Singapore Architecture

The information below are extracted directly from ‘Singapore Architecture’ by Robert Powell. Only relevant information will be written and it will be paraphrased and be included in my final report.

Book: Singapore Architecture

Author: Robert Powell

Publisher: Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd in 2004

Purpose of this book: This book explains the history the different buildings that I will be researching on mainly, Golden Mile Complex, Pearl Bank Apartments, People’s Park Complex. These buildings will be up for en bloc and I want to find out the background on these buildings.

History of Singapore urban planning

Singapore became an independent nation in 1965. Lee kuan Yew was the first elected Prime Minister of the city-state, and imposed a unique style of paternalistic socialism. The Government’s Home Ownership Scheme was introduced, and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) set about a massive housing programme which transformed the country with the establishment of new towns. Today almost 90 percent of the Singapore population lives in high-rise public housing designed by the HDB. 

In the ten years after independence, the embryonic Singapore architectural profession was beginning to make headway and a strong portfolio of experimental architecture was emerging, driven by the enthusiasm of a small number of dedicated young architects.

The first cohort of architectural students from the Singapore Polytechnic School of Architecture graduated in 1964. They too were inspired by the idealism, and the radical mood of the time.

Golden Mile Complex

Image from The Straits Times; Gavin Foo (

Woh Hup Complex, built in 1974, later renamed as Golden Mile Complex, in Beach Road. This building was influenced by the Brutalist style of Peter and Alison Smithson, the interlocking geometries in the work of Alfred Neumann and by Fumihiko Maki’s work on Collective Form. The lower floors contain offices and a retail mall. The design was intended to set the urban pattern for the development of Beach Road by employing an extruded section that would stretch along the East Coast facing the sea, serviced from the rear with a Mass Rapid Transit line and a continuous pedestrian spine. The design was influenced by the Linear City concepts of Le Corbusier and Soria y Mata. The Golden Mile Complex preceded by several years avant-garde stepped-section buildings which were built in the UK and Europe.

Pearl Bank Apartments

Image from

Pearl Bank Apartments, built in 1976, is a 37-story tower, experimental project done by Archynamics Architects/Archurban Architects Planners, headed by designer, Tan Cheng Siong. At the time it was the tallest residential block in Singapore and had the largest number of apartments contained in a single block. The structural concept utilized 10 radiating shear walls as party walls. Designed for a total occupancy of 1500 persons, it also had the higest density of any private modern residential block (1,853 persons/ha). The apartments varied from one to four bedrooms and there were right penthouses. The 28th floor was allocated for community use.

People’s Park Complex

Image from

Built from 1970 to 1973 and designed by Design Architect, the People’s Park Complex is a huge mixed-use of its type in the Southeast Asia, challenging the idea of single-use zoning; the focus was two multi-story interlocking atriums.


The information below are extracted directly from ‘Singapore 1:1 – City’ by Dr. Wong Yunn Chii. Only relevant information will be written and it will be paraphrased and be included in my final report.

Book: Singapore 1:1 – City

Author: Dr. Wong Yunn Chii

Publisher: Urban Redevelopment Authority in November 2007

Purpose of this book: This book explains the history the different buildings that I will be researching on mainly, Golden Mile Complex, Pearl Bank Apartments, People’s Park Complex. These buildings will be up for en bloc and I want to find out the background on these buildings.

Architecture, as both a cultural artifice and a concept, is fundamentally a product of a city. Singapore architecture, in the first decade of the nation (1965-1975), could arguably be the architecture of its city, and as such, our beginnings as a nation can be understood through out urban architecture.

Essay: Value of Architecture by Tai Lee Siang, President of Singapore Institute of Architects

Role of Architecture

It is such lack of creativity, understanding and knowledge that plague the appreciation of architecture and its role in society. One may ask, is there architecture beyond icons and landmarks? Today, commercial capitalism has taken over the role of producing modern landmarks. Yet, the disparity between great icons and the rest continues to exist in many cities. Architecture may still remain meaningless and irrelevant to most people.

It is commonly agreed today that Singapore is a beautiful city. However, this beauty seems to be associated more with the physical transformation in the last 30 years. This inevitably inculcates an attitude that only the “newest” part of the city is beautiful and the rest is not. This will also lead to a tendency to reject the old and embrace the new even as we step into the future.

Not satisfied with just mimicking the old tropical architecture of colonial past and inspired by the new confidence and optimism of the nation, these early practitioners sought to transfer the architecture landscape by addressing urban, social and architectural issues. The result is a whole series of architecture that is sometimes ‘utopian’. The great examples are the Golden Mile Complex, Pearl’s Hill Apartments and People’s Park Complex. These buildings are often not beautiful by today’s aesthetics standards but they were giants in their times. More importantly, these buildings are life documentary of a generation architects’ struggle to cope with economic constraints and the desire to make useful contributions to a budding nation. 

We always have a beautiful city even from day one. Though we suffered from un-coordinated growth and the world wars, we bounce back with an even more beautiful city. Our city, like its occupants, celebrates life and death. It grew, deteriorated, died and regenerates itself. This is the law of nature. En-bloc redevelopment is part and parcel of this urban phenomenon. Taken in the right spirit, en-bloc redevelopment is positive demonstration of the desire for change for the better.

Such rapid urban renewal is a reflection of a people not satisfied with their origins and is always seeking opportunities for growth and changes. People in these societies can never easily come to terms with their past but always yearning for the future. However, a successful mature city is one that started with good urban and social foundations, mature through ages and totally secured in its own destiny. People must learn to treasure their history and heritage. Changes for future must be moderated with a view to saving our past and strengthening our identity.

Rapid urbanisation continues to pose a threat over the fate of good buildings erected in the last 30 odd years. If left unchecked, there will be little that one can do to keep the identity of young cities like ours. Singapore’s situation is not unique and there are worst examples where even older heritage buildings are not spared the demolition ball. The question is: Can Singapore stand out to be an example of successful integration of the old and new without compromising other social and political agenda?

The question is: Can Singapore stand out to be an example of successful integration of the old and new without compromising other social and political agenda?

The society must collectively agree that we don’t need to demolish everything that is old – “a kind of architecture euthanasia“. We must agree collectively to find solutions to met the various demands such as commercial needs without losing the heritage.

Pearl Banks Apartment

The distinctive 38-story shorse-shaped private apartment block at Outram incorporates a multitude of design strategies that gives it a characteristics expression and offers a unique living experience. 

Completed in 1976, it was then the tallest residential building in Singapore, and one with the highest density for a private residential development. The 272-unit apartment block comprises three types of split-level units – two bedroom (130 sq meters), three-bedroom (176.5 sq metres) and four-bedroom (213.7 sq metres) dwellings, with eight units to each floor – and an additional eight penthouses. A shopping area on the first story and a four-story carpark complete the development. 

The effect of the split level approach in spatial planning is organically expressed as facet of the building. Each unit is further zoned into ‘public’ and ‘private’ areas to offer maximum exclusivity and views to the occupants. The utilities and service areas are located at the ‘rear’ of the apartments, overlooking the central courtyard, to avoid any obstruction of view. The opening in the circular structure faces west and minimises direct penetration of heat and light from the afternoon sun into the building. Meanwhile, the silts in the circular slab allow for effective ventilation into the internal courtyard.

The structure comprises ten radiating sheer walls, which also serve as party walls between the units. These elements, along with the additional structural columns and lift cores, follow the radial form of the building and ensure a tidy facade.

Pearl Bank Apartments is one of the pioneers of luxury, high-rise, high-density living in Singapore, setting the standards in subsequent condominiums for the provision of communal amenities, such as common areas, swimming pools, clubhouses, etc.

People’s Park Complex

People’s Park Complex can lay claim to being a significant Asian modernist structure. As the nation’s earliest prototype of an instant city, it was designed to revitalise one of the most populated and traditional enclaves in post-enclaves in post-independent Singapore. 

People’s Park Complex was the highest bid in an early Government Land Sales programme. Completed in 1973, it occupied 1.0 hectare in the heart of Chinatown and was the largest shopping complex in the shopping cum commercial belt running along Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road. 

People’s Park Complex was envisioned as “a new nucleus within the whole fabric of the city core”. Its success can be attributed to several factors. Being a “people’s shopping centre”, the complex is strategically located one of the most populous areas in the city. The high amount of human traffic ensures a continuous stream of potential customers at all times The animated retail spaces convey a bazaar-like atmosphere that vividly recalls the “People’s Park” moniker. This bustling quality is clearest on the first-story, where a large number of “turn-over shops” and kiosks encourage intimate browsing along the pedestrian concourse. The large internal atrium, the first of its kind in Singapore, also transforms People’s Park Complex into a popular “city room”. The complex layering of space created by the tiered floor planes and dramatic staircases leading upwards from the first story is a favourite area for people who want to watch and be seen. All these features have re-established the patterns of movement around the site to effectively invigorate the building.

The residential block above the podium represents a new type of urban community. A development of the Corbusian ideal, its 25 levels have been nicknamed “streets in the air”. They offer convenient spots for social interaction and intermingling. The roof-level common area contained shared facilities, like a creche and open-air play space, to enliven the spirit of communal living. 

The original exterior finish of People’s Park Complex was exposed raw concrete, in keeping with the ‘Brutalist” architectural style. This design language is also manifested in the strong articulation of the tower and podium, and the circular portholes topping off the residential tower.

As an urban prototype, People’s Park Complex provides an important reference for subsequent shopping centers in Singapore. Its “under-one-roof shopping” model also showcases how huge retail-residential spaces can be managed and influenced the design of many shopping centres throughout the region. 

Golden Mile Complex

The 16-story Golden Mile Complex provides offices, shopping, entertainment services and apartment living within its podium and stepped terrace structure. Golden Mile Complex is an early manifestation of integrating multiple operations into one mixed-use complex. 

Golden Mile Complex is an exemplary type of “megastructure” describe by architectural historian, Reyner Banham. It is one of the few that have been actually realised in the world. It successfully propagates high-density usage and diversity under a broad range of ideas advanced by the Japanese Metabolist movement. This ‘vertical city’ stands in contrast to homogenised cities where functional zoning restrains all signs of the latter’s vitality. 

Conceived as a prototypical environment of life and lights, the Golden Mile Complex catalysed urban development along Beach Road when first built. Such a “city corridor” was envisaged as a new high-intensity Asian urbanism aligning with the linear city model originally proposed by Le Corbusier and Soria y Mata.

The narrowness of this sloping slab form enhances natural ventilation and shades a lofty communal concourse above the podium along Beach Road. Staggered atria for offices and shops allow natural light into the heart of the building. Two-story maisonnette penthouses crown off the building, and all apartments have balconies and full view of the city’s waterfront. the stepped terrace design also reduces the impact of noise from the road traffic. 

Golden Mile Complex is clearly a pioneer of its time – in adopting a mixed-use typology, it serves as a precedent for ambitiously attempting to create within a complex, elements that would support the idea of a revitalised city. 

FYP Review Feedback

I consolidated the supervisors’ feedback from FYP review.

What are the missing stories?
Why should we listen to them?
What will these add to the current landscape of en bloc?

Think about projection in relation to context – Why is there a need?
Looking into video art/projection

Need to justify how architecture and urbanism define SG/GER cities in relation to their historical development – Find points of convergence on how architecture is a mirror of historical past.

Interesting concept to connect dance to architecture. However, I need to present my point of view and who am I addressing it to.

Currently, it’s all over the place, too wide and many. More focus is needed on the subject (en-bloc).  It is better to say my project is an exploration of human experiences rather than how to explore human experiences. The former is a poetic exploration while the latter is problem solving.

Research (Read)

  • Isaac Julian
  • Stan Douglas
  • Rafael Lorenzo
  • Krzystof Wodizzko

The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

The information below are extracted directly from ‘The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses’ by Juhani Pallasmaa. Only relevant information will be written and it will be paraphrased and be included in my final report.

Book: The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

Author: Juhani Pallasmaa

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd in 2012, First published in 1996

Purpose of this book: This book explains the idea of relationship between architecture and the senses of the human. It explains how one informs the other, creating an exchange between the two. The book further progresses and explains architecture as a metaphysical ideology that strengthened the individual’s self-being.

The essential mental task of buildings is accommodation and integration. They project our human measures and sense of order into the measureless and meaningless natural space. Architecture does not make us inhabit worlds of mere fabrication and fantasy; it articulates the experience of our being-in-the-world and strengthens our sense of reality and self. – Page 12

The sense of self, strengthened by art and architecture, also permits us to engage fully in the mental dimensions of dream, imagination and desire. Buildings and cities provide the horizon for the understanding and confronting of the human existential condition. – Page 13

The ultimate meaning of any building is beyond architecture; it directs our consciousness back to the world and towards our own sense of self and being. Profound architecture makes us experience our embodied and spiritual beings. – Page 13

Architecture, as with all art, is fundamentally confronted with questions of human existence in space and time; it expresses and relates man’s being in the world. Architecture is deeply engaged in the metaphysical questions of the self and the world, interiority, exteriority, time and duration, life and death. – Page 19

Architecture is our primary instrument in relating us with space and time, giving these dimensions a human measure. – Page 19

The task of art and architecture in general is to reconstruct the experience of an undifferentiated interior world, in which we are not mere spectators, but to which we inseparably belong. – Page 28

It is evident that the architecture of traditional cultures is also essentially connected with the tacit wisdom of the body, instead of being visually and conceptually dominated. Construction in traditional cultures is guided by the body in the same way that a bird shapes its nest by movements of its body. – Page 29

As buildings lose their plasticity, and their connection with the language and wisdom of the body, they become isolated in the cool and distant realm of vision. With the loss of tactility, measures and details crafted for the human body – particularly for the hand – architectural structures become repulsively flat, sharp-edged, immaterial and unreal. – Page 34

Architecture and the Human Figure

Caryatids of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis of Athens (421-405 BC), British Museum, London. Image from

We tend to interpret a building as an analogue to our body, and vice versa.

Perspecta 8 1963: 17 by Aulis Blomstedt

Image from

Since the dynasties of ancient Egypt, measures of the human body have been used in architecture. The anthropocentric tradition has been almost entirely forgotten in modern times.

Sensory experiences become integrated through the body, or rather, in the very constitution of the body and the human mode of being. Our bodies and movements are in constant interaction with the environment; the world and the self inform and redefine each other constantly. The percept of the body and the image of the world turn into one single continuous existential experience. – Page 44

To at least some extent every place can be remembered, partly because it is unique, but partly because it has affected our bodies and generated enough associations to hold it in our personal worlds. – Body, Memory and Architecture (Kent C Bloomer and Charles W Moore) – Page 44

A walk through a forest is invigorating and healing due to the constant interaction of all sense modalities. The eye collaborates with the body and the other senses. One’s sense of reality is strengthened and articulated by this constant interaction. Architecture is essentially an extension of nature into the man-made realm, providing the ground for perception and the horizon of experiencing and understanding the world. – Page 44

Every touching experience of architecture is multi-sensory; qualities of space, matter and scale are measured equally by the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle. Architecture strengthens the existential experience, one’s sense of being in the world, and this is essentially a strengthened sense of self. – Page 45

The City of Participation vs. The City of Alienation

The city of sensory engagement

Pieter Bruegal the Elder, Children’s Games, (1560)

Image from


The city of sensory deprivation

Thames Town, near Shanghai, China. 

Image from


An architectural work generates an indivisible complex of impressions. – Page 48

An architectural work is not experienced as a collection of isolated visual pictures, but in its fully embodied material and spiritual presence. – Page 48

The door pull is the handshake of a building, which can be inviting and courteous, or forbidding or aggressive. – Page 67

Door pull in Korundi Art Museum in Rovaniemi

Image from


When experiencing a structure, we unconsciously mimic its configuration with our bones and muscles: the pleasurably animated flow of a piece of music is subconsciously transformed into bodily sensation, the composition of an abstract painting is considered as tensions in the muscular system, and the structures of a building are unconsciously imitated and comprehended through the skeletal system.  – Page 72

(My understanding) The author is trying to say the architecture becomes a metaphor for the body or vice versa.

  • The music played in the building – Bodily sensations 
  • Abstract paintings in the building – Muscle tensions of the body
  • Structure, foundation, frame – Skeleton of the body

We have an innate capacity for remembering and imaging places. Perception, memory and imagination are in constant interaction; the domain of presence fuses into images of memory and fantasy. – Page 72

The architecture of Michelangelo does not present symbols of melancholy; his buildings actually mourn. When experiencing a work of art, a curious exchange takes place; the work projects its aura, and we project our own emotions and percepts on the work. – Page 74

(My understanding) When we see a (or any) building, we build a relationship with the architecture based on our understanding, knowledge and how we create exchange, interaction with the place. The architecture influences us and we project our understanding of its influence back to it.

The timeless task of architecture is to create embodied and lived existential metaphors that concretise and structure our beings in the world. Architecture reflects, materialises and eternalises ideas and images of ideal life. Architecture enables us to perceive and understand the dialectics of permanence and change, to settle ourselves in the world, and to pace ourselves in the continuum of culture and time. – Page 76

Building Memories

The information below are extracted directly from ‘Building Memories’ by Lai Chee Kien. Only relevant information will be written and it will be paraphrased and be included in my final report.

Book: Building Memories

Author: Lai Chee Kien

Publisher: Ee Tai Press Pte Ltd in 2016

Summary: Given the scarcity of cohesive and up-to-date accounts of the four structures (National Library (built in 1960), the National Theatre (built in 1963), the Singapore Conference Hall and Trade Union House (1965) and the National Stadium (1973). the authors of this book decided that this publication will fill that void through their collective media efforts for a range of audiences. Through such intertextual readings, it is hoped that the key themes connecting architecture, people and the period of nationhood may be better appreciated. Three of these buildings: the National Library, the National Theatre and the National Stadium, have been demolished and new structures with similar functions constructed. 

Purpose of this book: I flipped through the book and realised that although its content have little relevance to my research, the structure of the book, how it tells the story of a place/architecture is applicable to my final product: Publication. I can draw inspiration from it and include it in my book.


Introduction of the architecture


Able to flip pages out to showcase a poem/message

Able to flip pages out to showcase a poem/message

Page is deliberately torn to emphasize how some books in the past was ‘dog-eared’ and torn.

Page is deliberately torn to emphasize how some books in the past was ‘dog-eared’ and torn.

Map of the building is included

List of events of the building

Programme list of an event that took place in the building.

This book gave me a brief idea on how I can craft out my publication to make it look more interesting and appealing for the audience. It is also a good way to archive materials and memories of a place before it is demolished. 

The Poetics of Space

The information below are extracted directly from ‘The Poetics of Space’ by Gaston Bachelard. Only relevant information will be written and it will be paraphrased and be included in my final report.

Book: The Poetics of Space

Author: Gaston Bachelard

Publisher: Beacon Press in 1969

Purpose of this book: This book explains the idea of experience in a space/phenomenology of architecture. The author relates a house of daydream and how daydreaming and imagination is an manifestation of a house in metaphorical terms. Bachelard analysed the structures of a house: stairs, corners, attics, wardrobes to meta ideas and how are we able to recapture and preserve memories of a place through dreaming. This book allows me to draw a connection of using a body to relate to an architecture and how that medium/body can serve as a vessel or as a metaphor for daydreaming.

The problem of the poetics of the house. The question abound: how can secret rooms, rooms that have disappeared, become abodes for an unforgettable past? Where and how does repose find especially conducive situations? How is it that, at times, a provisional refuge or an occasional shelter is endowed in our intimate day-dreaming with virtues that have no objective foundation? – Introduction

Transcending our memories of all the houses in which we have found shelter, above and beyond all the houses we have dreamed we lived in, can we isolate an intimate, concrete essence that would be justification of the uncommon value of all of our images of protected intimacy? This, then, is the main problem. – Page 1

In order to solve it, it is not enough to consider the house as an ‘object’ on which we can make our judgements and daydreams react. On the contrary , we must go beyond the problems of description in order to attain to the primary virtues, those that reveal an attachment that is native in some way to the primary function of inhabiting. – Page 4

We comfort ourselves by relieving memories of protection. Something closed must retain our memories, while leaving them their original value as images. Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams. – Page 6

Thus, by approaching the house images with care not to break up the solidarity of memory and imagination, we may hope to make others feel all the psychological elasticity of an image that moves us at an unimaginable depth. – Page 6

The places in which we have experienced daydreaming reconstitute themselves in the new daydream, and it is because our memories of former dwelling-places are relieved as day-dreams that these dwelling-places of the past remain in us all time. – Page 6

Memories are motionless, and the more securely they are fixed in space, the sounder they are. – Page 9

A house constitutes a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability. – Page 17

The phenomenology of daydream can untangle the complex of memory and imagination. – Page 26

Why were we so quickly sated with the happiness of living in the old house? Why did we not prolong those fleeting hours? In that reality, something more than reality was lacking. We did not dream enough in that house. And since it must be recaptured by means of daydream, liaison is hard to establish. Our memories are encumbered with facts. – Page 57

A metaphor gives concrete substance to an impression that is difficult to express. Metaphor is related to a psychic being from which it differs. An image, on the contrary, product of absolute imagination, owes its entire being to the imagination. – Page 74

At times, the simpler the image, the vaster the dream. – Page 137

To begin with, the corner is a haven that ensures us one of the things we prize most highly – Immobility. Consciousness of being at peace in one’s corner produces a sense of immobility, and this, in turn, radiates immobility. – Page 137

Daydream undoubtedly feeds on all kinds of sights, but through a sort of natural inclination, it contemplates grandeur. And this contemplation produces an attitude that is so special, an inner state that is so unlike any other, that the daydream transports the dreamer outside the immediate world to a world that bears the mark of infinity. – Page 183

What is Gone and Still: Rochor Center and Lorong Buangkok

Rochor Center

My parents used to own a furniture business in Rochor Center. They started business since 2004 (14 years ago) and they befriended many residents of Rochor Center through the years.

Images taken by Dan Ng

I used to visit the shop every weekend and would order coffee while I ate my favourite fishball noodles. In 2016, we were told that Rochor Center will be demolished for redevelopment, in preparation for the upcoming North-South Corridor. Residents were offered the Rochor SERS (Selective Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme) where compensation were offered for the relocation. 

“They (The residents) will have the opportunity to move to a new, 99-year lease home and will be given a package comprising compensation and rehousing benefits.”

Extracted from Channel Newsasia,

The North-South Expressway—originally conceived as a 21.5km expressway to connect towns in the North to the city centre—is being redesigned as North-South Corridor to better enable cycling and walking. The NSC will be Singapore’s first integrated transport corridor featuring continuous bus lanes and cycling trunk routes.

(Extracted from Land Transport Authority,

The shop owners, including my parents and residents were given notice to find new locations.

Image taken by Dan Ng

Rochor Centre is made up of four Housing Board blocks, each painted mainly in red, blue, yellow or green, and was one of the few remaining landmarks from 1970s Bugis, where sailors, and transvestites  could be found before the area was  developed further  in the 1980s.

The residential and retail complex, originally home to 183 shops and 567 households, was completed in 1977.

(Extracted from The Straits Times,

Rochor Center left a great deal of memories for me because I used to take the bus from my house to the place just to find my parents. I used to study and explore at the area and my family would return to Rochor Center every Chinese New Year just to visit our shop and take photos. Prior to the movement, I took several photographs of the location for memory keepsake.


As the date of withdrawal came closer, I took another series of photographs. This time, to show the emptiness of the buildings. Most of the businesses have left and relocated and the quietness of the environment was slightly haunting. It was a vastly different from what it used to be like: blustling, crowded and full of energy. 



I love Rochor Center so much that I made a video of Rochor Center and I interviewed my parent’s employee and our business neighbour about their feelings towards the demolishment of the place.

Password: fypfyp

Following the demolishment of Rochor Center which happened on ‘June 26, 2018’ (The Straits Times, 2018), the rainbow building became nothing but a fond childhood memory of mine.


I’ve always been interested in places with symbolic meaning, just like everybody else. A place whom one resides in for years form part of an identity for that person. Besides Rochor Center, another place that is on the risk of being removed from the face of Singapore is my grandparents kampong house in Lorong Buangkok. I’ve always been proud of their house because it is exclusive, unique and I grew up witnessing the house gone through the test of time and government urban planning. ‘Currently, 26 families live on the land, each paying a monthly rent of between S$6 to S$30.’ (Today Online, 2017) 

To date, the house is one of the last few kampongs in Singapore despite the country developing so rapidly into a metropolitan city. 

Courtyard of the house

The backyard

Old school swing that my siblings and relatives would sit on while we talked about our lives.

The stray dog that became a pet of the house

My father recounting his childhood memories to my domestic helper

Every Chinese New Year, my family and relatives would gather and celebrate the holiday. The old house became a spot for gatherings, rekindling and bonding. Despite the availability of new electric stoves in the house, we would still use charcoal stove to cook the dish ‘Braised pork with bamboo shoots’. 

Unlike in HDBs, there are no trash bins that is readily available to be thrown into the main garbage system. Instead, makeshift basket with plastic bag wrapped on top of it is placed outside the kitchen for easy rubbish disposal. 

In addition, I made a video back in 2016 of the kampong and the relationship between me and my grandmother, who have unfortunately passed away in 2017.

Film abstract

For many of us, Singapore is home but how much do you understand it or think about your relation and opinion about this place where you spend most of your time living here? Through the years you developed relation with people, places, objects and establish the way of life. These relations gave meaning, shape your identity; grant you a sense of belonging. Sometimes these relation challenges you. What is your feeling towards this place, people and culture? In what way have these relation affected you? How do we disrupt the everyday to excavate stories about people, places, our surrounding, way of life or even ourselves?

22 tells the story between my grandmother and I. Set in Lorong Buangkok where my grandparents have been living in the kampong for almost a century. It reflects the intimacy and tension between myself and her against the house as we converse about our lives, and the kampong house. In this film, I seek to explore the depth of our relationship and try to fathom what it feels to be in a place that fills with so many memories even though there is lack of strong physical connection. The film allow the exploration of silence and space together with conversation and close interaction.

Growing up with the house, I’d hate for the place to be demolished and replaced for urban renewal. To my relief, the plans for urban renewal will only happen ‘several decades later.’ (Today Online, 2017) and the ‘kampong could be integrated within the future schools and be a “community living lab” for students to learn about shared history, culture and traditions.’ (Today Online, 2017)


Moving on, I decide to explore more on pioneering landmarks in Singapore that are on the threat of being demolished. I asked myself, is there an instruction manual as to the ethicality of building demolition? Is demolition seen as a pro or a con? It is a controversial issue. Urban planners would argue that removal works is essential for the expansion of new buildings to accommodate the growing population in Singapore, yet conservationist persist that the clearance of old heritage sites would result in the loss of culture, history and identity of Singapore. As a millenial, I agree with both sides. However, I personally feel that there should still be a few iconic landmarks that should be preserved for the future generations’ understanding and education on the history of Singapore. My work produced for this project would not be a controversial piece demanding for attention for the place. Instead, I’d want to raise awareness on the presence of such places and the memories that it held for its occupants.


Framing Dance: Screen Test (ADM) & Feedback

Password: fypfyp

Password: fypfyp

Concept: Showcase Singapore’s urban architecture as an otherworldly landscape using experimental film technique.

Moving on, I met up with Isabel and we did a test screen in ADM. We experimented in different locations in the building and I was thinking of shooting both urban concrete and modern city architecture styles and ADM have both styles. We also explored shooting reflections and tested various angles and framing. All of them are shot in 4K. Videos above are exported in 1080p but final video will be exported in 4K.

Going back, I tried different placements, entry styles, play timings, expanding, piecing the footages side by side. I also did a little colour grading.

Isabel in a single frame

Isabel in all frames

Side by side placement

Slow motion, 120 fps, full screen

Mirror, water reflection


Reflection combination

Full screen

I had a discussion with Ina and we both agreed that the two videos above works the best. 


  • Greenery does not work
  • Be careful with reflections. They either work really well or flop.
  • Think about pacing

Following up, I sent the material to Susan Sentler for her opinion and I consolidated the notes as seen below. 

  • Body in sites is lovely, so is the colour and tones
  • More sensitivity entering and exiting frames is needed
  • Split screen is nice
  • Movement could be slower and less or even non-moving
  • Isabel could play with greater differentiation of movement language material with each site. From something more bold, extension, vectors…shifting to something more subtle, working with the negative/hidden spaces and again shifting to something slow, continuous, one gesture. 
I sent Susan and Ina some sites that I am considering of shooting. The sites are made of concrete mostly and they make great locations to shoot at.
Esplanade bridge
Marina coastal underway
Skate park
Suntec city
Susan shortly followed up with her suggestions which is consolidated below.
  • Suggested sites are wonderful.
  • A clear plan on what type of quality is needed in each space
  • More limitations will allow greater creativity. 
  • Dance: Allow for some to be very subtle, almost pedestrian. Then build with a change
  • Some areas/sites could repeat material from another, or accumulate, or change in velocity, Could have a basic phrase, that shifts and changes depending upon the site.
  • Shoot the texture of the concrete. The lines or play within each yield movement that could be edited into the live body.
  • Play with the abstract sense of movement. Allowing light, material to move the body to become material.

Framing Dance: Why are Urban Screens Important? and The Power of Urban Screens for Cultural Exchange

As my project proceeds, I need to dig deep to understand what is the importance of urban screens and how does it affect the environment, society and the people who interacts with it. What is considered an urban screen? What are the limits and boundaries?



Urban (extracted from
adjective: urban; adjective: urban contemporary
in, relating to, or characteristic of a town or city.
“the urban population”
  • denoting or relating to popular dance music of black origin.
“hip-hop’s traditionally urban vibe”
  • denoting popular black culture in general.
    “an urban comedy”
    Figure 1. Urban City of (Image from Getty Images)
Screen (extracted from
noun: screen; plural noun: screens
A flat panel or area on an electronic device such as a television, computer, or smartphone, on which images and data are displayed.
“a television screen”
  • a blank surface on which a film or photographic image is projected.
    “two historical swashbucklers are due to fill cinema screens this year”
  • films or television as a medium, genre, or industry.
    “she’s a star of the track as well as the screen
  • the data or images displayed on a computer screen.
    “pressing the F1 key at any time will display a help screen”
    a flat piece of ground glass on which the image formed by a camera lens is focused.

I explored further, as I need to understand the definition of urban screens. What constitutes a screen to be large enough to be urban screens? Are our smartphones, tablets considered to be urban screens? 

Definition of Urban screens by Mirjam Struppek, Urban Researcher, Berlin (extracted from

URBAN SCREENS defined as various kinds of dynamic digital displays and visual interfaces in urban space such as LED signs, plasma screens, projection boards, information terminals but also intelligent architectural surfaces being used in consideration of a well balanced, sustainable urban society – Screens that support with their content the idea of public space as space for creation and exchange of culture, strengthening a local economy and the formation of public sphere. Its digital nature makes these screening platforms an experimental visualization zone on the threshold of virtual and urban public space.

In the article ‘The Social Potential of Urban Screens’, Struppek questioned the ‘ability of screens to be expanded beyond dominating commercial use and instead, present cultural content for viewing purposes.’ She also questioned if the screens can become ‘a tool to facilitate an active urban community involving their viewers (inter)actively.’ Struppek explained that ‘urban screens can only be understood in the context of the re-exploration of the common space and the characteristics of the urban cities, built on a fair combination of uses and the notion of its dwellers as lively individuals.’ To elaborate, urban screens is seen to be creating and defining a whole new space in the city for the residents. 

Struppek also explained that urban screens is a ‘mix of the use of common spaces for business and exchange with an integral cultural factoring responding to the health of an urban community: the screen presentation with a fresh perspective on encouraging the notion of common spaces as a place for creation and flow of culture and the creation of a common space using feedback and respond.’ She further noted that their ‘digital characteristics make the presentation an exploratory visualisation area on the limits of reality and digital.’ Lastly, Struppek suggested that ‘matching the messages, place and presentation style would direct the result of communicating with the viewers and also assist to reduce and deter noise and visual pollution.’


In support of Struppek’s view that urban screens have the ability to reshape the health of an urban society, Scott McQuire gave a Ted Talk titled ‘Urban Screen‘ where he noted that there are two things that are all around us: Cities and media. He explained that they become media city when they both come together and our social experience of space is increasingly defined by various forms of intersection between traditional urban spaces architecture, streets and different media platforms that intertwined with them.

McQuire starts to define public spaces and its functions and he recognised that public spaces are for: space of assembly, both physical and symbolical assembly. It could be for a political gathering or a festive gathering and it could be a place of research.

McQuire mentioned that public space is a space that is open to everybody but it is also a contested space where there are visible and invisible barriers to participation and belonging. Public space becomes a place in which we engage with others who are different. He believes that the role of public spaces is a space of encounter and an encounter with difference. He then linked it to how media have changed where the recent developments in digital media that have made the impact on public spaces much more pervasive.

McQuire listed how is it more pervasive:

  1. Ubiquity of media and the ‘all around us’ nature. In the past, you have to travel to see a particular site of interest, but now, the context is different as there are mobile technologies and embedded forms of media that saturate city spaces.
  2. Media has become much more positional. The increased use of GPS technology where media can take place relevant data and deliver it to particular sites or it can extract and place relevant data from those sites.
  3. Real-time nature of digital networks where we can observe media feedback systems through human and non-human actors can start to act on public events as they are occurring.

He observed that what we seen in the last two decades is that different media platforms start to become entangled in material spaces and this brings together the affordances of public space which has the capacity to gather people together for embodied face-to-face interactions with the capacity of media technologies to extend on relationships to make connections across time and space. 

Both Struppek and McQuire’s explanation of urban screens in public areas answers the question of ‘Why is this relevant?’ in my project

McQuire observed that the use of urban screens as a form of interaction and extending relationships is an attempt to challenge the current agenda and present to the masses that we have to reevaluate how we are using these technologies and platforms that can go beyond purely commercial. With these kind of ‘interventions’, there is a different kind of public space, different kind of public sphere and we can actually use these kinds of technologies as a way of reactivating, reclaiming public spaces and the kind of encounters that has been so important through the culture of modernity.

… we can actually use these kinds of technologies as a way of reactivating, reclaiming public spaces and the kind of encounters that has been so important through the culture of modernity.

Figure 2: ‘Mouthfeel’ at Parer Place Urban Screens, QUT, Brisbane

Figure 3: “Electric Speed” curated by Kate Armstrong and Malcolm Levy in Surrey Art Gallery


In an article titled ‘Urban Screens: Discovering the potential of outdoor screens for urban society’ by Media and Communication Professor Tore Slaatta, he highlighted that ‘buildings and digital media are converging and the former is transforming to a media infrastructure. He explained that the ‘content created for the screens are examined as a response to changing business and cultural thoughts about the connections between media and the community: a emerging tool and meaningful relation between constructed areas for symbolic creativity in the international visual communication sector and international city centres.’

Slaatta emphasized the importance of having urban screens in new architecture as the ‘variety of technological boundaries are currently explored in cross mixing of ideas for restructuring private and public places and presentations to a performance architecture subsumed in a digital city visual arena. He introduced the idea of ‘symbolic creativity’ where it is executed in spaces where the tangible structures intrigued the viewers to conceive the notion that the physical, cultural and social dissimilarity between the audience and creator is diminishing.’ Slaatta interestingly linked the idea of an imaginary condition to the film adaptation of Ronald Dahls novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where both objects and the people in it have the ability to navigate between reality and virtual world. 

The articles and input have led me to conclude that urban screens have the potential to harmonise, improve, re-create and encourage the coexistence between media, urban architecture and the city dwellers. 


Research links:

Images links:

Figure 1:

Figure 2:

Figure 3:

Framing Dance: Experiment Two

Password: fypfyp

This is my second draft for Elbphilharmonie. It is still very very rough but I made some changes according to what was discussed.

The background is changed to a high resolution image of a concrete texture and I added the banner is that ever-present on the screen. 

The entry is still sliding in but I played with the rhythme of the footage by adding in stills. On the top right of the screen, I experimented with brush strokes. 

Small frames, identical footages slowly fade in on the banner itself. The frames also follows the dimensions of the three black frames. 

The footages eventually black out and became a wide shot of a HDB facade. 

I also experimented with cutting the frame diagonally and overlay close up shots of dance movements. 

Notes and areas of improvement:

  • Weak entry; slide in may not be effective for intro
  • Considering not using frames but simple a wide shot of an architecture.
  • Experiment more with slicing frames.
  • Remember to shoot your footages in 4K so that the images are clear crisp.

At this point of time, I think it is best to get my hands on and start shooting.

Framing Dance: Experiment One

Password: fypfyp

Music: Boy by Instupendo

This is my first experimental draft for the visualisation in Elbphilharmonie. I placed the visuals using footages that I found from my research and might use similar angles and texture. I adopted the method from Robert Grigsby Wilson, a film editor where he paid tribute to Sally Menke, Quentin Tarantino’s Editor and placed footages of Kill Bill and other film inspirations side by side.

It started the frames sliding in for entry.

Different footages of different aspect ratios and angle starts to emerge through the music.

All the footages will appear and air simultaneously and halfway through, the frames will start shifting in size and move.

They shift and changes in shape slowly so that the viewers are able to digest the visualisation better and the frames eventually.

At the back of the video, the screen blacked out and eventually emerged as a full screen for a dynamic look.

After consultation with Ina, we could still play with more experimentation.

Notes and areas of improvements:

  • Consider using abstracts form in between frames.
  • The black frame on the right is an escalator going up to the upper level of Elbphilharmonie. There could be some abstract forms or the dance could ‘influence’ the movements up to stairs.
  • Create a rough mock up of the space.
  • Change the background to a darker tone or simply just textures of architectures in Singapore because if it is white, it will be very bright.
  • Golden ratio: Slide and match the windows and the doors. Scale is derive from the architecture of the screen.
  • There could be one long banner in one screen across the wide screen.
  • There should be a consistency. If it is filmed in nature, then it should all be in nature and if it is in an urban setting then it should all be in urban. Unless there is a good reason to mix them both. Yet, always remember to question, nature with urban, does it work?
  • Consider filming in places of crane, and port since Elbphilharmonie is situated next to a port. This is able to showcase the vibrance of the architecture too.
  • The frames might not need to shift all the time or at all.
  • There could be textures, brush strokes, that glides over to show the footages.

Research on Eadweard Muybridge motion experiment.