by PHUA Yi Xuan Anthea
How to live with another is an experiment of architectural co-authorship.
This thesis delves into how two people, who are not family, might live with another in a domestic space intended for the nuclear family. It considers the presence of foreign domestic workers within the HDB flat — they are needed but barely accommodated in these tight domestic spaces. An iterative and collaborative process between architect and occupants reveal the necessity for a more responsive infrastructure; moving beyond housing to instead accommodate. Two key issues are explored: co-authorship and, co-existence or living with another.
The thesis began from my research of unschooled drawings, explored with the help of my Grandmother and her live-in Indonesian helper Asri. Their drawings showed that there can be other forms of knowing, representing and creating space.
As Grandmother and Asri live with another, they become co-authors of the flat. Yet, even with their mutually respectful relationship, there are social boundaries and hierarchies. These unspoken tensions were worked through three personalised designs for the proximate homebodies of an elderly person and her domestic helper. The designs are, in turn, conceptualised around the three scales of a domestic space— the occupants’ bodies, their furniture, and the architectural fabric of their flat.
While negotiating the needs of these two housemates, the production of the architectural and bodily contraptions crucially engaged the two women as co-authors. Through this collaboration, the women negotiate and materialise their own desires and needs through a back-and-forth partnership, which at times collapsed and destabilised the autonomy of the architect as author.
Tutor's Notes // Anthea’s thesis begins at home and ends at the thresholds of architecture. It tests the discipline’s epistemological and professional capacities to address a production of space that can speak to social and class-based proximities. Three domestic devices are represented from the occupants’ perspectives through portrait photography and ethnographic videography. Line drawings show household materials – cotton string, bamboo laundry poles, used teabags, origami magazine paper – and methods – knotting, braiding, weaving, sewing – crossing over from domestic chores into the architecture studio. How to Live with Another is politically gendered in its concerns for architecture’s intersection with, and manifestation of, equity and voice.