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Ambiguous Informality – A New Possibility of Ageing and Inhabitation

Part 1 Project 2012
Zhi Rui Lim
National University of Singapore Singapore Singapore

In an old estate site (Redhill) where the population of its residents is mainly made up of elderly aged 65 or above, building a nursing home here would entail greater significance and sensitivity towards its social context. Such sensitivity requires a careful understanding and observations of some of the underlying characteristics and qualities of the site to ensure that the introduction of a new nursing home would bring about positive reactions for the social wellbeing of the neighbourhood.

In the present-day urban environment, homes are often compact, high-density models, which make us feel lost and lonely in a massive community that lacks a shared identity. In the typical high-rise high-density estates of Singapore, formal context and reference would seem limited and peripheral. The vibrancy of the neighbourhood, the appearance of micro public spaces, and personalizing of ambiguous space all suggest a potential towards an architecture that is “informal” with a village like quality.

It was logical to break down the nursing home into smaller groups and encourage a lifestyle where they could forge closer relationships with their neighbours. The ward floors are function-centric, such that they are individual volumes determined by the spatial requirements that the various activities or occupancy require. The ground level is treated similarly with the surrounding site, scattered with micro-public spaces that generate spontaneous gatherings and integration between the residents and the rest of the society.

Architecturally, the wards are expressed as individual boxes on slabs that house the residents, providing them with ample area for personalized spaces. The circulation space doubles up as usable area, as each level is given a personal home-like quality with the inhabitants continually changing and reinterpreting the use of the space that is given to them. Based on the appropriate heights required for the various categories of activities, the levels alternate between single-storey and double-storey floors, thereby creating an interesting elevation that contrasts with the institutional quality of a regular nursing home.

In a land-scarce city like Singapore, re-thinking the ground would be necessary. To create new “grounds”, to discover a different scale, and to redefine the relationships between the surroundings, the inside and the outside - I wish to consider this possibility.

Zhi Rui Lim

Assc. Prof Swee Ling Tse
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