Island-ness defines Singapore’s insecurities and desires all at once, and as a nation formulated a single-minded goal of achieving the infinite within its constraints. This is played out mainly in its public housing scheme and results in an architecture of contradiction and compromise. The government’s ability to manoeuvre the fine line between reward and control, contentment and desire, made its housing scheme ideologically successful. With 80 percent of the population housed publicly, an ideal citizen was implemented.
In creation of an ideal citizen, and the populace’s compliance in its acceptance of material progress, the individual is disregarded and isolated. Within each standardised apartment, not only is the habits and rituals of the country’s multi-racial group homogenised, the family structure and each individual’s role is cemented.
Many things become superficially provided as a veil for its true economic motivations. The government has always promoted home-ownership as a nation bonding tool. Only in the late 1990s when retirement funds were spent on the mortgage of a home leaving the elderly cash poor, was the house re-branded as an asset. However policies aimed at maintaining a higher resale value of apartments, meant that the home is far from owned but rather a commodity to be constantly traded in and up; a reminder to be dissatisfied with your current status.
The void deck is provided as public space. However, its close link with the upgrading and maintenance programs of the government to increase the economic value of the estate means it could never function as public. Instead the openness and flexibility created by its unrelenting columns only serve as a stark backdrop for social surveillance. Rather than a place of belonging to contribute to, the void decks expose individuals that threaten the status quo.
More and more, there are less obvious next step-ups to improve the standard of living of the people. Beyond the initial provision of basic needs and then increasing room sizes, aesthetic improvements to façades become weak and less tangible to a dissatisfied population. The recent vigorous push of the country’s green initiatives under their LUSH policies can be read as a struggle to keep up with an unending cycle. The void decks that have been upgraded to sky gardens with trees still function the same. Worse still, they reinforced the claustrophobia inherent in tropical greenery. Under the guise of sustainability associated nature, it is effectively just a coping mechanism draped over a larger problem.
My project challenges this notion of sustainability and directly rejects the infinite. It attempts to
redirect the course Singapore is on, intervening within the sphere of the Housing Development Board. Strategically, the project accommodates a wide subject group and starts at the scale of the room. It dissolves the notion of a central living room by arraying a series of six volumes in an independent, un-choreographed grid.
Creating the room of the individual, a space is craved out from of a solid 2.1 meter square concrete volume. The rounded interior and non-extravagant dimensions creates an enclosed and protected condition. Openings are punctured into the room for windows and entrances that orientate the room to the periphery of slab. These punctures accentuate the curve of the interior against the straight edge of the exterior. Juxtaposing soft with hard, seclusion with openness.
The volumes’ exterior when arrayed next to each other become frames. A second bedroom type, toilets, kitchens and other facilities; a catalogue of six volumes. The plan becomes a purity of rooms without any corridors.
The project thus immerses the user in a density of sequential experiences, through tight thresholds and board spaces.
Every part of the home becomes charged, the relation between each space is re-considered and redefined by the user.
This flexibility is not a day to day change but one that is built up over time. The longer one lives in the space, the more it becomes their own. A chair that is always placed at a corner that redirects the circulation through the home. Or the relation of the kitchen (fixed) to a dining table (free) that establishes a specific behaviour of eating and cooking.
On the scale of the block the project takes the form of the slab, the 6 units are repeated length wise creating two separate lines of circulation on both sides of its periphery. These two corridors define the most private and most public parts of the home separately. Again the plan rejects the notion of binary opposites but acknowledges a scenario where a spectrum exist. This ambiguity creates the opportunity for individuals to build value in their home beyond that of its market value. Thus releasing the home from its role as an asset and profit generation. As the apartments begin to interweave with each other, the boundary between each family is blurred. Thus challenging a tangible way for occupants to position themselves against each other. The ideal citizen crumbles.
On the ground floor the slabs are mirrored length wise creating a sunken courtyard between them. Arranged in a checker box pattern with gardens in between, the ground level creates a condition of permeability. Compared to the lower ground which performs as a refuge. Contextually the project forms a carpet like condition that bleeds into its surroundings. In conclusion my project tries to create the in between; the ambiguous, and intangible. Earlier in Singapore’s history homogeneity was not only seen as a necessity but also an end point. By not accepting the clear cut notion of ideal, the project suggests that the common ground is really the starting point. Thus becoming the foundation to achieve a subsequent reality that is much more untidy but hopefully rich.