Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Casino Urbanisms: Networks of Profit and the Architectural Fix

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Silveroak I, Ground Floor

The liberalization of commercial gambling and the immense accumulation of private wealth in Asia has led to a boom in the global casino industry and today, Macau, Singapore and Manila are the metropolitan centers of casino gambling in Asia. This has produced two interrelated urban phenomena - 1. a proliferation of special economic zones or exclusive licensing regimes which attempt to capture the flow of capital within and across national territories, and 2. A proliferation of architectural spectacles that mediate between a drive towards hyper-consumerism and the social stigma or political sensitivity still attached to gambling. This project shows how casino cities operate as concrete sites where the hyper-circulation of surplus capital clashes with national territorialities and socio-political norms, a conflict that is both expressed in and resolved through spatial strategies of containment and representation. I call these strategies “architectural fix”. 

In Macau, Singapore, and Manila, casino development entailed the suspension of legal norms and the creation of extraterritorial jurisdictions. In Macau, incumbent casino operators compete against new players from the US and Australia in a geopolitical environment dominated by the PRC. In Singapore, officials struggle to segregate the casino economy from the local population. However, in Manila, the national gaming regulator is also one of the key casino developers along with other local and Asian investors. Building on Agamben’s concept of “exception” and Debord’s concept of “spectacle”, this project foregrounds the role of architecture in mystifying the unbundling of legality, territoriality, and sovereignty in this part of the world.

Kah-Wee Lee

National University of Singapore, Singapore


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3 - Casino Urbanisms: Networks of Profit and the Architectural Fix

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