Khoo Hui En Vanessa
Frontlines | (Backalleyways)

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Swinal Samant

Site: Lor 13/15 Geylang

In 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic has brought to focus and highlighted the vulnerability and repercussions of Singapore’s overall segregation and condensation of our migrant workers to the margins of the city. Bearing this in mind, the heart of this thesis first begun from the aspiration towards building a future nation that embraces and celebrates the efforts and presence of our migrant workers who stand at the frontlines of our economy. The project removes the majoritarian lens that dominates the migrant housing landscape and reimagines a new inclusive and adaptable housing typology, one that bridges and brings together the complexities and varying synergies of both our migrant and local community within our neighbourhoods.

Through the readapting of Walter Segal’s self-built principals and detailing, the new tenancy aims to provide a comfortable density/ratio of private living to shared commons for the migrant workers through two new co-living models: the family unit; the communal co-living model. The new township typology forms a hierarchy of shared commons with varying levels of flexibility in layout and configuration, returning the autonomy of space back to the migrant tenants and building the social capital amongst its residents who work together to design and create their own home.

The Geylang Neighbourhood

The project situates itself within the Geylang district, which exists as a heterotopia of space with its unique character of both of vice and vitality and is home to a large community of migrant workers who have nestled into the rows of shophouses within the neighbourhood.


With the temporal affair of nightly pop-up market stalls selling cuisines and grocery catering specially to the migrant culture, internet cafes and local migrant NGOs, the Geylang neighbourhood provides for daily and recreational needs of the migrant community.

A New Township Typology

The project begins by introducing new pedestrian flows and circulation into the site, capitalizing on the forgotten and residual back alleys and redesigning them into the key social spine and network for circulation.


Taking in the beauty and heritage of the existing shophouse typology, the new township is adoptive in nature, infusing and taking cues from the existing local synergies of the neighbourhood.

Key Anchors

Utilizing  and preserving the distinctive street frontages and character of the Geylang neighbourhood, the programmatic layout and zoning of the site forms three key anchors that frame the central township, by activating the different street networks and fronts.

Central Market | Axis of revitalized backalley network

Archival Library |  Along the main commercial Geylang Rd

Community Nexus | Along the neighbourly food street by Sims Avenue

Tenancy Model One | Communal Co-living

The first tenancy model consists of an open and communal co-living model with a large ratio of shared commons. The tenancy model is divided into two clusters across the main spine and further divided into two sub clusters.

This self-built system is especially suitable for a community well equipped with the relevant building skillsets and demographics, enabling personalization and greater control of their own homes and a maximum efficiency of a  fixed living space to fit a varying of the number of tenants.

Tenancy Model Two | The Family Unit

The second tenancy model is a shared co-living apartment between 10-15 residents. The open plan layout of each unit features a series of fixed utility spaces; and a flexible ratio of private bedrooms to shared commons based on different parti-wall configurations.

The  family unit ceates an intimate and close community as residents share their domestic space in small groups.. The tenancy model is arranged by stacking 3 different module configurations vertically around a common courtyard creating shared communal spaces across units.