Governing Digital Cities page.

His work is located at the intersection of human geography, economic sociology, spatial planning, and urban design and architecture, with a particular interest in the political and cultural economy of globalization and cities. He is currently working with colleagues on ARC grants about the future of Sydney’s Chinatown, and on the social history of air-conditioning in Southeast Asia, and has recently completed an ARC Discovery project, ‘The production and contestation of airport territory’ (2008-2010).

He has published widely in human geography and urban studies, and his books include The global architect: firms, fame and urban form (Routledge, 2008), New Europe: imagined spaces (Arnold, 2004), and Urban change and the European left: tales from the New Barcelona (Routledge, 1999).



Image credit: Tim Winter, www.comfortfutures.com