Strategic Practice

Erasing Singapore: the Extermination of Space and Memory

“Anything old or not conceived of within the master plan is torn down and replaced with the modern high-rise – notwithstanding public pleas for preservation of heritage. Sterile tiled pavements and concrete sidewalks that are easily cleaned have paved the entire island.” in The Good, the Bad, and the Utilitarian: Singapore’s Schizophrenic Urbanism by Ting-ting Zhang and William Tan, 2008.

Critically questioning the ongoing processes of urban development, Erasing Singapore establishes a parallel between the constant elimination of buildings, structures, green areas, and vacant spaces and the loss of memory and identity. The show is two-folds with a film and a time-line, contemplating new housing projects, existing dwelling and unbuilt spaces along with the history of the growth of Singapore following policies and legal framework. The film superimposes literature excerpts from local novelists as well as official texts, and critical articles by local and foreign architects overlaid on almost-still portraits of ancient buildings, new construction, and construction site locations on the island to reflect on the unswerving path of space production in Singapore. The chronological narrative complements the film by reflecting on how the island developed from a bustling colonial comptoir to Asia’s principal financial center. Laying out the history of the urban growth of Singapore, the timeline runs along three parallel tracks, one following political powers from 1800 to today, another following the corresponding Masterplan from the 1822 Jackson plan to the 2014 URA Masterplan and a third track following the evolution of the Housing and Development Board estates and New Towns strategies. Along these three lines, quotes from existing literature operate as a critical commentary on the growth of the island, the question of democracy, and the remodeling of its territory as part of a larger social engineering project.

It was exhibited at the Seoul Municipality Town Hall in the frame of the show 'Aging Dragons' in 2016 curated by Hyeri Park and focused on the post-growth situation of 5 developed Asian cities: Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo, and part of the international symposium, ‘Beyond Big Plans‘.

Part of TOO FAST, TOO FURIOUS, the urban research project in Asia undertaken by OMNIBUS, this research seeks to understand and track down the parallel between urban growth and erasure. Focus is set on the consequences of what seems like an unstoppable progression, on the resistance tactics that have emerged against it and the possible resilience of the informal as a tool of opposition, focusing particularly on the Mekong area, Japan, India, and Singapore.

With Noboru Kawagishi, OMNIBUS, 2012-2016.