The Spirit of Conservation Reclaiming and Retaining the Autonomy of Golden Mile Complex
The Golden Mile Complex (GMC) was envisioned as a symbol of progress to Singapore to reflect a pristine society that would pioneer and materialize these realities, modelling the nation’s agenda. It unfortunately failed as a testament and was infamously coined a ‘Vertical Slum’. Albeit originally meant to be demolished, GMC became gazette for conservation presumably for its significant architectural impact and value to Singapore.
We are now brought to question the kind of attitude that one should take, should Golden Mile be conserved. Golden Mile is a ‘one-of-its-kind’ as it is a development that is owned by multiple strata title owners. Hence, handling this case by traditional conservation means may not be feasible, all while dealing with other interested parties such as the authorities. My project seeks conversation methodologies that considers the diversity, plurality and the layers of autonomy that Golden mile encompasses, and to express than to suppress.
The ‘Kit of Parts’ recreate the desires of individual owners that allow the exercise of autonomy, providing a sense of freedom at a micro level. The autonomy of GMC is then allowed to emerge as a collective when individual autonomies unite, signified through the physical manifestations of owners’ desires. While the ‘Kit of Parts’ provide individuals a sense of freedom and autonomy, it is also a subtle form of control with the limitation of choice to the range of available components. This range potentially reduces the ‘slum’ effect. Meanwhile, tracks and machines are introduced for constant defect checks to keep the building safe for habitation while doubling as a retainer to prevent the reoccurrence of ‘selfish acts’ that falls beyond the ‘Kit of Parts’ regime.
In hindsight, the thesis aims to achieve conservation that also mirrors the political environment of Singapore. Citizens are given a sense of autonomy on an individual level yet, represents and form the state as a collective where autonomy of GMC reflects a dichotomy of collectiveness and individualism. This means to say that everyone, be it as individuals or a collective, are simultaneously equal, where no one is better or of a higher hierarchy than another.
If only Golden Mile Complex (GMC) is an autonomous being, how would it write its own conservation guidelines? How would it craft its own narrative and, does it even want to leave a legacy? Bizarre as they may be, these questions form the bedrock of a thesis resolute in seeing architecture through its own lens, operating on its own terms. The proposal imagines GMC’s attempts in retaining its plural nature as a form of resistance against any overbearing narrative imposed by a single stakeholder such as the nation, the prospective developer or even the architect. In doing so, GMC seeks to challenge the normative conservation tactics its fellow buildings are subjected to.- Ar. Chaw Chih Wen