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)
En-bloc fever has descended upon Singapore yet again. In the past year, over 20 estates have been sold for redevelopment or been the subject of attempts for collective sale, including several of the country’s modernist marvels: Pearl Bank Apartments (Archurban Architects Planners, 1976), Golden Mile Complex (Design Partnership, 1973) and People’s Park Complex (Design Partnership, 1973). Despite their historical and architecture merits, these are first and foremost homes and private properties. Those in favour of conserving them have come up against the challenge of changing the minds of multiple unit owners whose lifestyles have not only changed but who also must now contend with buildings that have aged considerably over time.
➜ Read the full column in CUBES #91 (May/June 2018)
Before we all had smartphones in our pockets, some of us had a PDA. The Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) may no longer elicit any public displays of affection, but this handheld device was a trailblazer in the nineties and noughties. Designed for managing appointments, sending emails and even reading handwriting, PDAs emerged from the convergence of telecommunications and information technology, foreshadowing the world of tablets and smartphones that we live in today.
➜ Read the full column in CUBES #90 (February/March 2018)