The project begins by questioning the spectacle that is Chinatown’s branding and consumption practices that recycling takes on, which sees waste collection as alienated and booted out of island to preserve the ‘glossy’ image of the city.
As a marginalised and often romanticised group of people, the informal recycling sector that reside within Singapore’s Chinatown, consisting of the foragers/karang gunis (informal waste collectors), are threatened with acts that may render them invisible for they do not fit within the state’s vision of its Chinatown. However, in light of the recycling woes that continue to plague Singapore in its designated year of climate change action, the effectiveness of the State’s National Recycling Programme is called into question, revealing potential synergies to be leveraged on from this informal recycling sector. Being the earliest proponents of a recycling culture in Singapore, the karang gunis’ expertise and strong knowledge on the fundamentals of effective recycling presents an informal yet efficient model of recycling that the project seeks to expand on.
Contrary to traditional recycling infrastructures that are disconnected and often associated with the ‘ugly’ i.e. bin centres, the project aims to redefine the perception, experience and spaces used for recycling – waste recycling that is engaged by individuals and groups, a scaling down of this national and alienated endeavour of recycling. Proposed are waste infrastructure that engages recyclable waste as capital and works around the spatial economy of the back alleys of Chinatown’s shophouses and in turn produce an alternative spectacle within these back alleys.
[ The Spectacle of Singapore's Chinatown ] by TAN Jian Hao & Nadia QUEK
This project identifies the global phenomenon of “Chinatowns” and its routine developments as a Spectacle. What used to be historic Chinese enclaves created by exclusion and specific migrations have become overshadowed by predominantly generic ethnic symbols and images that are poor representations of ‘authentic’ Chinese culture.
In Singapore’s case, the historic Chinese enclave has been transformed into a tourist hotspot. It’s unique Chinese heritage has become a form of capital to attract tourists. At risk of becoming a generic space, a Chinatown amongst many others, we are interested to deconstruct and represent Singapore’s Chinatown from an alternative perspective: the perspective of the forager.
To examine this economy that exists within Chinatown yet is often overlooked, we aim to draw upon interviews and site survey data to demonstrate how the foragers have maneuvered and interpreted architecture differently.