Transforming Old into Gold

Singapore is ageing. Not just its people, but its buildings too. After five decades of accelerated urbanisation, many of the city-state’s once gleaming modern developments — particularly its housing stock ‚ have reached middle age.

Peeling paint, leaking ceilings and creaking infrastructure are some common problems homeowners are increasingly grappling with. The solution for many is to move to a new development by selling their homes en-bloc. It’s no wonder many Singaporeans see their homes as property assets, a shelter built out of money to be cashed out later in life.

While wrecking old(er) buildings for gold seems pragmatic and even inevitable for many, it also reflects the lack of imaginative alternatives in Singapore.

➜ Read the full column in CUBES #94 (Jan/Feb/Mar 2019)

‘Wellness is Everywhere Now. Is it Healthy?

The saying goes that ‘health is wealth’, but today it may be more appropriate to say ‘wellness is wealth’. According to the Global Wellness Institute — an industry-funded non-profit foundation — there is a US$3.7 trillion wellness industry that spans from beauty products to organic food and workplace design. There is a growing awareness of the need to maintain a lifestyle that will help you become healthy and stay that.

Design is increasingly seen as part of the solution to help people be proactive about their health. After all, it’s one thing to urge people to make healthier choices such as eating brown rice instead of white rice or walking 10,000 steps a day. It is ultimately more effective to create the conditions that will enable and encourage such ‘healthier’ behaviour.

➜ Read the full column in CUBES #93 (Oct/Nov/Dec 2018)

What You See Isn’t What You Get

Look up ‘contemporary Vietnamese architecture’ online and be awed by the breathless streams of ‘green’ buildings that seemingly define this Southeast Asian country. Houses with trees growing out of them, dwellings wrapped up with greenery and even architecture made entirely out of bamboo — these were the images I took with me on my maiden visit to Ho Chi Minh City this year.

Imagine my surprise upon encountering a concrete jungle instead. I found a hyperdense environment overgrown with rows of narrow ‘tube houses’, and increasingly, boxy glass-and-steel complexes brought into being by the rapid economic growth of Vietnam’s largest city. The streets were swamped with motorbikes, many offering the only ‘greenery’ with their Grab-branded vests and helmets.

This chasm between Ho Chi Minh City IRL (in real life) and its representation in the architecture and design media a is a telling sign of how the proliferation of images has made us myopic.

➜ Read the full column in CUBES #92 (Jul/Aug/Sep 2018)