The Tenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2008
Berkeley Prize 2008

Petrina Yeap

Singapore is an affluent nation, a successful transformation from Third World to First. Yet concomitant with this progress is the gradually exacerbating problem of an ageing society. This stems from declining birth rates, attributed to the preference for quality over quantity that comes with the affluence.

Statistics reveal that currently 1 out of 12 Singaporeans are 65 years old and above, which will narrow down to 1 out of 5 by 2030 – the fastest ageing Asian society. The implication of these numbers presses the need for serious remedies to an extremely far-and-deep reaching social issue. It carries multiple potential problems that can affect Singapore, socially and otherwise. Socially, it can lead to social pluralism where an unaddressed generation gap between old and young will drive a dividing chasm into society. Also, it may lead to a poorer quality of life for the elderly. Finally, an ageing population is, if not properly catered for, a heavy strain on both material and social infrastructure in the long run. To avert these potential problems, the environment and infrastructure are key aspects that must be addressed. This is where architects and designers play an important role in providing much-needed tangible remedies to the problem.

In this light, an effective starting point to address this social issue of an ageing society is through a design competition. Essentially a medium that will promote awareness, generate buzz and creative ideas, it is meant as a springboard and incubation box for architecture that is sensitive to the needs of an ageing population.

This Singapore edition of a “Social Art of Architecture Design Competition” will have 2 categories – one for architectural ideas that address the ageing society issue, and the other for built projects. This is to ensure that creative, fresh ideas unencumbered by commercial pressures are voiced, as well as encouraging a social mindset to be adopted in the industry. The judging criteria has five parts to it, namely the social integration of the elderly into society, facilitating care of the elderly, facilitating an active and secure lifestyle for them, enhancing their health, and sustainability of the ideas proposed. The basis of the criteria is derived from the potential problems of an ageing society as discussed above. Projects should come from the categories of housing, public spaces and healthcare spaces, as these spaces affect the elderly most. The jury for the competition should include, other than architects, the elderly and their caregivers to ensure that it will be directly relevant to the main people it seeks to serve.

This competition essentially aims to see an ageing society that is well-supported and sustainable through the intervention of good architecture and design. In the future, it can be extended to other disciplines as the ramifications of an ageing society goes beyond architecture. It is thus hoped that the platform of the competition will be the start of a fruitful dialogue between the elderly and other members of society, that will make a difference.

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Petrina Yeap, National University of Singapore, Singapore
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