Freeways in the sky

I’ve just visited the Keppel Bay residential estate by Studio Libeskind, a luxury apartment development in Singapore — through barbed wire. I’ve also been reading Peter Adey’s very helpful book, Mobilities. The Keppel Bay development puts me in mind of some of the key themes of the book, which summarises how geographers and sociologists think about space and movement.


The Keppel Bay development is exclusive, private, and aspirational. It fits within the politics of mobility. Access is by car (or boat). It’s part of a luxury marina. It’s for the upwardly mobile in terms of income, or at least those who’ve made it. It’s also sold on the basis of its iconic architecture, and it’s by an iconic architect. 

Keppel Bay announces itself to the rest of the world via its landmark high rise towers, which look out to the bay, golf course, marina, cruise ship terminus, etc. This is unlike much of the famous, densely-packed residential high rise development in Singapore, which looks out to other densely-packed high rise buildings.

High-rise represents a kind of “Hyper-mobility” according to Adey. There’s vertical exaggeration. It’s the stuff of the future, fast movement, and of scifi. Keppel Bay has linking bridges, terraces, cascading roof gardens, roof cranes, and extended vertical framing, not to mention curves. Towers invoke a centrifugal logic, which is all about speed, and the formal expression of mobility. (See blog post Swinging.)

Feelings and mobility

According to Adey, mobility is everywhere. It also involves synchronization: “I expect certain mobilities to synchronize with me.” It’s about sociability, or its lack. We move around together. Mobility is a case of “being mobile-with.” Our mobility disrupts, and even creates space. Space is changed every time we move or are mobile: “our mobilities make waves.”

Mobility is also something we feel, and feelings are defined through mobility. Events move us, and emotion is a motivation for movement: to run, get out of the way, head towards. Human geographer Nigel Thrift, for example, talks about mobility “as a particular structure of feeling.” Calling on William James’ famous characterisation of emotion, Adey reminds us that “the feeling of being frightened is bound up in the mobility of running and in the qualitative emotion itself.”

Movement is simply getting from A to B, the trajectory of a line as abstract geometry and subject to calculation, but “Mobility is movement imbued with meaning.” The movement-mobility relationship is akin to the way theorists think of space (measurable) and place (significance, memory, meaning), or time (what clocks tell us) and temporality (rhythms of life, the experience of duration), or even building (bricks and mortar, economics) and architecture (meaningful dwelling, habitation).


Cruise ship in foreground and with cable car above Looking over barbed wire fenceBlank


  • Adey, Peter. 2010. Mobility. London: Routledge


Cartoonish characters getting on and off a train

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