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Cultivating Agency: Spatial Practices of the Public Housing Gardener-Resident

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Hui Min Jan Lim
National University of Singapore Singapore Singapore
It is estimated that ninety-five percent of the world’s designers exclusively serve the richest ten percent of the world’s clients. Where most architects have avoided or neglected, however, alternative means of spatial production have sprouted beyond the making of a building itself. These include not only acts of appropriation, subterfuge and subversion, but also dissemination and empowerment. Particularly in the context of Singapore, where bureaucratic structures of the state are arguably the primary agent of change, what forms of spatial production does the ordinary person partake in, and how does he reclaim his autonomy from the state and those in power, in everyday life? The public housing resident can be understood as one such agent in the production of his own space, as seen in his practice of gardening beyond the boundaries of his flat. Using Michel de Certeau’s theory of practice, which differentiates the tactic (the art of the weak) from the strategy (the domain of the powerful), this paper seeks to explicate the ways in which the public housing gardener-resident operates in the space of authority, in relation to the land policies of the state. Studies on the community gardens of the Residents’ Committees and the guerrilla gardens of Kampong Sungei Pandan illustrate how the conceptual categories of the tactic and strategy can collapse and be redefined by state intervention.
Hui Min Jan Lim

Prof Sakamoto Tsuto
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