1. Initial Exploration
I chose Neil Road/Outram Park as the location I wanted to explore for this project. This area is a place where I’ve had many memorable experiences. It is also an area that features both the heart of Singapore’s LGBTQ community and a high concentration of traditional architecture and food. I wanted to bring more awareness to people who are not familiar with Neil Road, and to encourage them to discover the complex cultural diversity concentrated just within this specific location. It is truly a gem that many people are unaware of. Hence this project was both a personal one and one that allowed me to gain new insights to a place that I thought I knew well enough. Revisiting the site again made me realise that this area behaves like and is treated almost like its own sub community.
primary research— Survey
I created an online survey and shared in social media and among my friends to gain better understanding on how well people knew Neil Road. I also wanted to learn how they may view and interact with certain subcultures such as the LGBTQ community. Many youths indulge in subcultures for the sake of being hipster but how far are they willing to go to truly understand the authenticity and demographics of these cultures — lgbt, traditional coffee shops, architecture etc. With all these in mind I drew up an online survey.
Results — Infographics
Below was an open answer question in my survey which got interesting responses that gave me insight to how people may perceive the eccentricity of Neil Road.
Some intriguing responses…
Primary Research — Interviews
I decided to interview a few straight people who have worked in bars or hotels that operate within Neil Road, to understand how their perception of the community might have changed after interacting with them first hand, over a period of time.
I went online to find information on Neil Road and found out that many of the gay bars are housed in buildings that are part of the ‘Bukit Pasoh Conservation Area’. This emphasises the idea of coexistence between two very different communities that populate Neil Road. In some sense, the LGBTQ community is endorsed and authenticated via the rich architectural shophouses and buildings they reside in. The conservation indirectly extends to the protection of the heart of the LGBT Community. However the intrigue and buzz that is generated by this community and many other hip places within Neil Road, also keep many traditional establishments relevant in today’s world. These buildings are still being conserved while not too far away, buildings such as Pearl Towers are on the brink of demolition. Hence this idea of co dependancy and coexistence between two seemingly different communities was something I wanted to capture through this project.
As mentioned above, coexistence, survival and dependancy are key themes I wanted to explore through this project. Through my survey results and a personal understanding of the location, I also realised that people unfamiliar with the location tend to have a very voyeuristic interaction with in. Within the community itself, many old and conservative people voyeur their LGBT ‘neighbours’ with skepticism and intrigue. Hence Voyeurism was another important theme I wanted to centre my project around.
With these themes in mind, I decided to use concept photography as my first form of exploration. Using a lens and taking close up or unsuspecting shots of details and people not only highlight the hidden gems to my audience, but also reinforce the idea of voyeur.
Below are some shots that I took as an introduction to my presentation to invoke curiosity in my audience. I also wanted to check if they could recognise that these pictures of buildings albeit traditional looking, are actually shots of an LGBT Bar. This was to ease them into the idea of coexistence. I also included a descriptive passage that I wrote, based on my own sentiments towards the location.
1. Eccentricity is captured in this photo. On the pavement there were many free roaming roosters and hens — not a common sight in most populated places in Singapore.
2. The following photos are close-up shots of LGBT establishments and stereotypically ‘sleazy’ places to explore the most obvious form of Voyeurism.
3. The following are Architectural Shots which capture juxtaposition of traditional martial arts sign with cityscape, and skyscrapers beside high rise flats. They also feature a lesbian couple gazing at these buildings.
4. The following photos are close-up shots of old people and the general public to subvert the voyeuristic gaze back onto them. Hence these shots were more invasive in some sense. However hidden gems such as authentic coffee shops are also featured in some of these shots.
Here is a pre existing map found on travelgayasia.com. It is a comprehensive map that highlights key landmarks within Neil Road. However, this map is catered specifically for the LGBTQ people only. Hence I decided to make a custom map from scratch, highlighting landmarks that I personally feel are hidden gems worth exploring. I wanted to create a simple minimalistic map to encourage straight people to visit and appreciate the place too.
I used a paid map making software to create a simple and easy to use interface. The map can be used on mobile devices, making it even more convenient and accessible. I visited selected cafe’s, coffee shops and bars to take my own images to incorporate within the map.
1. When you open the link, it leads to a very clear overview of the landmarks I included in the map. They are also categorised accordingly. Users can also click on coloured indicative markers on the map to explore information about specific landmarks. There is also a drop down menu from the side bar to navigate and access information.
3. When you access a specific landmark or location, a summarised information page appears. I included details such as opening hours and my own personal ‘highlights’ each of these landmarks have to offer, based on first hand experience. I also included links to either the location’s official website or Facebook page.
4. Another key feature of this map is that when you click on the address displayed in the information page, it automatically opens the Google Maps Application — this allows users to easily navigate to any of these landmarks from anywhere in Singapore. For people unfamiliar with Neil Road, navigating and choosing where to explore would be confusing due to highly concentrated number of amenities and options there. Hence I distilled it down to my personal favourites while also taking into consideration online reviews. The navigation feature would also ensure that users would be able to locate the places with ease.
Having to visit the site again for this project allowed me to draw upon my pre existing knowledge and experience to see this area in a new light. I myself, noticed things that I previously did not. Through this brief, I grew to have an even greater appreciation for this already special area. Here are some pictures of me and my friends exploring the LGBT Bars along Neil Road during my pre uni days.