Urban Design and Economic Growth: An Analytical Tale of Two Tropical Cities





urban design, economic growth, tropical cities, Singapore, Cairns


Federal and local governments around the world usually hail urbanisation as a sign of economic progress. However, the relationship is not that simple. The existence of agglomeration economies does not mean that urbanisation will directly result in positive economic outcomes. Also, there is significant diversity in urban growth patterns, with each pattern resulting in different economic and social outcomes. The diversity in patterns of urban growth and transformation implies that different economies can grow at different speeds in achieving socioeconomic goals. This study explores the urban development of two tropical cities – Cairns and Singapore – with a focus on their different urban growth patterns. Cairns is an expanding tropical Australian city located far from main urban centres, meaning it needs attention to foster positive change that will produce distinctive urban spaces which improve quality of life while providing economic growth opportunities. The city of Singapore is a tropical island-state situated near the equator with limited land and natural resources, and one of the largest urban populations in Southeast Asia. Its landscapes are constantly changing as urban planning plays a key role in formulating and guiding the physical terrains of modern Singapore, thereby shaping the quality of life of its population.

Author Biographies

Taha Chaiechi, James Cook University, Australia

Dr Taha Chaiechi is Associate Professor of Economics in the College of Business, Law and Governance where she is also Australia Director, Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA). Currently Taha is serving James Cook University as Expert Member on the Academic Board. Previously she has contributed to the governance and the Teaching & Learning profile of the College in different capacities. She is also Associate Editor-in-Chief, Bulletin of Applied Economics (ABDC ranked). Taha is an expert in systematic modelling of dynamic relationships between economic, environmental and social variables. Her research attitude is holistic and inspired by issues in climate change and natural disasters, and their impacts on different economic sectors such as health, tourism, environment, energy, and cities. At the core of her research philosophy is sustainable development, and she uses the 2030 Agenda as a malleable guide throughout her research. Taha’s multidisciplinary research approach has resulted in numerous collaborative projects over a broad spectrum of research topics, with the intention to enhance methodological approaches that are especially suitable for sustainability analysis.   

Caroline Wong, James Cook University Singapore

Dr Caroline Wong is the Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching (ADLT) and a Senior Lecturer at James Cook University Singapore. Her research in knowledge management takes on a multidisciplinary approach that extends into knowledge-based cities, smart cities, creative cities, and creative industries with special focus on Singapore. She was a founding member of the International Scientific Committee of the Knowledge Cities World Summit in Monterrey (Mexico) in 2007 and a member of the International Advisory Board on knowledge-based cities 2007-2009. She has published in the Journal of Competence-Based Strategic Management,  International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Journal of Knowledge Management and the Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice.

Silvia Tavares, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

Dr Silvia Tavares is an urban designer with a background in architecture, urbanism, and building and city science. She is a lecturer and researcher at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, and has fifteen years experience working as a researcher in institutions in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Brazil. She is currently a member of research groups in Brazil and Australia, as well as research teams with colleagues from the Netherlands, USA, Ecuador, Singapore, Belgium and Kenya. Silvia recently delivered a keynote at the International Conference on Architecture in Tropical Environments at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Montpellier in La Réunion (France). Her research focuses on providing evidence to produce public open spaces that are thermally comfortable and promote the good health of users and the natural environments that surround them.


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How to Cite

Chaiechi, T., Wong, C., & Tavares, S. (2020). Urban Design and Economic Growth: An Analytical Tale of Two Tropical Cities. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 19(2), 172–200. https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.19.2.2020.3741