Lee Dong Eun
Thesis Supervisor: Adrian Lai
At the town and community scale, this project uncovers the nuanced difference between community and communality at Toa Payoh Town Centre. A first-generation public housing town planned with 2- to 4-storey modern shophouses as its centre of amenities with a later addition of a nearby community club. Two clear distinctions are identified as the reasons for a city devoid of street life and ground-up community. Seen through the servant-served dichotomy, spaces between building plots are routes for concealed infrastructure leading to buildings as the island-nodes. Thus separated, these ‘leftover’ spaces between buildings are organised for the most efficient management of distribution. Infrastructure and shared utilities being distinctly managed from the very reason for its being – the seeding of conditions for community forming made possible by the economies of scale enabling a collective.
The architectural potential shifts the performance of infrastructure organisation and design from efficiency to that of effectiveness. The potential for the staging of a greater multiplicity of communal life and community forming – its architectural potential – is the aim of the thesis proposal. In Post-Interiority Complex, this architectural potential is tested as an in-between of interior-exterior gap at the scale of a town block.
In the earlier development stages of Singapore, the rejection of the tropical climate through the conditioning of ‘hot and wet’ air into “cold and dry” air was seen not just as an environmental comfort “value-add”, it was also a projection of better social and economic position of the state, and a symbol of advancement. Hermetically sealed interiors isolated themselves from exteriors everywhere, from ministry buildings to offices and homes. Today, such a perpetual binary understanding of our environment has not only divided up our physical environment, but also our lifestyles and the way community forms and interact.
In the search for an in-between – a space between interiors and exteriors - the network of concealed infrastructural services distribution leading to isolated nodes for their consumption within buildings was identified as the device that exacerbated this isolationist condition. The key to unlocking the potential was to turn the prioritising of efficiency over effectiveness, upside down.
Infrastructural services will enable the spaces between buildings, rather than bypassing them to the island buildings. Further upheaval pushed the discussion from the efficiency of dealing with technology and services into one that looks for maximum effectiveness of infrastructure to bring back more life on the streets, for it to stage community – to become architectural.
In Post-Interiority Complex, the nearby community club is decanted into the public space of the town centre. Proposed as a built artefact at the scale of the town block filling in the gaps with more “gaps” that introduce new opportunities for atmosphere and agency. Going beyond the certain interiority of ‘containment’ of the increasingly ubiquitous ‘Hubs’, the thesis focused on expanding the vocabulary of permissible activities on these streets.
By relooking rainwater detention, environmental cooling and unprogrammed amenity sharing as means of multiplying the atmosphere into an in-between space – between architecture and infrastructure; between interiors and exteriors – the thesis proposes to reclaim a post-interior community life in the tropics.