Bukit Brown cemetery contains historic Chinese graveyards that have been left intact and untouched. It represents the last remnants of Singapore's cultural, historical and natural heritage. Facing the threat of redevelopment, the favoured treatment for such grounds, associated with the past taboo, is tabula rasa. The thesis takes on public housing as challenge. It brings in close proximity, the usually separated spaces for the living, and spaces for the dead. Using strategies of layering, the project introduced a mediating zong, containing columbaria, archives, research stations, libraries and herbarium nurseries. New spatial and social relationships are anticipated form such unlikly juxtapositions.
The 'garden' is the central design element. The project tap on poetic associations between it and the cemetry: as a cultural space for family gatherings during Qing Ming festivals; as a commonplace yet integral garden for play; as family-cultivated gardens in the sky; and as a space that preserces biodiversity and natural heritage.
Notes from Dr. Lilian Chee (Tutor):
The practice of exhuming and reclaiming burial sites for public housing is commonplace in Singapore. In fact, the compacting of living and dead on a single site has escaped controversy given that historical traces of previous burial grounds are frequently oliterated, cleansed, consciously forgotton in a bid for unrestrained development. Zihao's thesis re-emages such polemics at the Bukit Brown cemetry by proposing a new housing typology which will mediate, rather than erase, the existing graces 'under the pavement'.
The design uses the central motif of the garden as an armature to weave together seemingly disparate yet psychologically connected spaces. The cemetry is framed as a space which also celebrates life and family affections, mirroring it as it were, the corollary space of the pubic housing united which stand above it. Different ierations of gardens - a memorial park, a herbarium facility for research, and private sky gardens - reinforce the natural setting of the site, and look towards an emergent future in which this landscape could again be populated without sacrificing its past.