28 November – 15 December 2019

28 November 2019, 6 pm Exibition Opening

Housing Modernities shows how the path to modernism had been inextricably tied up with nation building and laying the foundation of a post-colonial modernized state.


The URA Urban Redevelopment Authority Centre
Level 1 Atrium
45 Maxwell Road
Singapore 069118


29 November – 15 December 2019
Monday to Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm

29 November - 15 December 2019 Exhibition

Post-first world-war focus on social housing in Europe, particularly in Berlin and other major cities, gave architects opportunities to explore new tableaux for modernist landscape associated closely with the living patterns of the new social class. That awareness was first expressed by Singapore Improvement Trust in the 1930s with the experimentation of forms and urban design. With the new Republic, the thrust in public housing was a march towards modernity by the eradication of traditional villages and the creation of a modern living pattern that will promote social and racial harmony.

29 November, 8:30 am Archi Tours

By invitation only.

8:30 am: Tiong Bahru Estate

Guided tour of the Tiong Bahru estate by Ar Jimmy Lim Cheok Siang (Aga Khan Award 1998, PAM Gold Medal for Design Excellence 2019). An estate with architectural, cultural and historic significance, Tiong Bahru was developed in the 1920s as Singapore’s first public housing estate by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), the colonial predecessor of the Housing Development Board. In 2003, twenty blocks of flats in the estate were granted conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Meeting point: Entrance of Tiong Bahru Community Centre, 67A Eu Chin Street, Singapore 169715

10:30 am: Studio Lapis

Visit to Studio Lapis.

Further information:
Address: 7 Keppel Road, #02-14/15, Tanjong Pagar Complex, Singapore 089053

12:00 pm: Urban Redevelopment Authority Centre

Visit to the URA Centre for a sharing session about Singapore’s built heritage conservation.

Further information:
Address: 45 Maxell Road, Singapore 069118

30 November 2019, 1 – 6:30 pm Conference

As a public closing event to the Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism programme in 2019, the conference on the one hand picks up the curatorial concept of Housing Modernities and, on the other hand, brings together the threads of the projects developed in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Singapore to conclude with the question: What can we learn from Modernism today?



12:00 pm

1:00 pm
Welcome and Introduction
Ute Meta Bauer
, Founding Director, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, and Professor, NTU School of Art Design and Media
Sally Below, Moritz Henning, Christian Hiller, Eduard Kögel, Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism, Berlin

1:30 pm

From 1930s onwards, the Singapore Improvement Trust experimented with new housing patterns. With the new Republic after 1965, the thrust in public housing was a march towards modernity by eradication of traditional villages and the creation of modern living patterns to promote social and racial harmony. How can we understand the programme and what was its implication? What were the social impacts and modernist outlooks and what do they mean for society today?

“Evil Fruits” in the Garden City of Paradise
Wong Yunn Chii
, Associate Professor, National University of Singapore

Wee H Koon, Assistant Professor, The University of Hongkong

Dwelling on an HDB Point Block
Weng Hin Ho
, Studio Lapis, Singapore, Eunice Seng, Associate Professor and Chair of the Departmental Research Postgraduate Committee in Architecture at the University of Hong Kong

Shirley Surya, Curator for Design and Architecture, M+, Hong Kong

Wong Yunn Chii, Wee H Koon, Weng Hin Ho, Shirley Surya

Moderation: Puay-Peng Ho, Professor and Head of Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore

3:15 pm

3:45 pm

The starting point of the curators, artists, architects and scholars involved was to question culturally established narratives about modernity and to develop alternative perspectives. The curatorial approaches often went beyond current forms of mediating knowledge and stimulated emancipative learning processes. Thus, the exhibitions were interwoven with process-based participation projects.

In Phnom Penh, the architecture lab, a two-month public architecture and research studio, was integral part of the exhibition Folding Concrete by Lyno Vuth and Sereypagna Pen. Pwint, co-curator of the SEAM Space Yangon investigates the relationship between Modernism and architecture education in Myanmar. The exhibition Occupying Modernism, curated by Setiadi Sopandi and Avianti Armand, commissioned artists, authors and designers to appropriate the narrations of architectural icons in Jakarta with their personal means. In turn, the audience was invited to occupy the exhibition site itself. The seminar series From, by, and for whom? initiated by Grace Samboh and ruangrupa was based on an archive exhibition about the national narrative represented in dioramas. The podcasts developed in workshops by students of the gudskul resist this official narration and contextualize it with current political and private events.
This leads to the question, if modernist architecture and art, which was highly embedded in national and global political agendas of the last century, can be re-justified by curatorial means? And finally, the question of how can we narrate the history of modernity in such a way that it remains fruitful for today and the future.

Folding Concrete: Architecture Lab
Sereypagna Pen
, Architect, urban researcher, The Vann Molyvann Project, Phnom Penh

Synthesis of Myanmar Modernity
Pwint, Professor, Deputy Head of Department of Architecture, Yangon Technological University

Occupying Modernism
Avianti Armand, Architect, curator, architectural scholar, Jakarta

(Re)Producing fear and joy: From, by and for whom?
Grace Samboh
, Curator, researcher, Hyphen, Yogyakarta, Jakarta

Moderation: Christian Hiller

5:30 pm
Final Discussion
Puay-Peng Ho, Shirley Surya, Grace Samboh, Avianti Armand, Moritz Henning

Moderation: Ute Meta Bauer, Eduard Kögel


NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore
Malan Rd, Gillman Barracks, Block 43, Singapore 109443

The conference will be held in English.
Admission free.

Housing Modernities

Following the architectural trend in the West, the modernist architecture journey in Singapore started in the 1930s with community, residential and institutional buildings. However, it was the post-war period that witnessed a tremendous surge in building activities in tandem with the rise of nationalism that culminated in the partial self-government in 1959, joint independence with Malaysia in 1963 and full independence in 1965.

The exhibition Housing Modernities explores the architecture of modernism and its role in nation-building and the construction of a Singapore identity, focusing in particular on the topic of public housing.

A public conference picks up this curatorial approach and also brings together the threads of the projects developed in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Singapore to conclude with the question: What can we learn from Modernism today?

The SEAM Space Singapore is conducted in partnership with the National University of Singapore and the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore.