Tan Xin Yuan
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PLAY! a guide to architecture for resilience

Thesis Tutor: Tiah Nan Chyuan

Click here for portfolio of selected works


Full published guidebook release 3Q 2020

Contact me: xinyuan.tan@outlook.com

The Singaporean game of life models Freudian theory – the objective of the game is to earn titles through fame, happiness, money, recognition. The first player to achieve or exceed this success formula is the winner of the game. The Singaporean life timeline and one’s enduring identity– or the lack thereof – involves the loss of the id, (read: innate passions and desires) through habits of compliance to social construct as one grows older. Conversely, the ego and superego, which are the other 2 concepts of the tripartite composition of I, focuses on societal means of success, and are transient, gone when one retires and when one’s predecessors move out of the house. The remainder – an empty nest, a hollow shell, a loss of socially ‘prestigious’ titles, and a stark loss of identity.

From early years of providing basic housing to enable the growing population to today’s design guidelines focusing on communal identity, the ubiquitous HDB landscape creates formal landscapes that champion pragmatism and community identity.

This thesis posits that the housing landscape holds the pivotal role as the spatial and physical construct in shaping a Singaporean’s core identity, through the retention of one’s id throughout one’s lifetime.

It calls upon the MND and HDB, which shapes 70% of a child’s development, to fulfil its role of shaping a future resilient generation. It distills the various title classifications and memories that can be created in the everyday neighbourhood, creating a vehicle that is reactionary to the longevity and permanence of one’s identity. Ultimately, it appends a PLAY! guide to creating housing spaces that build meaningful identities based on permanent qualities like resilience, independence, self-awareness, empathy – values beyond the traditional pedagogy of what a school can teach.

The guidebook comes coupled with 20 examples of deconstructing formal ‘play spaces’ into everyday banal items along journeys, which are practical and simple to be implemented. They bring meaning to the everyday, regardless of place or age. The resultant hyper-neighbourhood consist of a plethora of opportunities of 4 varying spatial types – secret passages, centre stages, hideaways and out-of-bound areas – a step into the solution for lasting memories, individual and communal titles; a rootedness to the self and to the community, and towards a generation of resilient characters; a wholesome id, ego, and superego; and a more meaningful, lasting and fulfilling game of life.

View Zoom Critique Here:

Chapter 1: The Singaporean Game of Life

The Singaporean Game of Life models Freudian Theory - the objective of the game is to earn titles through fame, happiness, money, recognition.The first player to achieve or exceed this success formula is the winner of the game. 

Chapter 2: What More can the HDB be?

The status quo of Singapore focuses largely, if not only, on formal educational facilities for a child’s identity during his/her formative years. Yet studies show that 65 to 70% of students’ outcomes are determined outside of school, on the neighbourhood.

The Singaporean resilient identity, hence, is developed in and around the hdb.


This appendix to the design guide seeks out HDB’s potential filling in the disparity between its status quo and its ability to build a future resilient generation.

Chapter 3: Eight Stories, Everyday Journeys

The methodology started with mapping out the everyday journey in multiple neighbourhoods in Singapore, through eight stories.

chapter 04:

tanglin halt

da-me architecture


adjective: this building is da-me

anonymous buildings, not beautiful, and not accepted in architectural culture to date; yet give priority to stubborn honesty in response to their surroundings and programmatic requirements, without insisting on architectural aesthetic and form.

Inspired by Atelier Bow-wow's rendition of da-me architecture of Japan, the PLAY! guidebook serves a relatively prescriptive version of banal architecture possibilities in everyday journeys. It aims to create spaces in the daily Singaporean neighbourhood geared towards the 4 characteristics of spaces (creating secret paths, centre stages, hideaways, out-of-bound areas). This is guided by a child's favourite actions — activities like to run, hide, seek, aim, lookout, trap, hide, hand, sail, climb...akin to how this list is endless, the guidebook is non-exhaustive, providing a mere semblance of examples

of deconstructing formal 'play spaces'. Such spaces are no longer a fixed state-designated confined node, but daily occurrences and choice destinations.

Whilst Volume 1 of the PLAY! guidebook is tailored towards the Tanglin Halt neighbourhood, the essence of this book and the entire thesis is not geared toward a specific site — instead, the main takeaway its author aspires for the

reader is the necessity of such spaces to be placeless, such that identity is no longer confined to a neighbourhood collective title, but about both individual and community titles that can be derived from the 20 projects. The nameless neighbourhood, which affects 65-70% of a child's identity, memories and titles, becomes the key factor in creating resilient titles. 

type 1:

secret paths

A unique, parallel path, alternate route. These spaces lead to discovery, either with characteristics that define a main path, a dirt path instead of formal roads, service accessways, or hidden paths away from the main vessels. They encourage a sense of discovery, exploration and adventure, encouraging children to step off the beaten track to explore. Such hidden paths can lead to hidden destinations. 


type 2:

centre stage

A high energy spot, with maximum circulation and visibility. Such spaces involve loops, repetitive play, where kids can showcase their skills. It encourages a sense of showmanship, exhibition, courage and learning.


type 3:


A frequent haunt,  with a sense of enclosure, sense of privacy, sense of ownership, sense of place. Such spaces are about the ability to access them, and the number of paths entering and leaving them.


type 4:


A space of adventure, exploration, rule-breaking, individuality. Such spaces encourage characteristics: self-awareness, self-evaluation, balanced risks; yet remain safe restricted zones for kids to explore.


play! vol. 1

guidebook to architecture for resilience

 publishing release 3Q 2020 

Stay tuned for updates here.