To the Class of 2020
Address by Dr. Ho Puay Peng
Graduation is a time for celebration, particularly at the end of a long-haul learning journey. I must congratulate all graduates of the Master of Architecture programme to have reached this milestone in your life. Looking back, you ought to be proud of yourself for achieving so much through many challenges and for acquiring knowledge and skills through design studio and different modules. The thesis projects presented here in the book are testimony of what you have achieved and the shape of the future to come. There are three qualities that I am sure you have achieved:
The attitude to question and form opinion is essential to cultivate through tertiary education, and particularly relevant to the practice of architecture. We have to develop values and standards regarding the quality of architectural and urban form, the environment and sustainability, livability and user experience, health and wellness, social accord and inclusivity, and many more issues. You must have developed your own position and value set during your time at NUS and demonstrated in the thesis projects that you chose to research and design. I would like you to continue to sharpen your critical faculty in all you encounter in work and life and we will work alongside with you in championing design excellence in the environment.
I hope you are not tired by the five years of architecture education at this point. Instead, whether architecture is your first love or not, you must have developed a passion for architecture that has sustained your learning at DoA. I hope you will not lose your passion for architecture, instead, you should go from strength to strength in developing a sustained interest in creative architectural and urban solutions to better human living. To sustain your incessant exploration in spatial and formal innovation, you need to have a stanch passion.
The world has changed rapidly in this new technological age, at the same time, the threat of climate change and the consequent environmental challenges are imminent. We need to be resilient in face of these changes. COVID pandemic that the world is experiencing forces all of us to re-examine our values and consider changes to our priorities, behavior and spatial propositions. The resilience that you developed in school will certainly give you the power to craft responses to these challenges, again as shown in many projects of the graduating class. Resilience is also a personal skill to be cultivated, you need to be adaptable and have the fortitude to deal with the changes that come your way. Not only we need to be able to ride the storm, we should also create new opportunities for ourselves.
Looking from the vantage point of this difficult time, the future may be bleak. However, I am certain that the future offers the occasion for questioning past practices and set new values. I am not certain if we are entering into a posthuman existence, as some had advocate, however, post-COVID will certainly usher in a different social system and with it new spatial conditions. And it is you who will be charting these new spatial conditions. At the dawn of this new era, you will be embarking on your chosen career with excitement. The future will present to you numerous possibilities and I am sure you will excel. Wishing you all the best.
Head and Professor
UNESCO Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management
Thesis Vignettes: The Cohort of AY2019/20
Address by A/P Joseph Lim
The NUS Masters Program has evolved over the decades in attempting a thesis for an architecture project. Today, as a design school in a research-driven university, thesis aspirations have evolved into investigative approaches driving architecture as an agent of change.
A paradigm shift in values - from Pragmatic Buildability to Critical Conjecture.
Design is pursued as a mode of inquiry by thesis authors and supervisors in a wide range of topics traversing thematic groupings. Theses are summarised as a collection of questions on nature - the idea of the collective and the individual, addressing the perennial conflict between habitation and natural ecology in the light of climate change, scarcity and now, pandemia.
The thesis projects explore and tackle a wider scale of intervention in ecosystems and planning; from rethinking ideas of sharing and their implications on shaping space through a bottom-up participatory process, to how can architecture be synonymous with geographic culture so as to play a crucial role in cultivating a deep appreciation of precious biodiversities. The gap between a planned communal space and its actual usage is of perennial concern in our discipline. Rethinking planning as a bottom-up participatory process, can negotiation to collectively prioritize spatial and formal constructs serve as a counterpoint to the authoritarian planning norm? Can both constructed and organic entities be reconstructed ephemerally as part of seasonal change? When endangered and resilient species of growth are harnessed as structural material and cannot be fully controlled, can architects act as co-creators of their environment and only set conditions for its growth?
Certain veins of inquiry also approach architecture from a material and technological standpoint. How would the application of material technologies transform a school building for docile pupils into a self-assembled outpost to capitalize on special sites of empowered experiential learning? While sterile environments of R+D estates keep ideas behind locked doors, disconnected from the city, we ask this question: how can urban experiences in a city play a part in inspiring ideas with designers and experts in a creative landscape shared with city goers? What is the space of a city that makes it an engine of creative growth? The investigation of digital culture and behaviour, between man and machine in the post-human era can change the way we think of a city. How would it be integral with the individual and his or her realities? What if spaces were not organized with ergonomics but instead conceived through the incorporation of digital habits? How would data characterize ideal space in a digital age?
Of course, what is an exploration into architecture without the human experience? Where knowledge can be shared, educational spaces are now seen as cityscapes of experiential learning shared with new technology using VR and AR. With new material technology, it is possible to conceive lightweight deployable kits in carbon fibre to bring the school to any site of learning. If the landscape of public housing is only meaningful when individuals identify with places as memories in their lifetime, then what would such a neighbourhood landscape be if we started with enablers of individual identities and constructed memories? If we were to develop a kit of configurational parts with intrinsic phenomenological qualities, could we adjust, combine and permutate them for specific experiences before retrofitting them into existing city shells?
These questions represent a fraction of the varied inquiries in this year’s collection of theses. The range of investigative methods are extensive across students who journeyed with 34 tutors over one academic year in meeting the design research ambitions of the Masters Thesis. Joining us for our first ever online reviews, the External Reviewers for this year: Mr Seah Chee Huang of DPA, Mr Ernesto Bedmar of Bedmar Architects and Mr Liu Yuyang of Atelier Liu Yuyang, experienced with us the culmination in another paradigm shift borne of unforeseen circumstances, with traditional means of teaching, learning and presentation disrupted in these trying times.
The cohort has yielded spirited work in spite of safety restrictions on studio space and production facilities in the later part of the semester. It is through the commitment and passion of students, colleagues, and our administration, that we prevailed in this extraordinary period.
With such in mind, the challenges presented by the pandemic will now pose important questions for all to explore new ground in all scopes of thinking concerning architecture and the environment, and reflect the continued importance of architecture in our daily lives today and in the years to come.
Associate Professor, Dr.
M.Arch Program Director