What Makes a City? The beauty of Architecture is that it encompasses many. From the theories and practical skills, we learn from school to the subtleties we catch in the buildings around us. Typically, when someone thinks about architecture or anyone related to the study of architecture, they are reminded of the solemnity and the dullness of the long hours one needs to put into their craft. Albeit the schoolings and workings of architecture may come off as serious and tiresome, there are its more beautiful and uncanny sides to it. In 2016-2019, I spent my time pursuing the Diploma of Landscape Architecture and found joy in designing and observing how landscape spaces integrate with architecture buildings. The injecting of rural greeneries into urban spaces intrigues me. Understanding how important greeneries and sustainable design are in this global climate, I decided to pursue Architecture as my major in university to further expand my studies in design and building architecture.

Michelangelo’s David | What Makes a City

During my break and before I entered university, my family and I made a trip to Europe for vacation and whilst I was there, I was blessed to be able to explore and admire architecture buildings that date back from the 17th century. The more prominent architecture buildings I had seen were The Pantheon in Rome, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, and Grand-Place in Brussels. Besides the building architecture, I have seen on the trip, the street artefacts and art pieces are the ones I found rather different and interesting. 

Take Michelangelo’s David for an example, the sculpture is made in full marble and considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance. It first stood in Piazza della Signoria and eventually moved into Galleria dell’Accademia. Michelangelo’s David too is mentioned to be the world’s most beautiful man despite its odd proportions. It served to be the representation of the ideal male form that holds a confident and sharp look or otherwise to represent Florence’s intricate position under the control of the Medici family. David’s watchful look and readiness to combat is often interpreted as Florence’s aspirations to protect its civil liberties. 

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Michelangelo’s David in Galleria dell’Accademia _©Kevia Tan

Upon seeing Michelangelo’s David first-hand, the first thing I realised was that he is nude, and many people were staring and admiring this beautifully sculpted sculpture. With little knowledge of who and what Michelangelo’s David represents, I was bewildered at his nudity. Even though the sight of David is magnificent and truly spectacular, I embarrassingly at first glance thought it to be funny when my tour guide mentioned he was designed to be on a roof and that he is the embodiment of the ideal male form. Without a doubt, David is perfect with its asymmetrical posture also otherwise known as contrapposto and Michelangelo’s detailed craft skills that made this huge sculpture to be one that is realistic and thorough to the human form.

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Michelangelo’s David in Galleria dell’Accademia _©Delia Giandeini

Manneken Pis

Before seeing Michelangelo’s David in Florence, I visited Brussels, Belgium. Apart from the beautiful Grand-Place, chocolates, and warm Belgium waffles, I came wanting to see Manneken Pis, a bronze fountain sculpture of a naked small boy peeing into the basin of the fountain. After roaming the streets of Brussels and through the Grand-Place, we decided to check out the Manneken Pis. A couple of turns and great help from Google Maps, we finally catch ourselves standing in front of the Manneken Pis, the unexpectedly tiny sculpture of a boy peeing. As though in sync, we all burst into laughter at the same time. Maybe it was how tiny the boy is in comparison to what we all initially had in mind or it could be because it’s a sculpture of a small boy peeing and people from different parts of the world coming to see it. 

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Manneken Pis Brussels, Belgium _©Frédéric Paulussen

It is funny to think that the Manneken Pis serves as an urban artefact and a landmark of Brussels. How this tiny sculpture has come to be of importance to Brussels. One of the more popular reasons as to why the sculpture was made was that Julien, a small boy saved the city of Brussels. He saw a burning fuse and decided to pee on it which if he did not, it could have ignited hidden gunpowder that enemies have left behind. In recognition of his actions, Brussels made a statue in his likeness. There are several other popular and probable stories that have resulted in Manneken Pis to exist, but it’s’ true and accurate reason is still unknown. Manneken Pis to owns over 900 clothes that he wears throughout the year. Moreover, it is baffling to know how popular this sculpture was, with its sculpture being repeatedly stolen. The original sculpture was made in 1619 by Hieronimus Duquesnoy and was stolen, broken, and glued back together. It now resides in Maison du Roi on the Grand-Place. The current statue that sits at the corner of Rue d I’Étuve dates back from 1965.

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Manneken Pis in clothes Brussels, Belgium _©Juliana

Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis | What Makes a City

To add to this humorous experience, the Manneken Pis was not the only peeing statue we saw in Brussels. We went ahead and looked out for Jeanneke Pis, a female version of the Manneken Pis sculptured in 1987. She sits on a dead-end street along Impasse de la Fidélité. We went to see her and to no surprise, she too is a tiny girl that is squatting to pee into a fountain basin. The family of urban artefacts did not stop here. Zinneke Pis, a peeing dog was next on the list. He pees at the side of the road of Rue des Chartreux. The dog is however not a fountain but just a statue and in my humblest opinion the best looking one of the three.

Zinneke Piss the less well-known counterpart of the Manneken and Jeanneke Pis family of artefacts _©Juliana

All in all, urban artefacts and art that resides with and alongside architecture play a big role in defining a city. Triumph David in nude serves to be the symbol of Florence whereas, for Brussels and its sense of humour, the city chose the peeing boy with many legends attached to its existence to be the city’s mascot. Although in theory architecture and the study of what contributes to a city may be dry, it too can be one that is perplexing or even humorous at times. 


Currently an architecture student in National University of Singapore (NUS), she wishes to eventually live in a van, swims with whales and delve into different works of arts. An avid learner who strives to be of an all-rounded individual, she too is a lover of words, psychology, and human experiences.