Benedict Tay
A Different Farewell: Spatialising Memory as an Alternative Approach to Redevelopment

Thesis Supervisor: Peter Sim

Site: Bras Basah Complex, Singapore

Redevelopment is an integral part of Singapore’s urban planning policies, and is often framed in opposition to conservation efforts. A building is either demolished, or preserved, in some case with modern additions.

 

The thesis proposes an alternative to this binary understanding of redevelopment: by creating a framework guided by the memories and rituals of people who interact with these buildings.

It accepts redevelopment as an inevitability, while imagining how it could exist as a flexible process that can be curated and nuanced according to a site’s unique qualities as a vessel of human memory. Through this framework, I explore an approach that could make space for the continuity of memory in our changing physical spaces.

 

This design iteration – a speculative, fantastical city – represents a mix of possibilities based on various design strategies stemming from my research into the collective memory of Bras Basah Complex.

The Memory Spine

I propose that within every building, there exists a spine – a central support structure that is fueled by the collective memory of the building. I began to visualise this spine by categorising and weaving individual memories together within an imaginary space. The focus was not architectural scale, but how disparate memories would be able to form connections with each other within this imaginary space. 

Combined, they form an abstract imagery of the complex that is at once inaccurate and accurate – inaccurate in terms of the visualisation of physical space, but perhaps a more genuine representation of the human experience of the complex. 

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Translation

The translation from an abstract imagery to physical spatial forms. This was an initial experiment in architectural representation of some elements shown in the memory spine.

Retainment

A series of elements that could be retained in the redevelopment of Bras Basah Complex. Social media was used as a means of crowdsourcing these elements, by analyzing which features or visual images came up most often in posts about the complex. 

This was combined with memories and spaces that had been deemed important in earlier research but which might not be captured due to the blind spots of social media. As the old gets stripped away, what gets retained then forms the foundation for the new redevelopment.

Reimagination

The reimagination of spatial qualities through a series of speculative illutrations.

Layers of Memories

An overview of the various components, inspired by this collective memory of Bras Basah Complex, and now layered together into a single redeveloped entity.

The current architecture of the complex was first transformed into ruins that form the base for the first layer of memory. The reimagined areas then layer and accumulate into a redeveloped space that mirrors the memory spine that was first generated through my research.