Residency Period: November – December 2015
During Núria’s residency in Singapore, she work with our partners, designers MATT3R, on a site-specific participatory project titled “This is Home”.
“This is Home” is an exploration of belonging, identification and ownership in the context of Singaporean public housing. Within a couple of generations, Singapore has gone from a nation of home-seekers to home-owners, and the country boasts home-ownership rates above 80% of the population. Home-ownership has been used as a vehicle of political stability and personal investment amongst communities of immigrants; it is also the kernel around which social bonding and civic movement are wrapped — HDB allocates flat on ethnic quotas, encourage grassroots initiatives through the Residents’ Committees and promote shared experiences through shared spaces. Home-ownership has also been the key to Singapore’s rapid industrialising success in the 1960s — regular mortgage payments necessitated steady income and employment, and thus transformed irregular, informal workers dwelling in kampongs into full-time employees residing in allocated apartment units.
Beyond the legal definition of home-ownership, what does it mean to own a home in Singapore, a country younger than so many of its citizens? And — especially in cases of 99-year leaseholds – how do so-called home-owners define their ownership? For the generation who relocated from laissez-faire lifestyles in kampongs to state-subsidised public housing, how did their experiences of “home” evolve or endure? At the heart of our project we are asking and answering the question “What is home?” to HDB residents.
This task is especially pertinent in our pilot estate, Queenstown. We launch our project in one of Singapore’s earliest public housing estates, a landscape of rich historical context
and diverse architecture where SIT flats, HDB flats and various public spaces come together. In addition, the imminent relocation of Tanglin Halt residents through the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme also infuses an urgency and importance in undertaking a task to document that which would soon be gone.
The past decades would also have pitted “modernising” influences of proprietorship against traditionally-held values of belonging. Amidst the homogeneity of HDB blocks, it could be easy to forget that each unit houses dwellers who have interacted and engaged differently with their spaces. Through searching out a diverse definition of “home”, we also hope to uncover a similar diversity within our communities.
Beyond the legal definition of “home-ownership”, the project also aims to expand the concept of home as a space of familiarity, personal history and self-identification by encouraging residents to step beyond their literal four walls. We hope to open a dialogue about the spaces surrounding our “owned homes” that are also homely or home-like – the coffee-shop, the barber, the mini-mart, the void deck, the park where communities are built and connections are forged. Through the project, we reflect upon our ideas of “home”, “ownership”, and whether we have indeed found what we set out to seek 50 years ago.
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