Dr Jeffrey Chan publishes book on how urban dimensions shape design ethics

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HASS Assistant Professor Jeffrey Chan has published a new book, Urban Ethics in the Anthropocene: The moral dimensions of six emerging conditions in contemporary urbanism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). The book was launched at The Pod, National Library on 2 Nov 2018 and attracted a healthy crowd of engaged students, academics and members of the public.

From left to right: Dr Sandeep Ray, Assistant Professor Jeffrey Chan, Professor Lim Sun Sun, and Professor Kristin Wood

Head of HASS Professor Lim Sun Sun chaired the event, together with Associate Provost of Graduate Studies and Co-Director of the SUTD-MIT International Design Centre Professor Kristin Wood as expert discussant sharing his thoughts on the role of design in the urban city today. He then joined Dr. Chan in a rich dialogue with the audience on the book’s main thrusts.

An alumnus of Harvard University and UC Berkeley, Assistant Professor Chan is an emerging voice on design ethics in urban planning. After disclosing that he is a closet introvert, he went on to share his thoughts on the current dearth of discourse on the ethical ramifications of urban conditions and hence, the need for a systematic study of the city through an ethical lens.

The book suggests that today in the Anthropocene, an era where human activity is having significant impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, there are six key areas that have arisen to influence ethical decision making. These are namely precarity, propinquity, conflict, serendipity, fear and the urban commons. Dr Chan argues that examining these conditions are of utmost importance in urban design and planning. The book proposes that our environment is increasingly one of a “world as design” – one comprising artificial systems atop the natural world. Singapore, for example, is a nation by design – a city state where design thinking is increasingly critical in proper urban planning. And part of the design decisions process requires a thorough look at the moral and ethical considerations.

The event ended with an invigorating question and answer session which triggered an especially vibrant exchange on how design can engender serendipity.