© 2017 Peter C Chen, Peter Victor King & Grey Margins. All Rights Reserved.

Horror Vacui

2011-2013

Theoretically, the survival of a small city state without natural resources, hinterland or domestic market is not viable. The whole founding of Singapore as a nation was built upon that myth of nonviability. This 'myth' becomes the sole impetus of the social, economic and political exigencies of the mid and late 1960s that resulted in a strategy of pragmatic modernization.” 

 

- Sharaad Kuttan

 

The crux regarding conservation and heritage: how does one determine what constitutes the natural cycle of progress? When does urbanism outlive its own presence beyond which it remains untenable to support itself? In a country like Singapore is it possible for an architecture of 'ruins' to persist? And yet there are voices who would disagree that cemeteries are not the same thing as ruins even if they are considered thus.

 

Horror Vacui: “Nature abhors a vacuum” or a fear of open space – is the documentation of the Bukit Brown cemetery during the cusp of the development of the new Lornie Road realignment. The new road barrels across a swathe of the existing cemetery, forcing the exhumation of some 3000 graves and effectively cutting the cemetery into two. These images demonstrate the removal or emptying of a space, of history, of culture, perhaps demonstrating that as cultural memory depletes from a physical space, that territory is usually met with an urgent call to progress (read: redevelopment). Spaces are provisional vacuums in transition, sudden slow-motion happening in fast space.

 

And of course, fast space returns you to the reality of densification and contestation: “that anything which does not contribute directly to driving the economic engine is best seen as a luxury, or worst irrelevant”. Ultimately the city is its own proof – its self-evident; it reveals how we relate to our cultural identity through the way we treat our architecture, not just in what we build, but also in what we remove.

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