Friday, May 19, 2006

A house to call home

A permanent homeSomebody suggested that some government-built apartments (HDB apartments) that are 26 years old has served its useful life and should be torn down and replaced with new apartment buildings with lifts that stops at every floor. I agree that that may be the only option if retrofitting lifts that stop on every floor is just too prohibitively costly. On the other hand, I feel that we are becoming used to the recycling culture. Not that recycling trash is not a good practice. It is a commendable practice as it teaches one not to waste and to conserve the limited resources of our planet earth.

However, recycling non-trash, like an apartment block, is hardly my idea of reducing waste. Many of our 'old' buildings will be considered fairly new in other developed countries, not to mention those countries where the people live predominantly in huts and quickly improvished shacks. Yet here we are, calling for a 26 year old apartment to be demolished because we need to build lifts on every floor. Why do I get the feelng now that our architects and engineers never designed our spanking new apartments to last more than 30 years, what with the razor-think walls and all that residents in Sembawang are complaining about in their relatively new apartments? Can it all be linked somehow? Is there a conspiracy or are people so used to changing houses/apartments (averaging once every 10 years(?)) that our architects intentionally do not want to build houses that lasts?

Well, I am sure I am wrong, for how can we be dumping good money into such houses that are designed for no more than 30 years? The minimum leases on all new apartments in Singapore is typically 99 years, so they should last that long, at least, if not longer.

Dare I say that, sub-consciously, we have never considered this island our permanent home?


leopsyche said...

Maybe, more broadly, the idea of permanency is not entrenched in the Singaporean psyche.

Relatively short life cycles of buildings, cars, planes, to name a few. Somehow, the mantra, "new is good", has ostensibly taken root instead.

Epilogos said...

I think you are right. The majority of people on this island have migrant roots. Who know when our next port of call is, in spite of the Government's best efforts at forging a permanent identity. Looking back, much of what I remember as a child, the places I lived in, the grounds over which I wandered and wondered, well, they are but memories in my mind. I have nowhere I can go back and point to the exact spot where I got that scar. All of that has been demolished to make way for the present razor-thin apartments. This is progress?

leopsyche said...

Your post and comment echoes something I wrote a while back, "[in Singapore] the past is erased before memories are consolidated". I was relating to my own experiences of growing up in the same vein as you did: the places I once knew are gone. I agree with your observation that Singaporeans seem like perpetual migrants. What I am uncertain is how much of our itinerant mentality stems from the consistent psychological displacement your post discusses, compared to our migrant past. I suspect the impact of the present is substantial. Indeed, this fluxial sense of identity resulting from perpetual spatial displacement of buildings may also be related to our sanitised , repackaged official versions of history (I recall several blog posts writing on this topic: Xenoboy's posts, Small Singapore and Imagi-Nation, would be the most recent and articulate). Our roots may only stretch as far as what is personally relevant to us; without physical tethers and an alien history, amongst other things, our sense of a collective self as Singaporeans may be limited at best.

This, of course, begs the question of whether a Singapore identity can truly take root. Would Singaporeans automatically develop a sense of shared identity with the passage of time as MM Lee sanguinely predicts? I am sceptical about it. And that hurts.