The studio offers an insight into micro-scale urbanity in Singapore. You will be asked to develop design strategies and scenarios for a vital, diverse “low cost” area in Singapore! Your design analyse and proposals will be part of the wider research effort, within the module urban strategies and resources at the Future Cities Laboratory, to unravel the processes, agents and potentials of diverse inner city neighbourhoods in the four Asian cities: Singapore, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Bangkok. Furthermore your design strategies and proposals will assist the aim of the Rochor+ research to initiate a public discourse on the neighbourhood‘s future.
While photographs from glitzy shopping centres and business districts coin the image of Singapore, Rochor+ will allow you to experience an alternative entry point to Singapore. In the Rochor+ neighbourhood you will find the old Singapore, with hardware and Chinese medicine stores, the everyday Singapore with low cost automobile workshops and recycling shops as well as the hip Singapore with trendy music bars and creative studios. It’s the place of extremes, where Bangladeshi migrant workers live on the same street as the expat managers and where you can find fashionable folding bike stores adjacent to traditional religious bakeries. The backbone of this heterogeneity being a multifaceted urban fabric consisting of a mix of shop houses, building blocks from the 1950s til the 1970s, mega-blocks from the 1990s as well as a diverse public space layout.
Urban Design Studio
Empirical research and strategic urban design will complement one another in our work. The goal will be to take the existing qualities as drivers for future developments. Our questions will focus on how to design a framework and scenarios that will allow the established communities and networks to evolve and transform, contrasting the “plain slate” or tabula-rasa approach still widely executed in Singapore. You will be closely looking at issues of accessibility, adjacencies, scalar shifts, as well formulating context-driven transformation processes and open-ended planning strategies. Eventually the focus will be on how to expand the characteristics of this diverse neighbourhood to the adjacent vacant land sites. We will be working in multiple scales, ranging from urban planning all the way to block- and architecture-scale interventions, and will develop infill scenarios as well as overarching design strategies.
Methodology of the Design Studio
The first phase of the Urban Design Studio focuses on the analysis of the sitespecific urban profiles. The goal is to portray the detected urban phenomena and to understand and visualize the processes resulting in their appearance. The mostly invisible inter¬relations between spatial, structural, economic, political, social and cultural considerations are traced in order to gain a more empirical understanding of the city’s current urban condition. Thereafter, existing qualities and deficits, detected potentials and dangers, and spotted resources and possible synergies are mapped in order to evaluate the analysis on its relevance for possible interventions. Additionally, historic, ongoing and prognostic transformation processes are looked at and successful patterns are studied as examples. Then, by extracting data from the pool of information, researchable topics crystallise. The verification of the generated hypothesis takes place during a one-week workshop on site, mostly through collaboration with local students and professionals.
Working with the combination of radical and down-to-earth scenarios, the field of intervention is defined and its limits are tackled. This process leads to the selection of main project proposals, differing topic-wise as well as scale-wise. Since urban phenomena are informed by different, partly incongruent, asynchronistic and sometimes uncontrollable forces in various scales, the proposals are elaborated as a combination
of projected visions and bundles of different applicable tools and strategies. This combinatory approach responds to the specific situation, and–at the same time– by deploying auto-propelled processes, also leads towards an envisioned future condition.
Following this line, each project is worked out by a group of 2-3 students, working simultaneously in multiple scales and with different tools. Parallel to continuous search for visions, concepts and strategies, the already formulated thought experiments were tested through design. Re-designing current urban situations helps to develop viable future conditions and (partly implicit) to test our problem framing. This dual profit of the design process shows that understanding and defining the problem amounts to a major part of the whole problem solving task -leading the process into an iterative loop of re-designing the solutions as well as the problems, such as the applied rules, strategies, design tools, selected topics and the qualities of the faced urban situation.