Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore

By Chua Beng-Huat | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Modernism and the vernacular

Public spaces and social life
Prior to the universal provision of public housing, the three main ethnic groups—Chinese, Malays and Indians—lived in one of the following two house-forms:
1 Timber houses with roofs of ‘atap’, 1 corrugated zinc plates or asbestos sheets, found mainly in Malay kampungs or in urban squatters.
2 Rows of urban shophouses of more permanent materials, such as bricks and mortar and concrete. 2

Furthermore, in the first instance the Chinese and the Malays had their respective vernacular house-forms. The Indians lived in Chinese-style houses, although the two groups used similar layout differently—a phenomenon which will be examined in the next chapter.

Embedded in the Chinese and Malay vernacular house-forms, and in the larger village spatial organization that contained them, were spatial expressions of the cultural practices of each ethnic group. These settlements might be appropriately called Vernacular’ settlements (Hillier, Hanson and Peponis, 1987:217). With the establishment of the public housing programme, Singaporeans from these settlements and old environment have been rehoused in standardized high-rise flats in sys-tematically planned high-density new towns or smaller estates: that is, they have been transferred into a ‘modernist’ environment. The question of particular sociological and architectural research interest, therefore, is: how has this transformation changed the daily life of Singaporeans in general and of the different ethnic groups specifically?

In this chapter we shall compare the ways in which public spaces in the modernist environment are used with those in the vernacular environment in rural Malay kampungs or urban Chinese squatter villages. The differences in usage are themselves an instance of the changes that have taken place in the community life of Singaporeans. 3 As indicated in

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Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Figures x
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Public-Housing Policies Compared 12
  • Chapter 2 - From City to Nation 27
  • Chapter 3 - Resettling a Chinese Village 51
  • Chapter 4 - Modernism and the Vernacular 70
  • Chapter 5 - Adjusting Religious Practices to Different House-Forms 90
  • Chapter 6 - A Practicable Concept of Community in a High-Rise Housing Environment 113
  • Chapter 7 - Public Housing and Political Legitimacy 124
  • Chapter 8 - Nostalgia for the Kampung 152
  • Notes 168
  • References 174
  • Author Index 181
  • Subject Index 184
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