Preserving the Essence of Mainland Singapore's Last Kampung


Kampung Lorong Buangkok (KLB), a village located in Hougang, Singapore, is effectively the last kampung on mainland Singapore – a gem untouched by the structural overhaul seen throughout Singapore – since its establishment in 1956. Due to urban redevelopment of the area, there are plans for the kampung to be replaced by a three-lane bi-directional highway, a primary and secondary school, and a public park. With this urbanisation, much of the KLB heritage will be lost.

This sparked a team of faculty from SIT's Design and Specialised Businesses cluster to brainchild the 'Nostalgic Futures Design' competition, with the intention to document the oral history of KLB residents. Asst Prof Intan Azura Mokhtar led the charge as Principal Investigator, working together with students from the Glasgow School of Art (GSofA) Interior Design and Communication Design programmes, on a challenge to produce viable, feasible and desirable proposals for the KLB through speculative design. Furthering this 'kampung spirit' of collaboration, industry and community partners JIA Studios Pte Ltd, FXMedia Internet Pte Ltd and Hwi Yoh Community Centre were roped in and the initiative was further boosted by an ignition grant of $150,000 from SIT.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Asst Prof Intan and her team carried out a number of interviews with the KLB residents, some of whom have lived there since day one.

From the interviews, research and recordings, the project team proposed to preserve the kampung in three ways -- by documenting the oral history accounts and personal narratives of the residents, retaining the layout of the kampung in the form of a 3D physical model as well as capturing the memories and daily life in the kampung through an immersive virtual reality platform.

A resident of KLB shares anecdotes of life in mainland Singapore's only remaining kampung with Asst Prof Intan Azura Mokhtar.

Said Asst Prof Intan of the initiative, "This is our way of preserving our heritage and past, beyond the mere retention of physical spaces that may end up as hollowed out shells of what once used to be a thriving community. My team and I have also explored the possibility of imagining and curating a speculative design for the kampung in the future, as it eventually makes way for urbanisation or gentrification. We hope that our project outputs and outcomes can be shared with the general public in Singapore one day, as we plan for community exhibitions."

Year 3 students Adisak Chiew and Brian Long derived a rather interesting proposal, where the highway under the URA Master Plan could potentially be integrated with education centres and a public park, to retain the kampung fabric. "The URA Master Plan Proposal is something we cannot avoid, so instead of resisting this change, we want to explore opportunities for the kampung to adapt in the future once the master plan is implemented," said Adisak.

One of their recommendations was to integrate the kampung into Singapore's park-connector network, transforming KLB into a park, and with it the opportunity for greater traffic and awareness. Another idea was to eventually introduce activities like nature walks and communal farming at KLB. Concluded Bryan, "We want to preserve these kampung houses as a gallery to showcase how these residents have lived for the past 60 years! The use of augmented reality to show the kampung's transition from the past, guided tours and community activities will help preserve the kampung's facilities, but most importantly, retain its spirit."

SITizens and faculty visiting the kampung site and homes of KLB residents to document oral history accounts and personal narratives of the residents.

A sketch of the future design proposal to preserve Kampong Lorong Buangkok, illustrated by Year 3 Interior Design students Adisak Chiew and Brian Long.

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