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Flux: A Buddhist Museum

Part 1 Project 2013
Yen Shan Phoaw
National University of Singapore, Singapore
The project begins as a “religious” insertion into a rather profane and eclectic site – Geylang. On a contrary to Singapore’s regimented immaculate image, the physical and human site context of Geylang exists as multifarious and amorphous entities.

The physical landscape embodies a plethora of building typologies ranging from colonial shop houses to towering industrial constructs. The diverse building typologies are juxtaposed in close proximity with each other housing differing programs. These activities have differing levels of legality, functionality and morality. Brothels, gambling dens, secret society hideouts intermingle with religious clan bases, restaurants, bars, industrial workshops and residential apartments. This acute eclecticism of human activities generates an endless ruckus throughout the day.

The task was to propose the erection of a Buddhist Museum that perpetuated the principles of Buddhism with its spatial intents while effectively shielding the “holy” interiors of the building against the cacophony of the surrounding streets.

The histories and paradigm of Buddhism were closely referenced and distilled. The project adopted a multifaceted approach in the adaptation of Buddhist iconography, symbols and ideologies along with a clear consideration of programmatic requirements and site constraints.

The museum was conceived with the notion of Flux (impermanence) underpinning the “pilgrimage” of each visitor. An abstract exercise of visualising this “spatial flux” was done, and resulted in an imagery of a labyrinthine sacred tropical rainforest – a heterogeneously homogenous space. This “spatial flux” would allow the visitor to experience the sense of flux via the varying sense of scale, lighting and visual cues through floor plans that a designed to be free in nature.

The Bodhi Tree was adapted for its structural patterns and lighting quality it provides under its blanket of vines. Ancient Buddhist scriptures provided the inspiration for the building’s linear scripture-like façade. Both elements would become the main structural system that supports the building load, much like how these symbols and objects are mediums for devotees to attain enlightenment.

These explorations resulted in an atmospheric piece of architecture laden with Buddhist semantics that lifts itself from the frenzied site.

Yen Shan Phoaw


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