by Sarah LEE Si En
From being the tallest residential block in Southeast Asia in 1976, to becoming the first condominium petitioned for voluntary conservation in 2014, the modernist Pearl Bank Apartments is an experimental subject of architecture and property ownership in Singapore. In a bid to monetize their old apartments, some owners are renting out or subletting part of their homes. These shared domestic interior spaces are investigated in the author’s childhood home, a subdivided apartment in Pearl Bank that is now inhabited by several individual tenants.
Furthering Michel de Certeau’s notion of thresholds, this dissertation examines how in a co-lived setting such as the subdivided apartment, the domestic interior does not necessarily begin at its conventional physical thresholds. The word interiorscape is borrowed from Katsuhiro Miyamoto and Graeme Brooker to refer to this ambiguous spatial condition. Partitioning the house for coliving constructs two spatial narratives that concurrently operate in the same apartment, visible in the traces that both mirror and thwart enactments of status quo domesticity. Emulating Robin Evans’ reading of the plan with narrative materials, the author’s biographies and illustrations of these traces in space illuminate the domestic interior of the subdivided Pearl Bank apartment that now performs in its non-private, multiple and ambiguous state.
Conserving Pearl Bank would mean monumentalizing it by stabilizing and isolating its physical material in a specific moment in time. This dissertation argues that this stands in conflict with Pearl Bank’s architectural heritage that has been built by the combined agency of the occupant and the architect over time. The research presents an architectural-biographical re-entry into the author’s childhood home, as well as an alternative speculative documentation of Pearl Bank’s architectural heritage from a sociohistorical perspective. Biographical details and literary narratives are used in combination to re-inhabit the apartment’s complex interiorscape— as a space once lived by the author, and today, co-lived in by others.