Melvin Lim Chung Wei
Orchestrating the Spectrality of Nature

Thesis Supervisor: A/P Thomas Kong

The notion of natural and man-made is very ambiguous in today’s world. In the words of Timothy Morton, we live in an interconnected mesh of hyperobjects, too large to grasp in isolation but inadvertently allowing human actions to have far-ranging and indirect implications. Amidst perpetual worldwide competition and dispute for land and water territorial resources, new territorial islands continue to emerge. Whilst conventionally recognised as a process of natural formation and consequently, bearing valuable maritime territorial rights, this thesis questions if the provenance of new island emergences are still and distinctly natural anymore.

Juxtaposed against Singapore, a country obsessed with artificially reclaiming land and continuously embroiled in controversy with its neighbor over territorial limits, the thesis intends to unravel paradoxes and ironies in the ambiguity of territorial distribution. Adopting a speculative scenario, the scheme imagines a covert committee formed to conspire and orchestrate a seemingly natural emergence of islands around Singapore. Employing 3 dispersed apparatuses under the guise of existing site narratives, Singapore pits fabricated nature against the allegedly fabricated territorial dispute from its neighbour. A critical discourse is engaged about present-day ignorance and negligence in the significant and contentious conundrum of regulating and according territorial rights to nations.

Keywords: nature, ecology, territory, weaponised architecture, conspiracy

Masterplan Narrative

3 dispersed apparatuses - Gatekeeper, Currency Exchange and A Floating School - are conceived under the guise of prevailing narratives and programmes of their contexts and localities in order to be masked as inconspicuous devices, only to relate via the natural currents of Singaporean waters. Each apparatus is designed to be ostensibly inert, but silently performative instruments when activated by the forces of nature, producing effects that contribute to a mysterious propagation of fringing reefs. The phenomena of tidal currents in and around the Straits of Singapore is manipulated in the masterplan and siting of various apparatuses.

Apparatus Tectonics

Apparatus 1: Gatekeeper

Apparatus 2: The Currency Exchange

Apparatus 3: A Floating School

Greater Access to the Hinterland

Singapore completes construction of a long-shelved plan to construct a second vehicular access from Gul Road on the mainland to Jurong Island, the industrial future of the nation’s economy.

Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper is an apparatus designed in response to lessen the turbidity of Singapore’s waters, disguised in the narrative of Jurong Island as Singapore’s modern hinterland. Conceived as a filter device, the apparatus acts on announced plans to build a second vehicular bridge linking Jurong Island to mainland Singapore to conceal its function. This apparatus transforms the bridge into a passive machine for filtering turbid Singapore waters of sediments to propagate coral growth. Covert devices are visually concealed within the bridge foundations. The bridge spans the entire channel of water between Jurong Island and mainland Singapore, forming a gateway for all waters that pass through. Site forces power the mechanism of the bridge, filtering turbid waters passing through its sedimentation chambers.

Five to Survive

Singapore opens its 5th desalination plant on Jurong Island in a move towards greater resource independence. Located within Tuas Power facilities, the plant simultaneously provides cooling for existing factories.

The Currency Exchange

Whilst Singapore’s waters have been known to be conducive for the growth of corals, there have been occasions when the effects of climate change impact even these waters, causing bleaching and death of corals. The Currency Exchange can be described as an apparatus veiled in the prevailing narrative of Jurong Island as industrial heterotopia. Built as a component of Singapore’s 5th desalination plant, the apparatus manipulates the seawater intake process to selectively cause upwelling effects. Intake wells and output channels of Singapore’s 5th desalination plant dance with the waves, acting as a passive thermostat for seawaters.

Floating Worlds

Keppel Offshore & Marine, the world’s largest offshore rig builder, expands its repertoire in an exploration of repurposing oil rigs as fish farms. From the sky, Keppel Shipyard is a chaotic nook of the coastline of pontoons splintering from the edge of the land, dotted with many floating megastructures and prototypes. 

Weaponising Parrotfish

A Floating School embeds itself in the colorful floating chaos of Keppel Shipyard, where Keppel Offshore & Marine leaves numerous floating rigs in the close vicinity of the Straits of Singapore, awaiting repair or undergoing tests. The apparatus is a fish farm containing parrotfish, housed on a prototypical rig and masked in the narrative of Keppel Offshore & Marine’s ongoing tests of rigs for repurposing into alternative fish farms. Keppel’s prototype rig fish farms lay in innocent limbo in Singaporean waters, yet covertly release schools of Parrotfish periodically into its depths. An unlikely agent is mobilised as a catalyst for the mysterious emergence of fringing reefs around Singapore’s westernmost natural point, the Sultan Shoal.