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Students produce designs in service of society

04 October 2011

The newly-released 300-page book on the MacPherson Estate was a product of the Community Design Studio

(From left) Faculty supervisors of the book project Assoc Prof Wong, Dr Tan and Adjunct Prof Tay; Mr Matthias Yao and Ms Tin; and SIA President Mr Ashvinkumar
Twenty-three NUS architecture students have produced a book titled MacPherson: 21st Century Estate, presenting their vision of a MacPherson of the future. The newly-released 300-page book on the MacPherson Estate, one of Singapore's older public housing town, was presented to Ms Tin Pei Ling and Mr Matthias Yao Chih, present and former Members of Parliament for Marine Parade (MacPherson) respectively, on 3 October at ArchiFest 2011. This is the first time that NUS architecture students have engaged with the community on such a scale for their academic work.

Expressing his support for the book project, Mr Yao said: "I am happy that MacPherson was the first constituency selected for this exercise by the NUS Department of Architecture and Singapore Institute of Architects. The architects-to-be have understood well the evolution of, and the dynamics in, MacPherson. Their designs give expression to the shared memories of the residents, the community interactions and their hopes for the future."

Assoc Prof Wong Yunn Chii, Head of the Department of Architecture of the NUS School of Design and Environment (SDE) said that the project allowed students to see the role of design in advancing the social life of residents, in this case, an ageing community living in a mature estate.

Their proposed designs were based on data obtained through interviews, surveys, focus group meetings, site observations and mapping studies. The students envisioned a Kampong Culture for MacPherson involving interconnectivity, intergenerational education and integrated recreational areas. The students also recommended urban farming, namely, residential and commercial farming as well as horticulture for residents.

The book project was a product of the Community Design Studio, a new initiative by the Department of Architecture to educate students about design in service of society and groom a generation of architecture graduates to design with and for the community in Singapore and the developing countries. The Studio was led by faculty staff Adjunct Prof Tay Kheng Soon, Dr Tan Beng Kiang and Assoc Prof Wong Yunn Chii, who guided the team of second, third and fourth year students in producing this book.

The book documents the students' learning journey, said Dr Tan, who was the Staff Editor. "This project has shown them that they can be a change agent and they can make a difference with their creative ideas," she said.

Sponsored by the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), the book's launch was part of the highlights of this year's ArchiFest organised by the SIA.