Yeo Ze Wei Sean
AUKANG, not Hougang | Restoring the Teochew-Catholic Holy Land
Thesis Supervisor: A/P Thomas Kong
This thesis recognises the inevitable phenomenon of urban renewal and the good it brings, as well as the ever-evolving identity of communities. However, it questions the extent of it and laments the loss of memory and identity. The thesis comes in to highlight what we as a society have lost in the midst of pursuing progress. It explores how in a community so mutilated by government policies and changes to the landscape, the site can slowly begin to recover its memory and identity.
The thesis also questions if the actual historical landscape and buildings are necessary for one to remember; or whether architecture could go beyond to envision the possibility of a living and distributed archive that faithfully reflects its tangible and intangible heritage while remaining relevant to the present.
Using Aukang (or Hougang), one of Singapore’s most urbanised areas with an intriguing history as the site of intervention, the project seeks to create a paradigm that other neighbourhoods can take on.
The project uses a two pronged approach to "Restore the Historic Teochew-Catholic Holy Land". The Distributed Archives seek to express the "absence" of the site and recover what was lost. The Central Nucleus seek to restore the intangible relationship between the Parish, Schools and Family by applying the "Spirit of Aukang" into the context of our current society in a renewed way.
The experience of the journeys of different visitors to the site are represented in the form of collages. It depicts the different spaces across the site that they will pass through, each with its own unique experience but also stepping in and out of paths that are shared with other user journeys. This encourages social and sensorial interaction with other programmes.
Gathering at the Church Front
The congregation gathers in front of the church, fronted by a reflective pool. They hear people conversing and see people praying or simply walking by. Hearing the bells ringing, they know that it is time to enter into the main Church.
Route of Life - Baptism
Baptism is a ritual of life. It marks the birth of the Christian journey and is an important milestone for any Catholic. The ritual starts with the gathering at the Church front before proceeding into the Church sanctuary for the Liturgy of the Word. The congregation is then led out of the Church into the Baptismal Font where the pivotal and sacred moment of Baptism take place. Seated at the grand stairs, the congregation looks down towards a full view of the Baptismal Font. The Priest and Catechumen, whilst wet in the pool, faces the congregation with the backdrop of the Church's gothic facade.
After the ceremony they will proceed to the function hall for the post-celebration. In the hall, they look out towards a framed view of the old seminary at the stage area. After which, they could linger around the south plaza whilst others take turns to take photos at the historic south entrance facade which had been the photo backdrop for many important events throughout the ages.
Solemn Area of Repose
The body is now reposed at the funeral hall. With skylight entering through the opening at the top into the timber space, a sense of awe and solemnity descends onto the homey and intimate space. Each evening, elderly people from the Teochew Prayer Group arrive to chant funeral prayers in Teochew, one of the last vestiges of Aukang’s intangible heritage. As they begin their prayers, the domed like structure echoes out the melodious prayers to the surrounding spaces.
Route of Death - Funeral
With the exception of cremation, the entire post-death process take place within the site. An opening into the wall of the Embalment Room allows the body to be deposited and collected. The opening faces a garden area where family members could be present to receive the embalmed body. After which, the body is transported in a procession, through different spaces from the Garden of Joy, the south plaza, the sports field, the grand stairs, the main plaza to the funeral hall. The funeral hall is cylindrical in structure where melodious Teochew funeral prayers could echo and amplify out. Loved ones and visitors gather around the funeral hall where they have a view of the green at the back which also serves as a buffer between the HDB blocks and the funeral area.
Adjacent to the main plaza and in full view of the play area, the lively spaces co-exist with the solemn spaces of the dead, introducing life into the space. After which, the body is transported to an external crematorium and the ashes brought back to the compound. Through the corridors of the Church which serve as a grand and dignified procession which decends down into the Columbarium Chapel, the Rite of Internment is done. With light passing through the upper clerestory of timber louvres, shadows cast onto the solemn space. After which, the ashes are interned into the columbarium niche where it is home to the deceased, hopefully forever.
Visual Interactions with Historical Buildings
Low - angle Shot
of Historic Green House
Close - up Shot
of Our Lady's Statue
of Church Nave Windows
of Old Seminary Building