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Return of the Amphibious 屿: Conservation by Restoration

Gary Kwek

National University of Singapore

屿 (yu) is a borrowed Chinese geographical term, which refers to a specific typology of island. It speaks of not only terrain that disappears at high tide and temporarily emerges at low tide, but also the cultural activities and spiritual fascination that Man has projected onto this phenomenon of impermanence. The Straits of Malacca contains many of such small fragments and islets whose ‘amphibious’ quality as an island has been lost through reclamation and gentrification with the arrival of Western ‘modernity’. The thesis is sited at the Southern Islands of Singapore, which had lost a large part of its vernacular culture after the 1970s reclamation and relocation of islanders, and serves as the motivation behind the exploration of 屿. The architecture speculates a conservation of the ‘amphibious’ through a neo-vernacular restoration. The intervention is hence the building of a neo-vernacular village where people are able to continue to define what is ‘vernacular’ and reconnect with our amphibious heritage, a critical identity of our forefathers. Through craft and constructing the village, they will be able to understand the spirituality that was projected from the terrain.

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