Singapore Archifest 2017: Envisioning Undergrounds

The Singapore Archifest is an annual public festival organized by the Singapore Institute of Architects to celebrate architecture the built environment. As part of their 11th edition and under the overall theme ‘Building Agency’ I was invited to host and exhibition of my work and discourse at the Zarch Collaboratives gallery space.

Under the title ‘Envisioning Undergrounds’ the exhibition combined architectural design, digital animation and photography, speculating about the possibilities of subterranean space in an increasingly vertical urban environment.

(Above: Seminar / Sharing Session with Finbarr Fallon, artist Charles Lim & architect Randy Chan)

The modern, urban underground serves city dwellers in a myriad of ways. Besides underpinning the logistics of day-to-day life, they form a crucial part of a city’s mythology. As sites of memory, places of work, or even the hidden headquarters of resistance movements, subsurface spaces can tell a city’s oldest stories or foresee its most distant futures. The works question the role of underground space and policy in a country such as Singapore, a city-state which has literally defined itself: refusing to be circumscribed by its geographical constraints, it has reshaped itself through artificial and technological means. Yet the premium placed on aboveground space mean that traditional uses of underground space must make way for the national narrative of need for spatial efficiency. As graveyards are razed and caverns are built, the underground is no longer synonymous with fear and death, but symbolises planning and progress. We are now living in a world where the ground beneath our feet is constantly in flux, where layer upon layer of things, people and substances circulate, dream and dwell. As cities worldwide awaken to the potential offered by sprawling tendons of tunnels and caverns below ground, what are the possibilities and pitfalls for Singapore’s subterranean future?