Paying attention to finance, economy & capital flows in architecture
Tay Kheng Soon wants the public to interact with his students to ground them in reality as they try to understand and imagine a possible future of Singapore. For the coming NUS Architecture Year 4, semester 1, Tay Kheng Soon Design-Research Studio, he has set "The Future of Singapore" as a theme. The semester starts in August and ends 12 weeks later. He hopes to invite the public to a public presentation of their ideas and to hear their critiques. CONTEXT: The design of the environment, cities, housing and community facilities, all need capital. And there are huge amount of capital that is dormant resting in huge deposits in tax havens. Architects and students of architecture never pay any attention to finance, economy and capital flows. They assume its supportive and benign nature. They are wrong. Where it affects architecture and their own lives most is in real-estate development where they live and where their jobs come from. Increasingly real-estate has become not just the production of accommodation but a means of speculative profit extraction by developers, banks and REITS. They all inflate land and property prices which translates into rising costs of living while generating little economic benefit. Unwittingly, architects are a tool in this process of trickle-up profit extraction with no real gain to society or the environment.
THE CHALLENGE: Singapore can be the most effective policy and developmental laboratory for the World, demonstrating what can really be done. We are small, compact, most of the land is publicly owned (successful land reform), a strong centralised public administrative system, information rich, strong electoral support and a high reputational profile, Singaporeans should dare to think big and deep beyond the trivial limits of current architectural concerns.
THIS STUDIO’S PROCESS: Students will interact publicly with my FB website FOS the future of Singapore project. All our ideas will be uploaded on FB to stimulate public discussion. The first two weeks will be devoted to deepen understanding as to how the world really works and what Singapore’s role in it has been and is. This process will be intensive. Besides the two afternoon studio sessions, I propose a series of evening sessions of video viewing followed by discussion. This should fill in the knowledge gaps. This will be followed by a series of ideations, in which students will individually propose issues and solutions that make Singapore globally relevant and by being locally self-sustaining. All these ideas will be debated, discussed as a studio group and refined before generating design propositions. I will invite specialists in water management, agriculture, economics and politics into our design seminars.
EXPECTED OUTCOMES: Every student will produce a design and its rationalisation that has added to the totality of the studio’s efforts at advance design thinking. While rationality is demanded, aesthetics will be addressed at the primary i.e., intuitive sense level, at the cultural level, the socially constructed meanings and at the ideological level, the political and at the level of habituated beliefs. Sites will be selected, quantities determined and justified, economic and environmental parameters declared, aesthetic properties demonstrated. Students will be challenged as they never have been. Expect that this studio will be life-changing! Architecture is dead, long live architecture!