Urban Imagery and the Main Street of the Nation: The Legibility of Orchard Road in the Eyes of Singaporeans

10 May, 2016

Photo Credit: SRN’s SG Photobank

This paper, published in 1996 in the Urban Studies journal, was authored by Henry Wai-chung Yeung and Victor R Savage, faculty members at the Department of Geography, FASS, National University of Singapore. It applies Kevin Lynch’s famous thesis of legibility to the main street of Singapore – Orchard Road. It is primarily concerned with three issues. How legible is Orchard Road in the eyes of Singaporeans? Who finds Orchard Road legible? If so, why is Orchard Road legible to Singaporeans? Based upon a combination of a comprehensive questionnaire survey of Singaporeans and personal interviews with residents and businessmen operating in Orchard Road, this paper argues that the landscape of Orchard Road, known as the “Orchardscape”, is very legible to most Singaporeans. Its legibility is particularly prominent among those with higher education and higher income levels. The legibility of the Orchardscape is explained in relation to the personal and cultural background of individual Singaporeans and landscape cues. The authors argue that both sets of factors must be taken into consideration in understanding the image of the city. Some practical implications for future city design and planning are offered in the concluding section of the paper.

Read the full paper here.