The Fourteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2012
Berkeley Prize 2012

Loh Kin Kit and Yen Shan Phaow Proposal

The greatest public good is public space

Before anything can be built upon reclaimed land, the land must lie fallow for a period of time. This process created a unique situation. For as long as we could remember, there sat a large stretch of open ground that lay across a river from the city center. Every weekend, we could see from a nearby flyover the lively scene of people fishing and flying kites there. Nothing could have been stranger and more dramatic than to see this almost rural scene against the backdrop of silver towers gleaming in the distance. In time this temporary lease of life expired, and as the reclaimed land became the space for a new financial center it felt as though something had been lost for good. It was heartening then, to see the construction in 2008 of the Marina Barrage. Built as a dam and a ‘lifestyle hub’, the Barrage is a curved concrete ramp which shelters under it the essential equipment for the dam- its raison d’etre that has allowed the reclamation of that original scene.

As one ascends the greened ramp, the breeze picks up and a host of kites dance into view. You find yourself in a large field buzzing with a myriad of activities. Laughter and conversation resonates through the surroundings. A bride and groom smile radiantly as their photographer takes a photo. Little children run merrily as they play tag. An old couple peers towards the skyline, reminiscing and reflecting on the change in the city. From foreign laborers on their day off to school children and families enjoying a picnic, here is the entire cross-section of Singapore society.

Looking out across the water, a fantastic view of the Singapore skyline reveals itself. It is one of the few truly public places in which Singaporeans may enjoy a view of their own city in beautiful surroundings. From afar, the differences between its inhabitants are not noticeable. Nevertheless, they exist. The lives of the foreign workers, the rich and the poor are different in unimaginable ways. The increasing economic differences between people have led to the creation of exclusive spaces. What was once public or semi-public space, has through the implementation of entrance fees or other such barriers, become increasingly the private space of an exclusive minority. This has led to a dearth of public spaces of gathering especially in the city center.

A space in which individuals from all parts of society may gather and interact, a truly public space such as the Marina Barrage is something rare and valuable indeed. Our project seeks to outline why the Marina Barrage is the ideal “public architecture” in the Singaporean context, and of how it serves to inspire excite and continue to serve all members of society. We also would like to study how truly public spaces can be created in Singapore because on a city with such significant space constraints as Singapore, we believe that the greatest public good lies in the value of public space.

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The Marina Barrage
The Marina Barrage
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