07 Feb 2017

Shaping Singapore

Conducting an urban symphony


Photo by Yen Meng Jiin

Trained as an architect, Koon Hean Cheong (AMP 173, 2007) was initially disappointed when she found herself in a planning role in Singapore’s Public Works Department after graduation. “It wasn’t where I wanted to go,” she told The Business Times of Singapore. “I did very well in architecture.”

It didn’t take long, however, for Cheong to understand the challenges and opportunities afforded by urban planning’s broader scope, particularly in a land-constrained city-state like Singapore. “In architecture, you are only looking at a singular project, but when you do planning, you are looking at the whole country, and then you are looking at specific areas,” she says.

Currently CEO of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (and a former CEO of its Urban Redevelopment Authority), Cheong was the first Asian to be awarded the Urban Land Institute’s J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.

“Singapore’s story is about how a land- and resource-poor city-state has managed to develop a highly livable, high-density city,” she said in her acceptance remarks last October. “Doing this has not come easy. It requires collective effort, innovative policies and plans, and dedicated and capable people, all supported by strong leadership.”


Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of AMP 173

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