Architectural propositions for the future

One hundred and twenty-two bold propositions – a collection of thesis projects from the Class of 2021 Master of Architecture (M.Arch) graduates from the NUS School of Design and Environment – are on display at the NUS M.Arch Show 2021.

Presented along five discursive threads – Critical Architecture, History & Heritage, Socio-politics & Geopolitics, Technologies and Urbanism & Environments – the show is a culmination of their architectural education. Each thread is uniquely positioned to probe the limits of the discipline, and to respond to the demands of wider society. 

A physical exhibition would have been the ideal way to experience large format drawings and 3D architectural models. But the organisers had to adapt quickly to the COVID-19 situation and switched to a virtual exhibition.

The team shared their thoughts in organising this year’s exhibition.

Loo Quan Le (Logistics and set-up team): “Many of us felt that it would have been more meaningful to have a physical exhibition as we get to design the space in which our works are exhibited, in a way that best represents our individual schemes. Visitors at the show would be able to get up close to our architectural models and notice the tiny details that would not be as apparent when they are viewed on photos.”

Ong Chan Hao (Project Director): If there is anything that the pandemic has taught us, it has been the ability to be agile and to adapt to new circumstances. We expanded on our digital platform to incorporate a virtual exhibition, keeping the experience similar as much as possible within a short amount of time for execution. The committee also put forth great effort in order to overcome this difficulty, even as some of them were quickly approaching their employment.

A virtual exhibition may seem fuss free and easy to accomplish, compared to a physical one which would require more logistical considerations. However, it produces a whole new spectrum of challenges, some of which we were not so familiar with. In the translation of our show from physical to digital, the committee also pushed for a series of virtual events to create atmosphere and to solidify the curatorial positions put forth through the exhibition.”

Emma Lau (Event Director): “With the delayed schedule of the virtual exhibition, many committee members made the hard choice to continue working on the event, eating into their down time before full-time employment began. We knew that this would be the last opportunity to work together as classmates, and that this virtual exhibition would be an archive of our hard work from our final year. All these factors make us so grateful for the hard work put in by our batchmates.”

Anders Ang (Lead website designer): “A well-run virtual exhibition has the potential to engage a wider international audience. The public was invited to engage with students, faculty, and guests directly through a series of online conversations, presentations, and other events on Youtube Live. Our works are also available for browsing on the website, which we will turn into a permanent home for future M.Arch Shows.”

Here are some highlights of their thesis works.

Filter City Masterplan

This is a combined effort from Azriel Yeo, Bernie Ang, Justin Sim, Max Lee and Sherry Goh. They envision a pandemic future where screening becomes a norm and reimagines a new neighbourhood that is designed to be self-reliant, without disruption to energy, water and food supply, and one where novel hybrid urban prototypes are planned for the containment and recovery of individuals.

Filter City Masterplan by Azriel Yeo, Bernie Ang, Justin Sim, Max Lee and Sherry Goh, supervised by Assoc Prof Joseph Lim.

Sherry said: “It is without a doubt that urban planning involves a high level of difficulty and a wide spectrum of complexities. This thesis was an attempt to redefine five key aspects of the city - Housing, Workplace, Food Production, Retail & Manufacturing, and Medical & Quarantine. Conversations and debates on social, economic and political implications were sometimes painful but necessary in order to make a change in how we live in a pandemic-proof future. I am certainly thankful to have had the opportunity to work with four other wonderful individuals, under Assoc Prof Joseph Lim. We worked very well together as a team and were able to create something truly special and relevant.”

Find out more about the project here.

To food, with love: Architecture of an intangible culture

Sim Wen Wei believes that it is a misconception that hawker centres are the only location where hawker culture is manifested. Such a culture is dependent on the entire food ecosystem, from farms to wholesale markets and wet markets. There have also been new forms of “hawking” outside of hawker centres such as online food businesses operating from home kitchens. As such, he proposes multiple interventions to preserve hawker culture that are not focused only on the hawker centre, but at various locations throughout the neighbourhood, reflecting the scale and inter-connectedness of the culture.

“The process of this thesis was a convoluted one, an attempt to understand the role of architectural designers in an ecosystem dictated by public health policies, business requirements and national security. Despite the celebration of its cultural and heritage value, hawker culture is ultimately dependent on very pragmatic concerns, which was a challenge to balance in designing. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and friends, as well as all the foodies in Singapore.”

Find out more about the project here.

The Orchid Cooperative

Fong Shi Yuan wanted to probe a new perspective of farming in a land-scarce country, within a shared value chain – an Orchid Cooperative. Situated along a proposed green network connection between Pearl’s Hill and the railway corridor, the Cooperative will encompass community horticultural landscapes; a park connector as a therapeutic space; and horticultural living labs for medical technology, cosmetic fragrances and additives.

“The more ‘garang’ farmers will look for new ways of farming - was one of the key responses from the Orchid farmers that drove this project. This thesis gave me the privilege to re-examine the process of discarding the old as Singapore rapidly urbanises. Embarking on a project centred around orchids was unexpected given my limited knowledge on it to begin with, and even more so upon the discovery of its untapped potential as a resource in Singapore. Let us not be quick to discard what we think is no longer relevant, to really dive deep to understand what is at hand.”

Find out more about the project here.

To the Master of Architecture Class of 2021:

Not all issues can be solved by architecture alone, but we are in the key position to make changes so that these issues will be addressed. We value health, harmony, sustainability and wellness. And we hope that you hold these values into your career.
Professor Ho Puay Peng, Head of Department of Architecture, NUS School of Design and Environment