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Speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, at the Urban Planning Festival and CUBE Award Ceremony 2018

  Published: 12 April 2018

Good afternoon. I am very happy to be here with all of you at the Urban Planning Festival (UPF) for the third year running, since we started this in 2016.

The UPF was created and organised by the URA for all of you, our young citizens and future leaders. The UPF is meant to give you a better appreciation of how we plan our city – Singapore is a city but also a country – and also give you a better appreciation of the constraints and challenges that we have to work with. We hope to inspire you to get actively involved in making our city better for yourself, your family and friends, and for future generations after you. 

The UPF is also an important platform for you to showcase your ideas, and to tell us what you want to see in your city of the future. Your ideas and innovative solutions can give us an insight into ways to make our future better. 

UPF started out with just three activities and 250 student participants. With the third edition this year, we would have reached out to almost 2000 students in Singapore, which is an impressive eightfold increase in terms of participation. It is with the strong support of young people in Singapore that the UPF has expanded to six core activities, from workshops that include field studies, to forums where students can interact with URA planners. 

There was even a mass live art jamming session in which I participated earlier, led by local veteran artist Mr Sun Yu Li. Many of you would have seen his sculptures adorning our cityscape. I hope for all of you to channel your brilliant energy and creativity into co-creating interesting and meaningful public spaces for all. 

Building a network of engaged youths

The number of activities may have doubled, but more importantly, the engagement has deepened with very good results. 

Last year, Muhammad Aiman Bin Mohd Azhan from Catholic Junior College, joined the Challenge for the Urban Built Environment Workshop  (CUBE)1, URA’s annual cornerstone engagement programme. I heard that the programme has inspired him to be an urban designer, to help shape Singapore’s future. In his reflection, he said, “good design is about meeting the needs of people. If you have a nice building but it has no value to people, then it will not matter.” 

Indeed, our work in urban planning and design is first and foremost about the people – addressing your tangible and intangible needs with our creativity and imagination, which makes our work challenging as well as interesting. 

Damien Ho was one of our past student participants in CUBE 2016. Damien enjoyed the programme so much that he volunteered to be a facilitator at CUBE  2017 and is currently interning with URA after his “A” level exams.  

I am very heartened by Damien’s and Muhammad Aiman’s passion. I hope to see them join URA in a few years’ time.

This year, URA piloted the City Ambassador Programme, a volunteer programme for the student community. We hope to empower you, our student leaders, to step up and share the story behind Singapore’s physical transformation. What you see of Singapore today was not what it was 15 or 20 years ago. Some places remain constant and evoke fond memories. But in a city like ours, there will be changes here and there from time to time.

As young City Ambassadors, you will be leading your schoolmates, classmates, friends, families and even members of your community on tours right here in the Singapore City Gallery, in The URA Centre. We hope your enthusiasm will inspire more of your classmates and that we continue to gather support from our local schools. 

We need to start young. We need you to understand what makes Singapore work and you need to tell us what you want from the city of tomorrow because the city will not be yours to keep, but yours to look after for future generations.  

Congratulations to all our students for your good work which is being showcased at these exhibitions. I hope you will continue to enjoy the rest of the activities lined up in this Urban Planning Festival. I look forward to seeing even more participation in future.

I hereby declare your exhibition open. Thank you.

The Challenge for the Urban and Built Environment (CUBE) is an annual workshop and competition for junior college and polytechnic students. Participants put themselves into the shoes of urban planners and architects, and plan for a real site as a group.