History & Theory Architecture II

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1 SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC History & Theory Architecture II Utopia Dystopia Sonia Vimal Kumar DARCH/2A/03/FT P /06/2010 Essay Topic: Compare and contrast Le Corbusier s ideas of Contemporary City with Singapore s social housing projects, present a critical analysis of these design conception within the context of, social, economical and technological framework.

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3 Content Page 1 Introduction On Le Corbusier Contemporary City 1.1 Social Aspect 1.2 Economical Aspect 1.3 Technological Aspect 2 Introduction On Singapore s Social Housing Projects 2.1 Social Aspect 2.2 Economical Aspect 2.3 Technological Aspect 3 Theoretical Position 4 Compare And Contrast 4.1 Social Aspect 4.2 Economical Aspect 4.3 Technological Aspect 5 Conclusion 6 References 3

4 1 Introduction On Le Corbusier Contemporary City 1.1 Social Aspect The first date is the plan for a contemporary city of 3 million people in 1922 by Le Corbusier. The purpose of this plan for "A contemporary city of three million people" was not overcome any pre- existing, States of affairs but to reach by building on rigorous theoretical creation, a plan (refer to figure 1) based on basic principles of modern urban planning. Figure 1: Plan and perspective view of the contemporary town of Le Corbusier. The city consists of 24 skyscrapers (refer to figure 2) that can hold 10,000 to 50,000 employees in each cases (refer to figure 3); hotels having about 400,000 has 600,000 inhabitants. Dwellings in cities, subdivisions can hold up to 600,000 inhabitants (refer to figure 4). Thus, allowing the city to support people and more. Figure 2: Perspective view on one of the main avenues of the "contemporary city". 4

5 Figure 3: view of the central station Figure 4: view of the residential quarters 5

6 1.2 Economical Aspect After the World War 1 ended, for a number of years French officials had been unsuccessful in dealing with the foulness of the growing Parisian slums, Le Corbusier sought efficient ways to house large numbers of people in response to the urban housing crisis. He wanted to achieve an organized solution that would raise the quality of life for the lower classes. Not just content with just designs for a few housing blocks, soon Le Corbusier moved into studies for city planning (refer to figure 5 & 6). Thus forming the concept for a contemporary City for 3 million inhabitants. Figure 5: City Planning Figure 6: City Planning 6

7 1.3 Technological Aspect The fundamental principles of the city planning, which Le Corbusier adopted was that the centre of the city has a bottlenecking effect. (refer to figure 3). The 2 nd principle was to increase the means of movement. The 3 rd principle was to increase the amount of greenery within the area. And lastly was to increase the density. The orientation of the building constitutes both axles of the city. Using racetracks for crossing for quick circulation are established on the vast concrete footbridges and is connected by rampant at the level of the normal streets. A subway station is established in the centre of every 16 hectare quarter which regroups a population going of inhabitants. The 6 storey Cellular Slab Block unit (refer to figure 9) was built to effectively hold the occupants. Each of the 6 storey block unit came with an internal courtyard (refer to figure 7) which serves as a communal area. The apartments are stack above one another using the 1 domino house (refer to figure 8) technique which he had worked on during his four years in Switzerland. Figure 7: View of the internal courtyard Figure 8: Domino system 1 The domino house technique: is a proposed design which an open floor plan consisting of concrete slabs supported by a minimal number of thin, reinforced concrete columns around the edges, with a stairway providing access to each level on one side of the floor plan. 7

8 Figure 9: Section of a typical 6 storey Cellular Slab Block Unit 8

9 2 Introduction On Singapore s Social Housing Projects 2.1 Social Aspect Singapore is an island which is often cited as a successful example of affordable housing production in Asian cities. About 85 per cent (refer to chart A) of Singapore s resident population lives in public housing. More than 850,000 housing units in 23 new towns have been constructed. While the poor elsewhere are homeless, the poorest 20 per cent of households in Singapore have equal access to housing resources, albeit public housing and many are homeowners. Chart A: statistics showing the uptake of HDB flats in relation to private flats As with many other cities, as the Singapore city grew in population in turn, the pressure on housing increased. The combination of low construction and war damage had resulted in a substantial housing shortage in the immediate post- war years. According to the 1947 British colonial government Housing Committee Report, by 1947, Singapore had one of the world s worst slums, a disgrace to a civilised community (refer to figure 10) Figure 10: view of what the British perceived as a disgrace to a civilised community 9

10 The newly elected self- government then immediately formed two constitutional agencies, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Housing Development Board (HDB) with reformed financial, legal, and institutional framework to promote the supply of economic growth, employment and housing. And their approach was effective. (refer to figure 11) Figure 12: The effectiveness of their approach 2.2 Economical Aspect Based on the government s commitment to achieve adequate shelter for all who lack, the policy on good housing includes interventions along two broad dimensions. The 1 st one is physical, in terms of occupancy and minimum physical requirements for housing units to improve living condition within the overall urban development of the country. The 2 nd one is financial, to ensure that housing access and affordability. 2.3 Technological Aspect Singapore thrives on the pragmatic program implementation. In Singapore, planning is quickly translated into housing policies and schemes. Priority is matched by resources and support aimed at establishing a framework that enables the lower- income families to select the appropriate assistance to meet the individual s housing needs. Implementation is indeed the hard part of urban development (refer to figure 13). Besides resources and supporting framework, the process requires constant review and learning. Through continuous learning and policy refinement, Singapore has gradually evolved and built an institutional capacity and housing system that ensures program delivery. Institutions need not be identical. 10

11 Figure 13: Singapore s urban development 3 Theoretical Position From the given topic of discussion, we are to compare and contrast Le Corbusier s idea of Contemporary City and Singapore s social housing projects. Comparing this two particular project really allows me to broaden my perspective on architecture. I find only when you understand the past, can you perfect the future s design. Everything we are trying to do now, has already been tried by our forefathers. Learning from their mistakes and improving on it is how we get to our future. This is a lesson which I find that I will learn from this discussion. When I think about le Corbusier s design approach, personally I find it very interesting. The way he approaches his design on the contemporary city; from the macro to micro detailing, he has observed carefully. Macro, is how he has grid everything in a very systematic way and has a focal point (the central station) from which he bases his other grid lines. Micro in how he created the internal courtyard within each cellular block which in turn acts as the communal spaces for interaction. When I think about Singapore s social housing projects, I find it very effective and boring. The housing project main aim is to make it affordable for most Singaporeans. But achieving this aim I find that they have forgotten to add the excitement in the building. Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves. By Julia Morgan 11

12 4 Compare and Contrast 4.1 Social Aspect Le Corbusier s plan was to built a contemporary city of 3 million people in It was not to overcome any pre- existing, States of affairs but to reach by building on rigorous theoretical creation, a plan (refer to figure 1) based on basic principles of modern urban planning. Whereas in Singapore s Social Housing Projects, it had to work because it was one of the 1 st projects taken up by the newly elected government. Thus there was also driven by the island s affair. Their design had to be the most efficient to try to increase their standard of living. 4.2 Economical Aspect After the World War 1 ended, for a number of years French officials had been unsuccessful in dealing with the foulness of the growing Parisian slums, Le Corbusier sought efficient ways to house large numbers of people in response to the urban housing crisis. He wanted to achieve an organized solution that would raise the quality of life for the lower classes. After World War 2 Singapore too had a hard time. Most of the country was living in slum and in un- habitable conditions. Although both came about from the same kind of situation, they both had different approaches. Both had they intention of increasing the standard of living and making sure it was affordable. But Le Corbusier had a more innovative idea. Like the internal courtyard within each cellular block which in turn acts as the communal spaces for interaction. This was missing during the planning of spaces in Singapore's design. 4.3 Technological Aspect Singapore thrives on the pragmatic program implementation. In Singapore, planning is quickly translated into housing policies and schemes. Priority is matched by resources and support aimed at establishing a framework that enables the lower- income families to select the appropriate assistance to meet the individual s housing needs. However Le Corbusier had a slightly different set of principles. The set of principles which Singapore had missed was the 2 nd and 3 rd principle which was to increase the means of movement and to increase the amount of greenery within the area respectively. Both designs are built very systematically thriving for order within the city/island itself. 12

13 5 Conclusion Although one thrives to achieve Utopia the idea of a perfect place, an idealistic conception. But what is Utopia in practice? It is one s perception. Thus it cannot be generalized. What might be Utopia to you might be Dystopia to another. The sky is the limit, never be satisfied. Always challenge and push you ideas. Art is never finished, only abandoned. Maybe one day, we will build a perfect idea. But till then, look back at what our forefather have left us. Take and improve, then innovate. (1520 words) 13

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