In Singapore, Buildings Made To Die (via the New York Times Style Magazine Singapore)

“Almost a decade ago, professor Jane M Jacobs burrowed herself in research. She was investigating how high-rise buildings were a solution to housing issues. There, she came across Glasgow’s Red Road Estate. The eight towers of apartments arrived at their end and were due to be razed to the ground.

“Effectively, we watched a building ‘die’,” Jacobs quips. When Jacobs says the word ‘die’, she is not merely referring to the physical destruction of the towers. Architectural death includes “tenants being relocated, systems being closed down, [and] services withdrawn”. Like how a drop of water would cause ripples to go on and on in a cup, the destruction of architecture leaves behind irreparable sociological and societal damage. And in rapidly growing and constantly evolving cities like Singapore, this is a prevalent yet ignored problem.

There are many ways a building could die, Jacobs continues. End conditions include obsolete buildings, decaying structures, demolition to pave way for new architecture, and ruination.

The reasons for destruction are generally unknown to the public, neither do residents invest much thought into demolishments. To citizens, buildings are robust and confer security. “We tend to imagine that built environments are permanent, and they are certainly more fixed in space and time than most things, but they are nonetheless in constant change.

Jacobs stresses that “the average life cycle of buildings is growing shorter”. In Japan, for instance, there’s even a proper term for this phenomenon – the “short building life syndrome“. Aside from the obvious monetary costs, there are “cultural costs” involved.”


Read the full article by Guan Tan, on the New York Time Style Magazine Singapore.

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