Friday, March 31, 2006


Update on Let's TAP exhibition, June 2006.
MUJI's gonna be our sponsor!
And you think dreams don't come true...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Concept of Home

newpaper article SEPT 1 2002

My country, but not my home?
Richard Lim

In today's decentered, plug-and-play world, is home an outdated notion? Isn't one rooted to ideas, rather than to places? Why be a citizen of a small place, when one can be a global citizen?

'SINCE I was 14,' she says, 'I lived my life as a stray cat.

Global citizens who live outside their countries, and those who have no choice but to live in their countries but who refuse to make a commitment - they may soon become the norm rather than the aberration. -- ALAN LIM

'Whoever gave me warmth became my instant family and my home. So I guess I don't have any attachment to one country where I can call my real home.'

'But,' my Japanese friend adds, 'there is one thing that has kept me rooted. It's the aesthetic sense and morals that were repeatedly taught at home and at schools.

'Now, no matter where I am, I cannot get rid of a certain sense of responsibility. I feel as if I were a representative of my country. It's a bit stressful, but I guess it keeps me from mischief.'

My friend has had her fair share of mischief. In her days as a stray cat, she had drunk too much, and partied too much. But now in her late 30s, and married with two children, she's a proper professional and a dutiful wife.

A Kobe native, she had her university education in Tokyo, then went across to the United States to do further studies. She had worked in Japan, Hongkong and Kuala Lumpur before coming to Singapore last year, after her Malaysian husband was posted here by his employers to head their regional office.

She confesses though that she still has no place to call 'home'.

'But in a sense I'm lucky, because I can feel at home anywhere,' she says.

'No matter where I am, in Singapore, in Kuala Lumpur, in Hongkong, in the US, or even in an airplane, the moment I hear the good old Kansai accent, that space becomes my instant home.'

Where would you want to retire, I ask her.

'Oh, you know I don't plan to live long. But if I could afford it, I'll spend spring, the season of the sakura, in Japan; and summer till autumn, when the leaves change colour, in Paris; and winter in a tropical place like Singapore,' she replies.

'I don't want to be committed to one country. I'll get terribly bored.'

She's your prototypical global citizen in today's decentered, plug-and-play world.

One in four people on this tiny island are not Singapore citizens, and probably one in eight young Singaporeans see themselves as transient as they are (although actually, a not insignificant number out of every wave of foreigners who come through will choose to settle here).

They may invest in property and equities, but they certainly are not rushing to make emotional investment in the country.

Global citizens who live outside their countries, and those who have no choice but to live in their countries but who refuse to make a commitment - they may soon become the norm rather than the aberration, what with the world becoming one connected playground and workplace.

With such a world, there can be no geographical centre. There are, instead, scattered nodules competing for people's attention.

'New York, Warsaw, Tehran, Tokyo, Kabul - they all make claims on our imaginations, all remind us that in a decentered world we are always simultaneously in the centre and on the periphery, that every competing centre makes us marginal.'

This, according to Eva Hoffman, the Polish emigre who made good in the United States, in her 1989 book, Lost In Translation: Life In A New Language.

How to resolve her bivalence? Be here now, is her answer.

'I am the sum of my languages - the language of my family and childhood, and education and friendship, and love, and the larger, changing world,' she declares.

But after finishing her next book, Exit Into History (1993), a chronicle of her journey through the newly opened Eastern Europe, which was recorded with the eyes of an outsider and the love of a native daughter, she chose to leave New York where she worked as an editor of the New York Times Book Review to set up home in Cracow, Poland.

She may have made a choice, a commitment, in the end.

To be ambivalent, to be committed to no particular place, may be to suffer what the exiled Czech writer Milan Kundera has famously called the unbearable lightness of being. How can one take oneself and one's endeavours seriously?

Of course, the Salman Rushdies of this world will retort, if rather fancifully: 'One of the effects of mass migration has been the creation of radical new types of human beings: of people who root themselves in ideas rather than places, in memories as much as in material things ... people in whose deepest selves strange fusions occur, unprecedented unions between what they were and where they find themselves.'

But go back one generation, and you had a V.S. Naipaul lamenting, after having been transplanted from the West Indies to England for eight years:

'I find I have, without effort, achieved the Buddhist ideal of non-attachment. I am never disturbed by national or international issues. I do not sign petitions. I do not vote. I do not march. And I never cease to feel that this lack of interest is all wrong.

'I want to be involved, to be touched by some of the prevailing anger.'

My friend and one-time mentor, the Malacca-born poet Shirley Lim, who has spent almost all her adult years in the US, records in her memoir, Among The White Moon Faces (1996):

'Everywhere I have lived in the United States - Boston, Brooklyn, Westchester - I felt an absence of place, myself absent in America.'

Of her frequent returns to this part of the world, she says: 'Returning, I am filled with an ineffable sense of completion, a satiety of recognitions. No matter how urgent my struggles to escape childhood poverty and the country's racial politics, I have continued to feel an abiding identity with Malaysia's soil.'

My Japanese friend may say she doesn't want to be committed to any one country. But on the other hand, she admits she feels responsible as a representative of her native country.

That can be stressful, as she has pointed out, but it sure is better for the soul than to be floating weightlessly through an endless multiplicity of events and places.

Living a day at a time, plug and play, easy come, easy go, and to be comfortably numb - that's not being a radically new type of human being. That's being a cop-out.

To be a citizen of the world is to be an orphan in a free state with no stakes and no responsibilities. But that free state is not real, because it is nowhere land.

Call me an old geezer, a stick in the mud, but I'm persuaded that one needs a home, and in that home, one finds meaning in others who share it, and tries to mean something to them as well.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Architecture is, however, not a linear process that leads more or less logically and directly from architectural history to new buildings. On the search for the architecture I envisage, I frequently experience stifling moments of emptiness...At these moments, I try to shake off the academic knowldege of architecture I have acquired because itt has suddenly started to hold me back...I find I can breathe more freely. I catch a whiff of the old familiar mood fo the inventors and pioneers. Design has once again become an invention.
Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture.

I dust the photocopy off my shelf, and read again the words which once so inspired me. Architecture smarkitecture.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Los Angeles is surrounded by these imaginary stations that feed reality, the energy of the real to a city whose mystery is precisely that of no longer being anything but a network of incessant, unreal circulation --- a city of incredible proportions but without space, without dimension … … this city, which is no longer anything but an immense scenario and a perpetual pan shot, needs this old imaginary like a sympathetic nervous system made up of childhood signals and faked phantasms " [Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard]

was thinking.... how about Singapore? what is the reality and hyperreal? what do people consider their home... their place?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Of Being a Nomad

"Such incessant and dramatic change to one's surroundings must have some effect on the Singaporean psyche. You could say it turns Singaporeans into a nation of nomads. Except that it is not the movement of the people that make it such, but the shifting of the land. Even if they stay put, the country moves around them, and Singaporeans find themselves eventually in a new place, clinging only to ghosts."- Lost at Home: A Nation's State of Geographical Confusion, Air-Conditioned Nation.

With the constant chugging and whirling of machinery from dawn to dusk (and oftentimes till midnight), the landscape ( in the broadest sense, including all manner of hardscape and built works) at Farrer Road has changed dramatically over the past year or so. Construction hoarding taken down overnight suddenly reveal reworked roads, redirected roads, relocated overhead bridges and new pedestrian paths. As the MRT construction progresses, each and every stage reveal new alterations ; the landscape stirred by an invisible stick once every month or so. However, the noise is as constant as a fly's buzz around one's head. To add to the cacophony, a steam roller rolled by the window sometime last month, in an attempt to flatten the rock garden behind the apartment and to replace it with a children's playground.

We think of moving. The thing is, everything else is moving around us.

Friday, March 17, 2006

"Preservation Ethics 2 comments

Taliesin as Textbook with Jim Erickson and Sid Robinson
Class Notes 6.20.05 | 2:30 to 4:00

What is preservation?
- rehabilitation.
- restoration.
- reconstruction.
(Usually it is a combo of the three)

It is NOT the stopping of change or reversal of change. It has many degrees of intervention... it is the managing of change.

Preservation began in the national parks service preserving our natural environment. Mount Vernon was the first historic preservation of a building. Pamela Anne Cunningham raised money to save George's home. It was saved bacause it was historically significant.

So how broadly do you define significantness???

Then you must ask, what period should it be restored to?

Basic rule of preservation: record what you found & what you did.


Class Response:

Despite the blah nature of my notes, the class was actually pretty interesting. A week ago the school had just visited Wright's Home & Studio in Oak Park ... actually we visited many places including Mies' Farnsworth House, IIT, etc; but the reason I bring up the Home & Studio is that we met with the restoration architect of this recently preserved building.

The Home & Studio is sparkling. Everything is in great condition, frozen as its early 20th century self. It felt very odd. This home was not just being preserved because of its architectural significance, but also because FLLW had lived there. To preserve the home they chose a period of significance, and any changes Wright made to the property were taken out because they were not of the right period. For example, in the studio there originally stood a fireplace made of common brick. Later, Wright covered this fireplace with Roman brick to make it more "prairie style".

However in the restoration, Wright's redecoration was removed and returned to common brick. It was decided that his change to Roman brick was a move to make the house more trendy and sellable. In this instance, the historical accuracy of the home was more important than the wishes of the architect who created it. Therefore I question the validity of this decision.


Anyway, beyond that simple observation, you have to ask yourself what is the point of this restoration? I love that the building is in good, livable condition. However Wright's Home and Studio was designed to be (*shocker*) a home and studio, but now this useful place has been restored into a house museum. A home has been turned into an attraction. What was the point of making it livable? You could have achieved the same affect by just building a replica down the street.

Buildings are born, they live, and they die. What does it mean when it has been frozen in time? Embalmed? I have not come up with a complete thought when it comes to this issue.

What surprised me more was when I brought these thoughts up in class. Students who in one breath screamed about the vision of the artist and the wrongness of tampering with this vision after death, were completely fine with the restoration. In fact, I was attacked for even questioning the ethics of such an act. Did I miss something?"

--megsw, Taliesin Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture 09/05/05 18:06

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Let's TAP!
10 unique ways to understand a place

How would you talk about a place? What makes a place more than just a space? Through this multi-media exhibition we will show 10 unique ways to understand a place. Together with an international public forum on making architectural design more available to the people, this event will heighten people's awareness on place-making, and get them talking about places!

The public, especially youths in Singapore today need to know that they are an important voice of the society and city in which they live in. They have a big part to play in shaping and influencing the kind of place they want to live in. We hope that as young people making a statement about the place we call home, we will be able to encourage and inspire the youths in Singapore that they can make a difference and an important contribution to the kind of place they want Singapore to be.

Exhibition: Our exhibition seeks to bring out discussions on issues of place that matter to us. Some of these issues might be of the physical environment that we live, work and play in, others cover the psychological aspects like how we perceive and experience a place, what makes a place a home, etc. By exploring various artistic mediums, we will show 10 unique approaches to understand a place.

Forum: Local design professionals and guest speakers from overseas will talk about different places while sharing their works, mainly those dealing with local community. Not only would audience be exposed to the creative bridging of architecture to the community, real interactions between the public and the designers would also be initiated.

National Library Building – a place for the people and one of the most talked about local buildings

3 – 17 Jun 2006 (in conjunction with the theme of the month - The Art Festival)

This event is organized by ReallyArchitecture [re:act] – a visionary youth group promoting relevant architectural design in Singapore and Asia. It is supported by National Library Board (NLB) and The Architecture Society (TAS).

Monday, March 06, 2006

Architecture is perceived unconsciously and in passing, distractedly and through collective." The reception of architecture takes place tactilely through use and optically through perception, in both cases, however, it occurs less "by way of attention than by way of habit.. less in alertness than in passing." Architecture remains bound to everyday life situations-- indeed, it fulfills its task best of all in "invisible" self-evidence.-- magazine, "the everyday architecture" or smthg like that


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Collaboration with Big Fishes

Well, the recent debate for our group is whether to collaborate with NUS' The Architecture Society, and being the newsmonger that I am, here's the few thread of thoughts that were exchanged through emails. Collaboration with NUS will definitely give us credibility. But at the same time we lose our guerilla-like-think-tank independence that flourishes in email exchanges and the all-equalising web. In the long run, however, reACT will have to stand on its own two feet. But what about now? What about these fledgeling years when we are trying to establish ourselves? Would we need to work with every TAS president that comes along for 5 years or so? That would stymie our work if we have to account to different people every year! And what kids they are. (age wise). Tsk tsk. :)

But, as Janita says. Let's talk.

Definitely think its a good idea to collaborate. We will run through with DMC. I'd hate it if they try to intervene with our objectives and goals though. Will we lose independence?
Ngai Keong:
I have a feeling that what we're doing is actually a conflict of interest. This may sound very cynical, but they're not really interested in education. They're more interested in running a business! They'd be more than happy that we do our things independently.
Sern Hong:
Still, another way would be to put some of the professors/school on our 'advisory board'. if they are willing, the advisory board will be an official element in our group. This will add credibility for us. We need an agenda. need to strategise b4 any meeting & action. not wise to just barge in to any meeting. to share my 2 cents worth, Jan and I prepared a powerpoint(much like a marketing sales presentation) to DMC last year. It was rather a success as they are convinced about what we want to do and how they can benefit. Basically, we tuned the presentation in such a way that it is about 'how SDE can benefit and how they are important to us'. Still, though, i am not comfortable linking with the school, there are certain 'elements' in it that will support us. we just have to seive that out.
Szue Hann:
Yeah, was worried that they'd intervene with what we're trying to do as well. We can talk about it during Fri's meeting. Might be late cause got class til evening though.