Imaginaries of the Future City in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Vienna

Pathways to Recognition, Competitiveness, and Conviviality

  • Barbara Götsch Institute for Social Anthropology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
Keywords: urban imaginary, future, city planning, translocal learning, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Vienna, city museums, entrepreneurial city, imagineering


Today, cities the world over are entangled in aspirational future visions, as regions compete with others in different parts of the world for investment, tourists, and talent to guarantee economic growth. This paper approaches the cities of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Vienna via their self-presentations and projections of the future. It sees cities as learning assemblages and pays attention to the narrative construction of imaginaries and future trajectories, as depicted in the respective city galleries and planning museums. All cities are found to be entangled in international policy trends and, in their unique ways, strive for recognition, competitiveness, and conviviality. Singapore emerges as torn between ambition, transparency, and control, while wanting to foster creativity and revive its cultural heritage; Kuala Lumpur appears simultaneously geared by boosterism and at home in opacity and multiplicity, privileging Malays while trying not to alienate other ethnic groups; and Vienna ambivalently projects a future that reconciles nostalgia for monarchic splendor and the social-democratic heritage of egalitarian urbanism with ambitions for international recognition and newly popular trends for citizen participation and “rights to the city.”