Foo Qiao Ying, Kimberly
Time and Space:
Physicalising Time in the Modern City

Thesis Supervisor: A/P Ong Ker Shing

Site: Central Busines District, between Cecil St and Stanley St

Time and Space follows the premise that time has the ability to manifest physically, implying the fascinating idea of being able to see, touch and experience what is normally understood to be a purely intangible entity. Several ways time may be understood to manifest and be experienced tangibly include its Chronological and Cyclical behaviour, exhibited by processes of ageing and perceivable cycles of change, such as the seasons, in addition to the experience of time through the Moment, which while less overt, can be described as a palpable experience of slowed time such as what is often described in traumatic accidents or significant personal events during which time appears to move physically slower.

Under today’s structures of commercialisation, however, a high level of control over the physical environment is imposed, requiring space and the

built environment to possess only controlled, stagnant conditions constituted by a singular understanding of human comfort – one of constancy, immaculacy and efficiency. It is this control in the increasingly commercialised built environment that the opportunities for time to manifest and be tangibly perceived have been eradicated, unfortunately posing very real physical ramifications for human well-being. This thesis thus aims to explore how, within this unremitting climate of commercialisation, the variety of ways time manifests physically and is experienced may be brought about by architecture. The approach taken will be to reconfigure the conventional commercial development through disruptions in the control that engenders expectations of constant conditions and efficiency, so as to enable physicalisations of time and its experience to freely manifest.

Located between the frozen shophouses of Chinatown and the rapidly changing CBD, the selected site provides a poignant place to position an urban structure that acknowledges issues of time in the modern city in what can be described as an awkward conjunction of time difference between old and new.  Highlighted are major F&B spots heavily frequented by office-goers, driving circulation around site which the architecture will engage.

Site Plan

Instead of selling complete plots of land that inevitably result in entire volumes of commercialised space, this thesis proposes the construction of an infrastructure of public space onto which commercial programs may be attached, inverting the conventional development into a public infrastructure.

On Day 0 – the vertical core, mechanical floors and columns are complete, with scaffolding serving as temporary shoring, holding up the lighter structures of corridors and public amenities. 

The idea is to prioritise the provision of public spaces over the placement of privatised spaces. This way, the reach of commercial control and the expectations over space it induces is contained to only where necessary. All other space, including the circulation system, will be public space.

The space around the core can then be purchased freely by developers, whether in part volumes or entire floors. As this occurs, the temporary structures of scaffolding may be easily removed and replaced by private structure, which in turn then serves as the supporting structure for developments above.

The public infrastructure thus not only facilitates and articulates demolition and redevelopment as tangible manifestations of cyclical time, stands as a permanent fixture in the built environment that is allowed to evolve with age and exhibit the marks of chronological, passing time.

Eventually, as earlier developments become obsolete, the space they occupy may be bought over and their buildings demolished, leaving vacancies for short periods of time. Older structural elements may remain on, leaving temporary traces of past cycles until new developments come and fill the space. 

The idea of commercial control requiring all time to be spent as productively as possible is extrapolated to the expectation that circulation systems must be maximally efficient. In response, the project engages a process of embedding disruptions in the efficiency of conventional circulation.

Through this process, opportunities for time to be experienced in moments of pause and encounter manifested in the architecture, not obstructing functionality but generating circulation experiences of unexpectedness and surprise that then amplifies the experience of these moments.

Section & Plaza Plan

Major circulation routes and minor shortcust are disrupted, directing users to discover an unexpected plaza space with its own F&B facilities. Disruptions in section and a central narrow void also visually expose users across lobbies and floors while simultaneously creating a distance uncomfortable for socialisation, amplifying the moment of pause through the experience of social discomfort and self-conciousness.

It was through the process of lessening of control in architecture – a discipline in which we are often taught the need for full control to create efficient, comfortable environments – that time and its perception was able to be physicalised – to be seen, touched and experienced.

Perhaps it is in this direction in architecture that should be explored further that might not only allow us to discover other manifestations of time, but also how other subtle experiences of life and reality that architecture as yet fails to pick up may begin to be expressed in our built environment. 

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