Observation: Sidewalks in Singapore appear to be built without any awareness of the buildings on either side. I am not just referring to aesthetic differences either. Walking down a street often entailed the constant stepping up, stepping down, or stepping over ledges or open gutters between sidewalks of different buildings.

Thought: This approach to urban development seem to indicate compartmentalised thinking. The designers and planners of a new building only sees that building, isolated on a white computer screen or a large sheet of paper.

Observation: Sidewalks in China can be described as “surprising”. Careful attention had to be paid when walking down the street. There are often unexpected holes (of varying sizes), missing manhole covers, ledges (called Buddha’s shoulders), and other obstructions. Sometimes, a sidewalk would suddenly vanish. I have even been told to avoid stepping on non-missing manhole covers as they could be dangerous, non-load-bearing fakes – where the original has been stolen for scrap metal.

Thought: I take sidewalks for granted in general. I generally walk down streets assuming the surface will be reasonably flat and free of drop or trip hazards. This frees me to think about stuff (many of the posts on this blog originated when walking somewhere). In China, I found myself more preoccupied with negotiating the sidewalk and avoiding manholes (covered or otherwise). Could fixing up the sidewalks increase a nation’s ability to be creative? Seriously…