Chapter 15: Landscape Encounters: Students' Photo Essays
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282 15 Landscape Encounters: Students’ Photo Essays Photo Essay by Brendan Cheong I took this photo while on a geography fieldtrip last year in Tiong Bahru. It showcases some remaining Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) flats juxtaposed against the backdrop of towering Housing Development Board new Built-toOrder (BTO) flats. This picture is significant as it reflects how the state and market forces affect space materially, promote certain values, and displace or restrict social identities, materialising uneven power relations. First, HDB has more power and funds than SIT had. HDB can invoke the Land Acquisition Act to clear land to construct new flats quickly. SIT on the other hand, lacked these resources and its role was soon overtaken by HDB, leaving behind only a legacy in Tiong Bahru. Second, the construction of new HDB flats promotes a sense of belonging and pride in Singapore, inter-ethnic mixing via ethnic quotas in each building, and a normative heterosexual family ideology that disqualifies homosexual couples from purchasing HDB flats. Thus the selective, dominant and heteronormative housing landscape serves to promote social values deemed acceptable by the state. 15 C-Landscapes.indd 282 7/26/13 6:07:01 PM Landscape Encounters: Students’ Photo Essays 283 Figure 1  Tiong Bahru Alley Source: Author’s personal collection. Third, market forces are pushing out the elderly from their treasured homes. Due to its proximity to the Central Business District, properties in Tiong Bahru are increasing in value. Young and rich couples are increasingly moving into these old SIT flats, rejuvenating them and resulting in a gentrification of the area. This displaces the elderly residents when they sell these flats and downgrade by moving to smaller flats elsewhere. 15 C-Landscapes.indd 283 7/26/13 6:07:06 PM Landscape Encounters: Students’ Photo Essays 284 Photo Essay by Andy Chong Sungei Road Flea Market is one of the oldest flea markets in Singapore, having been at its original location since the 1930s. Unfortunately, the government decided to develop the area for the Jalan Besar MRT Station as part of the Downtown Line. The loss of this market reflects the government’s pragmatic approach towards land-use planning. Despite state rhetoric about public consultation (e.g. through National Conversation sessions), there was little engagement with the public or the stallholders about the market’s future. Perhaps Sungei Road Flea Market is an anomaly in Singapore’s cityscape. The selling and buying of second-hand goods by middle-aged stallholders still exists in an era where clean and comfortable shopping centres are aplenty. Nevertheless, affluent Singaporeans shun it for its perceived mess or backward­ ness. It has become an alternative landscape for poorer foreign workers, looking for affordable goods. Singaporeans are more likely to patronise upmarket flea markets at Orchard Road. Sungei Road offers a value that even Lonely Planet has acknowledged. Nostalgic and historical items such as old magazines, cassette tapes, typewriters and collectibles invoke childhood memories for different generations. These objects, once gone, can only be found in museums, and only memories of them remain. It is for this reason that Sungei Road Flea Market ought to be preserved.  “Sungei Road Flea Market”, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/singapore/singapore-city/shopping/ market/sungei-road-thieves [accessed 29 October 2012]. Figure 2  Sungei Road Flea Market (Thieves’ Market) Source: Author’s personal collection. 15 C-Landscapes.indd 284 7/26/13 6:07:09 PM Landscape Encounters: Students’ Photo Essays 285 Photo Essay by Alvin Kok This picture shows a cobbler hard at work on the streets of Holland Village, a distinct enclave catering to the more affluent in Singapore. With its restaurants and pubs, it is a place commonly associated with expatriates and young professionals rather than with the elderly community or foreign workers. Yet, it is in such a landscape that uneven power relations and contestations over the use of space are best displayed. The elderly cobbler still charges a reasonable fee for the provision of his services in a landscape where prices are inflated for consumers with higher purchasing power. He conducts his business along the walkways, perhaps due to his inability to afford the high rental prices of shop spaces. Uneven power relations are highlighted through this underclass group within our society that struggles to make ends meet as opposed to the regulars of this Bohemian enclave that patronise the many fine dining establishments in the vicinity. Figure 3  Cobbler at work in Holland Village Source: Author’s personal collection. 15 C-Landscapes...