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The Brown Co-op: Negotiating The Absence Presence of Bukit Brown

Part 2 Project 2015
Jing Xiang Tan
National University of Singapore Singapore Singapore
Singapore 2013: Despite public protest, Bukit Brown Cemetery, the largest historical Chinese cemetery was bisected by roadwork, foreshadowing an estate for the living.

Positioned in the future-exhumed-cemetery-site, the Brown Co-op (TBC) is a brick in-filled complex that “haunts” with its contents (the uncanny and lived space). As a union of artists and workers, TBC questions the State’s programme through its architectural programme. It asks for alternatives in engaging past memories and meanings.

The once pregnant ground though exhumed, still carries a spiritual presence. Instead of displacing it, TBC proposes to intercept and extract from it: clay, sand and granite.

A pottery school, dragon kiln and industrial kiln constitute the coop— breathing new meaning to the earth. A new lived space and memories of what-once-was is reconstituted through the act of moulding. Traditional notions of ground are renegotiated, celebrating ground as source/origins with clay as a conduit and vessel of “haunting” and memory.

…Goddess Nuwa fashioned people by breathing life into clay. At death we return to the ground, entombed in grave-mounds shaped after a womb, metaphorically a pregnant earth, waiting to rebirth. At TBC, the monumental earth does not diminish; it’s instead transformed into pots and bricks.

Jing Xiang Tan


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