The Multiple Spaces of Bukit Brown

'The Multiple Spaces of Bukit Brown' by Terence Chong and Chua Ai Lin; Photos by Terence Heng; published in _Public Space In Urban Asia_ edited by William Lim (2014)

This paper explores the spatial history and meanings of Bukit Brown Cemetery. Beginning with its colonial appropriation from ethnic exclusivity for municipal inclusivity and the contestations that follow, Bukit Brown became a ritualised space upon its closure in 1973 as it became as a site for lifestyle rituals such as jogging and horse-ridding and religious rituals for Qing Ming and grave cleaning. It is asserted that Bukit Brown has been successfully constructed as an ‘authentic’ space and this has allowed it to transcend ethnic groups. This paper will also discuss Bukit Brown in parallel to other sites such as Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the latter of which has prompted a national assessment of universal heritage. The complexity of Bukit Brown is unpacked with a survey of policy implications in the areas of transportation, urban planning, and population and economic growth. Finally, government-civil society dispute over Bukit Brown will be argued to be the result of the struggle over the definition of ‘national interests’, its encapsulation of different policy implications, and a misalignment of expectations.