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Drift Atlas

Part 2 Project 2013
Simon Chiang
National University of Singapore | Singapore
Today, the beach is the limit of habitation while the sea is absent from daily imagination. An originally porous zone has been recast to symbolic proportions as the clear distinction between land and sea in Singapore – positive vs. negative. This thesis anticipates a Singapore facing the threat of rising sea levels when current land reclamation ceases. Her neighbours’ reluctance of selling sand to Singapore forces her architects to look to the sea for more urban space.

This project does not assume that the threats related to evolving climatic can be untangled with an architectural intervention. Nevertheless, no where else is the relationship between past and present, aspirations and reality so profoundly concrete as along the East Coast of Singapore. It was the original urban incubator for Singapore. Where the utopian city literally rises from the sea on the largest reclaimed residential coast.

Maintaining the current on-shore population density of 7500/km2, Drift Atlas is home to 30,000 Singaporeans rediscovering the pleasures of living on a tiny equatorial island. The floating neighbourhoods maintain an unmistakably Singaporeaness. Public flats, private homes, condominiums, parks, clubs, cafes, entire districts, streets, shops, kopitiams (local coffee shops), schools, even small factories can be found in Drift Atlas. All built up on infrastructure produ\ced in the local shipyards that make the world’s largest rigs. A city connected to the rest of Singapore yet ideologically distinct. Set amidst the Eastern Anchorage zones of the east coast and defined as square of 1 nautical mile by 1 nautical mile, this urban insertion into the strictly industrialized sea presents the first physical link between the city on land and the city on the sea. The original coastline is deliberately kept intact inside drift atlas, and allowed to be shaped freely by the forces of nature. Drift atlas consists of both frame and sea.

At the heart of this thesis is a critical commentary on the one-track state of urbanism in Singapore and the possible alternatives. While pure projection, could this organic urban formula, deliberately inseminated into functional Singapore be a commentary about an attitude of rediscovery of Singapore’s maritime genealogy?

Simon Chiang


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