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ASPIRATIONAL AUTONOMY A strategy for resilience and multiplicity in Singapore’s public housing scene by Teri Lim

Exploration Continuing from the previous term’s research and findings, I started off by conceptualising the type of intervention that would address the scope of issues and needs identified. A simple wooden block concept model kicked off the idea of retaining existing units, modularised interventions and introducing spatial differentation in the otherwise homogenous HDB experience. Initial attempts at translating the concept to an intervention on the existing blocks allowed me to identify what was effective, practical and value-adding, and what was not. At this stage, I was able to discover and set goals for the project and establish criteria to evaluate my design. This included making decisions on the extent of architect design and resident intervention, the ground experience of residents and social interactions through spatial and relational changes.

Wooden block concept model

(Top) Initial concept image of plan changes, (bottom) section concept image

Render interior view of corridor and extended space

Abstract This thesis studies the Singapore public housing system’s development from its inception in the 1960s. Charting Singapore’s public housing history of experimentation, production and demolition, we see the playing out of ambition, memory and change. I saw change as a fundamental experience, as shifts in needs and desires will definitely occur during the span of one’s lifetime, whether it is because of natural life cycles or personal aspirations. I proposed a strategy through which the future of public housing in Singapore will move away from binary urban vocabulary to embracing multiplicity. This will be done through developing a pervasive renewal scheme that can be applied to existing estates. This new approach will allow for the formation of an architectural buffer in the public housing scene, giving room for more spontaneous and natural behaviour, changing the personal and collective experience of HDB living by giving residents the autonomy to adapt the architecture of their home according to their needs and aspirations. The intervention of an independent structural filter over an existing block of flats in Tanglin Halt currently slated for redevelopment allows for homes and the public corridor to grow and shrink, interacting both constructively and destructively, according to the people’s lives as lived.

Cluster of flats with repositioned roads in surrounding context

1:1000 scale site model indicating surrounding buildings and topography

Concept model of filter’s interaction with existing block.

Massing diagram showing process of interventions

Strategy An enveloping structural filter was chosen as the main strategy to achieve the various types of adaptations desired. The two main types - architect intervention and resident usage - had to be constantly debated between and carefully calibrated into a proper balance. The former is a one-time intervention set in place before user interaction, while the latter is a continuous intervention and based on more unpredictable behaviour. Taking cues from Singapore’s existing Estate Renewal Strategy, my strategy makes changes on a flat, block and neighbourhood scale, and has similar goals of improving social cohesion and upgrading the state of apartments. However, instead of one-size-fits-all solutions, the architect’s design is a singular addition that facilitates and encourages residents to make more personalised and spontaneous changes that reflect their needs and preferences. The approach is thus one of minimal intervention with maximum impact. The simple additional of the structural filter provides for new spaces, interactions and activities.

Rooftop recreational space

Structural filter grid and shared social spaces

(Top) Shared space changes over time (Bottom) Components for pre-fabricated modules & colour schemes for various blocks.

Installation of pre-fabricated modules onto structure

There are two faces to each block - the front, social layer and the back, urban layer. As each household grows or shrinks, it is forced to make an interaction with the structural filter. The two layers of the block then, overtime, begin to interface differently and boundaries become increasingly blurred. This is because as one’s private, domestic home changes to accommodate life’s changes and needs, there is also an impact on the shared space that one’s home interfaces with. The morphology of the building thus changes according to the real-life requirements and aspirations of its users. At regular intervals, upgrading on a block level will be done, where pre-fabricated modules ordered by residents will be installed. The shared corridor that interfaces with each apartment can be extended into the added structure, changing its morphology as well. Even though each face of the block has a different purpose and atmosphere, they are equally dynamic and engaging to residents. The singular strategy of the structural filter tackles all the desired interventions on flat, block and neighbourhood level.

(Top) Possibilities for extension and shrinking, (bottom) Case studies of spaces interacting with filter

Alternating zones of park and utility injecting dynamism to the neighbourhood

1:50 sectional model

1:50 sectional model

1:200 interactive model

Reflections This thesis project turned out to be an exercise in rethinking shared space as much as it was about rethinking domestic space. The two - social and private - seem to have an interesting affinity in the HDB living experience. The placement of the social spaces is an important issue I can continue to explore about high-rise residential buildings. Even though the social space voids were connected by staircases, it is also important to ensure that residents feel empowered and encouraged to use them by placing them favourably. For example, a cluster of residents sharing a designated social space might be more effective than a continuous flow of social spaces. An important consideration during the entire design process was envisioning the eventual real-life use of such an intervention. The success of residential design is largely based on its ability to stay relevant to users overtime and continuously evolve after implementation as no one life ever stays the same.

Overall section perspective showing life and activities in the adapted cluster

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Singapore University of Technology & Design Architecture & Sustainable Design | M.Arch 2016

Aspirational Autonomy | M.Arch Thesis Final Booklet  
Aspirational Autonomy | M.Arch Thesis Final Booklet