The Archipelago and The Monument
by SEAH Yun Shen Jeremy
Where does territory begin, and where does it end?
The thesis poses this question in a speculative scenario where a cultural monument—the listed Symphony Lake at the Singapore Botanic Gardens—is facing invasion by the pervasive and fast-growing tropical bamboo species from the Garden’s new Bambusetum. The bamboo’s rhizomatic roots disobey territorial order; its shoots host a multiplicity of trans-species habitats. Sustaining the cultural monument through a collaborative and entangled structure and ‘terrain’, an evolving archipelago is constituted by multi-strata bamboo terrain, with occupiable spaces for humans and nonhumans alike.
The bamboo forest reconfigures the Symphony Lake’s sloping parkland and orchestral stage into an archipelago of shifting performance areas which appear and disappear with the forest’s seasonal cycles. An auditory shell is created from the rhythmic swinging of gondola ‘balconies’, capitalising on the flexibility afforded by the bamboo structure, gathering and bending the plant into cavernous forms that amplify the sound of the performers. As the forest grows denser, these shells become inhabited by frogs and crickets, who work alongside their human collaborators to co-create trans-species rhythms and sounds. As the bamboo invades into, and swallows up each performance area, the trans-species orchestra shifts to a new clearing within the bamboo-forest archipelago.
The proposition to imagine new trans-species interrelations between terrain, program, and users—challenging ideas of terrestrial/ territorial, and architectural/spatial fixity—produces a critique of a monument, one that is impermanent and fleeting, and thus, subverts colonial ideas of territory and terrain.
Tutor's Notes // Finding ways to materialise ‘extra-territoriality’, Jeremy’s thesis explores a series of unusual ‘grounds’—part (inter)national entities, part cultural artefacts, part nature/bodies. His eventual proposition speculates with a bamboo forest within Singapore’s Botanic Gardens, as a hybrid ‘ground’ constituted by historic terrain, cultural monument, biological species, and architectural implement. The potential in Jeremy’s project lies in its reframing of nature-culture entanglements of architecture and the built environment. It forces us to reconsider who/what are the makers and users of a transspecies architecture. In our more-than-human worlds, who/what are the collaborators, co-constructors, and co-inhabitants of our architectural futures?