Intermediating Past and Future: A New Chitty Story
This Thesis takes focus on one of many overlooked minor ethnic groups in Singapore. The Chitties, a lesser-known hybrid - Peranakan - community, have been facing difficulties in negotiating their identity with members perceiving their culture as “dying”. Sociologist Stuart Hall posits that cultural identities are constantly reinterpreted and never complete; hence, if Chitties have constantly been adapting their lifestyles even after migrating to Singapore from Melaka since the 1820s, why do they think that their culture is phasing out? Situated along Chitty Road, within the Little India area, this thesis redefines the boundaries of national racial policies that have played a part in homogenizing ethnic groups and attempts to provide a platform for Chitty community to reconcile with current times, allowing their culture to evolve while preserving important traditions. It also critiques the State’s commercial-centric approach to conserving cultures by proposing a cultural centre that serves as the hub for local Chitties with private spaces allowing members to rediscover and reinterpret their own identities, placing them in a perspective that their culture can continue to perpetuate with generations to come. The main programs of the site offer a domestic, autonomous experience, allowing non-members to subconsciously explore and understand Chitty culture by engaging their senses through active and passive participation.
The project adapts and reuses the 1920s historic terrace houses as accommodation quarters adjacent to a new building which takes on a reinterpretation of vernacular Chitty architectural elements, materiality, and cultural spaces in the context of a 21st-century with spaces facilitating cultural events & festivals and flow of exchanges that could spark conversations and transmit cultural knowledge.
A New Chitty Story (Benedict Khoo) is a sensitive study into how urban and architectural experiences can be crafted to portray the cultural identity of the Chitty people, and unearth the acculturation processes and transformation of this diasporic community over time, space and geography. Challenging immutable definition of cultural identity, the Chitty Cultural Centre eschews the usual institutional ‘meta-narrative’ approach, and instead seek to ‘nudge’ members of the community to rediscover and reconnect with the intangible heritage of cuisines, language, ceremonial rituals, and to re-examine these critically in the contemporary social, economic and political context. Through abstraction of urban and architectural morphology, scale and materiality familiar to the Chitties, ‘residential’ programmes are introduced into a row of conserved terraced townhouses to provide a truly immersive experience for visitors and members alike.
- Adj. Senior Lecturer, Ho Weng Hin
Benedict Khoo Kim Hoe
Benedict Khoo Kim Hoe