Nur Aisyah Ong @ Carol Leena Ong (she/her)
Hi, I’m Aisyah hailing from the little red dot. I am a formally trained spatial designer yet, I’ve always found myself itching to venture into other disciplines. I’ve always perceived my expression as an extension of my individuality. Hence, my journey has been nothing but curious. I take pride in my honest exploration of trying to make sense of the world around me, drawing from my personal experiences.
Conventions of Public Spaces
Singapore’s rapid development into a first world country has seen it being criticised for its ‘anti-public’ nature of its development. Citing the absence of participatory civic discourse to the threat of privatisation fuelled by land scarcity, it is hard for one to communicate succinctly what is lacking in Singapore’s public sphere leading to ‘boring’ spaces. There might be a lack of understanding during the design process in providing quality public spaces proven by superficial and inefficient measures.
This series of projects puts to test the threshold of conventions that occurs in a rather unassuming setting; a designated study corner in Chai Chee. This journey explores various tactics that challenges the boundaries through the method of pushing and flipping and subsequently looking at the boundless dimensionality of public spaces.
Ambivalence: The Unseeing of Spaces
Programmes are assigned boundaries and it has an impact on how we interact with our spaces. With pre-defined functions, it’s hard to break out of that box.
While Noguchi relied on his art training to sculpt his landscapes, I wanted to sculpt mine like an imaginative child. Based on the inspiring adventures of my childhood, this particular scene was reflective of the atmosphere I wanted to emulate.
An intuitive creation of landscape, drawing from the abstract, nonsensical structures of Dr. Seuss’ to fit into my void deck.
Wondering how to translate into a cohesive landscape by mimicking the childlike wonder of experiencing the environment in the landscape through;
(1) peering over something from a greater height and
(2) a sense of scale of how huge the world could be.
Without the familiar objects that makes for rather structured and mundane interaction, it requires for imagination and made-up rules for activities to work. Hence, activating the imagination of people in this space.
It isn’t a design to be build, but to help us wonder about the limitations we have set for ourselves. How would a landscape as a void deck perform?
Types of Play
This landscape provides for varying levels and intensity of play from quiet to active, and interactive. The organic forms provide for differnt ways of engaging and manipulating.
Different age groups can also utilise these forms to carry out their own activity and inhabit in harmony.
This abstract exploration is rather encouraging for me as I can imagine the endless possibilities of its use. However, it appears that in spite of its flexibility there is a clear gap in how much people are willing to engage freely as we’re still conditioned by the conventions of these spaces.
It’s so easy to lose the ability to see the magic in the ordinary of things. Caught up in endless exciting visuals we consume on social media, the beauty in everydayness gets ignored. To unlock the magic in the world requires playing with our environment, borrowing from guerilla art as an inspiration. They’re non-intrusive, spontaneous, and a great way to activate one’s imagination.
Familiarity breeds contempt, leading to many overlooked surprises that somehow make the neighbourhood special. Each time I would often notice very different things, lending to its uniqueness in my eyes.
Intrigued by the concept of light, I set out to uncover the site with different intentions to verbalise the ever-changing everyday experience. Throughout the day, the atmosphere was night and day.
Magic in the Night
The coloured lights that come alive in the quiet of the night. It feels rather liberating to be cloaked by the night. The bright lights appear to be beacons of safety and like moths drawn to a flame, we seek out paths with lights to get our way home.
Day vs. Night
A comparison of lighting qualities at different times of the day. The daytime hides sheltered spaces but the night makes them pronounced. The night experience of the space is rather distoreted, void of the vibrant colours and shapes we enjoy in the day.
Guerilla art, known for its spontaneity, serves as a great inspiration for me. It is a reaction to the environment and feels rather personal. One artist in particular that I enjoy goes by the name of MOBSTR with his ‘Progressions’ work. It interacts with both space, the authorities and is open to passersby to observe the interactions.
These glass tiles are visible enough to hint movement happening on the other side through lights. I wanted to enhance that by creating mechanical tiles that follow the movement of the passerby. This installation would allow people to notice their own pace and presence in that space itself.
These frames lend an interesting way of painting the walls both in day time and night time. The artificial bulbs at night can create harsh shapes and the day would have a much softer effect.
The cats in this neighbourhood are beloved and spoiled plenty. This installation takes inspiration from John Barcus’ fantastical perspective of pipes and how it can provide an opportunity for cats to seek refuge or perch from higher ground.
Inspired by the appearance of night and day in below photograph, I wanted to create a distinct installation.
Reflection Although guerilla art may seem unrefined, it is honest and encapsulates the sentiment of the people towards their environment. I think this activity helps me to be more spontaneous in my processing of the space around me.
There exist versions of the world we will never know in the music that we don’t hear. This project provides a glimpse into the different ways people experience spaces beyond the reach and comprehension of physicality as spatial designers.
In fast-paced city life, it can be hard to take a pause and discover yourself when it is a struggle to keep on top of things. To learn your value as an individual and place in your world, not have your worth measured by your contributions to a cold, capitalist-driven society. While it remains a daunting task, some indulge through their music as they bear the mundanity of the everyday.
Ty Cullen kickstarted this video project (Hey New York! What Are You Listening To) in 2011, and it had since taken its own life when it began trending and emulated worldwide. Watching it in 2021 feels like a time capsule of these moments, which are somewhat nostalgic.
The medium of music is suited to the individual’s preference, background, and feelings. These glimpses of personalities give rise to varying imageries of how we experience spaces around us quite differently.
The added dimensionality beyond the physicality of space makes these same spaces feel capable of many experiences. This layout is a reading of the potential reasons why they’re listening to these particular songs/artists in their environment.
Singapore’s ‘tracklist’ conveys a strong sense of self and identity through the genre of music they identify it whether it is mainstream or alternative. However, this experience seems to be rather introspective and lack a relationship with their surroundings. They feel detached from their surroundings, thereby inauthentic.
Surrounded by monotonous and seemingly uninspiring public spaces, it is hard to be confident and embrace our individuality. Perhaps due to our cultural differences, we appear to be more conservative. But at what cost? Is it so bad to allow for the freedom for one to express themselves. Driven by site observations and storytelling, I’ve curated some playlists based on various personas I have observed at the site to tell their story of their void deck at Blk 32 Chai Chee Ave.
Upon the reflection of our interventions as spatial designers, I’ve realised that we are heavily dependent on organic inhabitation and adaptation of the spaces. The added dimension of individuality could perhaps lend to another path of adventure. One where we may better understand the intricacies of the collective occupation of a space. To be aware of the other.
Nostalgic Futures: Secret Eden
Kampung Lorong Buangkok (KLB) is the last kampung on mainland Singapore. There are plans for it to make way for urban redevelopment as indicated in the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Masterplan 2014. In its place, the kampung is supposed to be replaced by a 3-lane bi-directional highway, 2 schools (primary and secondary), and a public park. Much heritage will be lost. What our future generations want from an urban environment are fundamentally the same as everyone else today: safe and clean streets, access to green space, clean air, things to do, the ability to get around, the freedom to see friends, and somewhere to call home. Therefore, the design challenge is to produce viable, feasible and desirable proposals for the KLB site through speculative design.
Kampong Lorong Buangkok has been described as a secret Eden, a jarring sight amidst the mass of modern, and pristine apartment blocks. The romanticism of the simplistic nature of kampong life has led to many fighting for the preservation of the ‘safe haven’. Having long withstood the allure of progression, its resident chooses to retain the community and way of life that it so cherishes.
The kampong spirit that many in concrete grid-like apartments yearn for is something that prevails in the haphazard kampong to this day. However, we seek to preserve the physical shell of the kampong, almost as if it holds the secret to attaining kampong spirit within its walls. We act like retaining its shell guarantees that future generations would be able to learn from our pasts and understand their roots.
To this assumption, we must challenge the notion that the physicality of the kampong allows them to immerse in the kampong life. Does the retention of the physical buildings translate the simplistic way of life, the community unique to kampong, and the rejuvenation of being surrounded by natural elements bode well in translation across generations?