Nostalgia as a visual form


  • The Face of Nostalgia: Appreciating abandonment through a different lens
  • Study of Nostalgia: Reminiscence through a different lens


My project will study Nostalgia as a visual form. The exploration of my theme will be done through abandoned* and old sites in Singapore.

*abandoned: left unused/uninhabited/not used the way it was before for the past 3 years.


Many a times when you google/pick up information on these places, you either get lengthy paragraphs or formal pictorials. These are useful in understanding the stories of these sites, but may not always bring about the intended deep appreciation.

Eg. Reading a brochure about how Dakota Crescent is very old VS exploring Dakota Crescent itself

The latter brings about a more ‘wow’ factor because visitors see for themselves the rusting of metal poles, worn down blocks, peeling paint, broken windows, unique architecture.

“it is not the function of geographers to merely map the earth, but to change it” – William Bungee

Similarly, as a designer, I believe that we should do more than just snap a photo of the site, place it on a poster and go. Can we transform these spaces into something bigger, and yet at the same time retain its natural characteristics? Is there another perspective or method we can adopt to appreciate these places?

Aims & Objectives

  • To transform how we look at these abandoned spaces through a new visual lens.
  • To document these spaces in a different perspective.


Visual elements as a tool to explore different emotions or state of a place — in which my project will focus on the state of abandonment/feelings of nostalgia.

  • Study and document the different visual elements found at site, and how these elements can be further explored to potentially create a new appreciation for these places.

The visual elements I will use for this project and why:

  • Colour — this is probably the first most obvious element one will notice when visiting these sites. The importance of colour theory, how certain colours can have different psychological effects.
  • Textures and marks — These elements tell an important tale in my project: the passage of time. Having nature or decay marks on infrastructure can show the old state of the site.
  • Infrastructure — One thing special about these sites is that they have been built with unique architecture and layout, which is not commonly seen today. Eg. the unique ‘butterfly’ shaped blocks of Dakota crescent.
  • Typography and symbols — text can provide verbal supplements to a place. Symbols and typography, even the language used, tell a  certain story of a place. Eg. Bukit Timah Railway station, the signs are in malay as their service was owned by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), the main railway operator used in Malaysia.

Planned approach:

  1. Document and study elements on site — photograph, video, sketches
  2. Dissect elements
  3. Establish moodboard/colour palette
  4. Explore and piece elements together

Research question(s)

Will [chosen visual elements] provide a better appreciation and understanding for these heritage sites?

Past works

  1. The zine is dedicated to animals who are near extinction.  Jayyan does this by rubbing textures on site, particularly focusing on the differences done by nature vs man-made.


2.  This work tells of the past, through a love story of a rickshaw puller and a nurse. The concept of overlaying old snippers over the current Singapore sites put up an intriguing contrast, yet also highlights similarity towards the end.

3. Overlaying illustrations of the past on current photograph sites in Singapore. Uses contrast in a lighthearted manner to bring awareness of past vs present.


Useful books:

The life and death of buildings: on photography and time TR659S651

Urban exploration photography: a guide to creating and editing images of abandoned places TR659S618

Colour design theory workbook NC1000S881

Design element : using images to create graphic impact NC1000S552