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City Playbook

Wong Qi Rong Gabrielle

- Adj. Asst. Prof. Tiah Nan Chyuan


Every city is composed of multiple narratives from a myriad of perspectives. These narratives are often in conflict and contrast with one another. The popularity and sequence of these narratives in both space and the media govern the city’s dominant image.

Not every narrative gets to be told.

Born out of a conviction in the fluid relationship between stories and architecture, my thesis project offers a framework connecting stories and space, by which the story of a city may be studied, modulated and retold.

The project synthesizes findings from a sincere and naive exploration of narrative theory, spatial and narrative analysis of cities in film and in reality, as well as on-site testing, interviews and long hours of exploration to arrive at its present output of the City Playbook.

Essentially, it is a guide to city placemaking, in which each city placemaking campaign is modelled after the internationally popular kishotenketsu narrative structure.



The thesis is understood as a work-in-progress as a contribution to the field of collective architectural knowledge and spatial toolkit.

The initial research comprises an extensive exploration across a range of sources and inspiration. It draws upon analyses of community vs. popular narrative on Christmas Island, stories and space in Daechi-dong in Seoul, South Korea, as well as an exercise in playing Game-Master, spatially orchestrating the scenes in David Fincher’s 1997 film The Game

The current output composes of the Playbook structure, two sample campaigns, as well as image and video documentation of several design measures that were physically implemented and tested. The resulting Playbook structure is modelled after the internationally popular kishotenketsu narrative structure. It is offered through two contrasting sample campaigns: Geylang and Yishun neighborhood.

Geylang neighborhood was chosen because of the well-known negative image of being vice-stricken and dangerous. It is also a non-fiction, meaning that the stories that come together to create this image are rooted in real events ubiquitously happening in space.

In contrast, Yishun neighborhood is a well-known victim of viral meme culture. To this day the image persists, it is well-known enough to be slipped in as a standing joke. Yishun contrasts with Geylang because it is fiction, meaning that the stories that make up this image are rooted in sensationalism or isolated one-off events that are cherry-picked to suit the existing narrative.

Hence, these two sites with opposite relationships to physical space and behavior were chosen as contrasting case studies.


The project is very much still in its infancy in the desired scope it hopes to achieve, but it is hoped that my thesis will make a small but meaningful contribution to the existing body of knowledge of space and architecture.

Thank you for visiting my project page!

For a full summary of research or other queries, please reach me at

Supervisor's comments:

The construct of how we consume information and form an understanding of a place was put to question in this thesis. The project developed into a playbook to help cities shape their narratives. Starting from an audit of existing online narratives of a place or city, the playbook proceeds to suggest different strategies to shift the narratives, from employing social media engagement to participatory design and crafting chance encounters. The project extended beyond the academic realm and took direct action at two locations in Singapore in an attempt to demonstrate the efficacy of the playbook.

- Adj. Asst. Prof. Tiah Nan Chyuan
Wong Qi Rong Gabrielle

Do everything with either love or sincerity, do some things with both :)