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Dakota Crescent: A Case for Kampong Spirit

Kiu Hui Ling

- Adj. Asst. Prof. Ho Weng Hin

The Fate of Dakota Crescent

The public housing story in Singapore is an international case study of a country that went from rags (slums) to riches (the modern high-rise). Mass resettlement from the late 1950s saw urban kampongs being replaced by the HDB (Housing Development Board) public housing. With social reforms and drastic landscape transformations, the semi-autonomous kampong dwellers were transformed into ideal citizens of the independent nation.

Built in 1958, Dakota Crescent represents one of these many historical markers. The 2014 relocation paints another chapter of upheaval for its rental community – a stark reminder of their status in the homeownership narrative. The impending demolition threatens to erase traces of the common memories and struggles that have forged the kampong spirit. Dakota Crescent has become an embodiment of its inhabitants, a presence invisible and left behind by the progressive society.

A Case For Kampong Spirit

This thesis is about returning Dakota Crescent to its people. Through partial adaptive reuse, the thesis envisions a future where the former community returns to the revitalised estate. The masterplan embraces the entry of new residents and demographics, and seeks to create a synergy amidst these socioeconomic differences. This is built upon an exploration into the hypothesis of factors that make up the kampong spirit – the people, social infrastructure, and the place of living. By examining the intricate domestic landscape, the intervention proposes the addition of new structures that aim at reclaiming a sense of place and identity.  For a community that has been uprooted many times, this reimagination of Dakota Crescent is a celebration of stories, colours and physical remnants.

The Future

In light of the recent demolition (and more to come), the thesis hopes to provide an alternative trajectory to the fate of Dakota Crescent. By extending its current lifespan, the proposal seeks to extrapolate the lives of its past inhabitants – by imagining the sights and activities that the former residents would engage in everyday situations. It is with optimism that the parcel retained will be enriched with traces of the kampong spirit that used to persist along the modern history of the nation.


Supervisor's comments:

The partially conserved Dakota Crescent Estate is reimagined as a place that welcomes both former long-time residents – now displaced to a social housing block nearby – as well as new ones, to congregate and cultivate a new community space. Underlying the design exploration is a deep concern for social inclusivity and spatial justice. Adopting an architecturally light-touch, the conserved SIT blocks are minimally adapted to house ‘social infrastructure’ that emphasise mutual empowerment through multi-generational programmes. New linkages across Kallang River and Old Airport Road provide vital connections to maintain critical connectivity – socially and temporally.

- Adj. Asst. Prof. Ho Weng Hin
Kiu Hui Ling

Do not be afraid to believe in your design.