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Mother, Maids and Others: Domestic Productions of a Nation and Her Households
by LAU Mun Fai Joel
Since its inception in the 1960’s the state has through the HDB, constructed the physical space of most Singaporean homes. Prominent figures from the housing authority have publicly prescribed scripts for familial living to go along with the homes, and these have in turn influenced the gender roles and biological reproduction that are tied to them. Within such a backdrop, the dissertation seeks to explore questions such as: How has the architecture of Singapore’s public housing defined, and worked in conjunction with the scripts of domesticity imposed on it? Where are occupants positioned in this kind of space, and do they have the power to change the functional codes embedded in these flats? Notably, traditional forms of drawing (i.e. the plan and section) fall short as architectural texts in answering these questions as they only represent physical space; new architectural texts are necessary. Framing the flat through Charles Rice’s theory of interiorization and entering it through the body, the dissertation studies how codes of gender and hierarchy are written at the level of the interior, and explores how these scripts may be teased out and read. Exploring the physical space of the flat and images of its interiors through the specific “bodies” of the (i) mother and her family, (ii) the maid and (iii) “Others,” this dissertation demonstrates how the architectural production of the HDB home is impacted upon by the priorities of these bodies who inhabit it. As scripts are played out, codes embedded in the flats change, complicitly shaped by those who dwell in them through demarcations of gender, race, approximations, substitutions, and hierarchies.
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