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Looking up the block from where the void deck would have been.

Once, where the void deck stood as one of the primary requirements and characteristics of public housing blocks in Singapore, and part of the pillars of community bonding, today, new typologies experiment with creating a community, without the void deck.

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View of Treelodge from the ground level. Staircase to the e-deck is visible here, along with pedestrian entrance to ground level carparking.

One such example is the Treelodge @ Punggol. Comprising of several blocks with 15 storeys of residential, sat atop a two to three storey high podium. The ground floor is used as a sheltered carpark, with high ceilings of up to 6m, on which an environmental deck sits. This environmental deck is punctured in certain areas, to allow daylight penetration to the carpark below. At the same time, this environmental deck acts as the ground floor of older public housing estates; it has gardens, playgrounds, community gardens, fitness corners and other such amenities that you would otherwise find between blocks of public housing in older estates. One would thus also expect there to be a  void deck on this level, beneath each block but above the carpark.

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Ground level carpark, with transition spaces infiltrating the void above at the e-deck level.

 

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Playground on the e-deck as the ‘new ground’ between blocks

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Community garden on the e-deck between blocks, looking relatively under-utilised or under-maintained.

However, similar to the rest of the environmental deck (e-deck), where one would expect the void deck, it is now punctured to the point of inexistence. The remaining spaces have the resemblance of a void deck, but are discontinuous, resulting in dead-end spaces with no connection, and furthermore with no facilities, are left empty most of the day. These dead-end spaces look to be prepared for future conversions to functional use, such as kindergardens or office space uses.

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Dead-ends in the remnant void deck spaces, too narrow for use, and without any facilities. The right side of the image shows puncture holes leading to the carpark below.

In place of the large expanse of space in the common void deck, this is now found instead at the precinct pavilion, between blocks, and are usually shared by 5 to 6 blocks.

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Precinct Pavilion at Treelodge between blocks.

In addition, while the lack of a void deck affects mainly community use, there is also a lack of sheltered connections between blocks on the e-deck level, meaning that in times of inclement weather, no provision is made for the gathering or evacuation of residents from one block to another, except by the sheltered carpark, which, while providing shelter, does not provide safe pedestrian evacuation.

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Visual connections between the carpark below, the community spaces on the e-deck as extension of the void deck, and then the public housing blocks above.

All these raise questions, where the void deck was seen as part of the facilitator of community, it is now devoid of any, and also having been broken into smaller, disconnected spaces, are they still necessary or relevant to community bonding? Does the extension of the void deck onto the e-deck in this case, the ‘new ground’, help perpetuate the void deck into open areas such that community is expected to be drawn out into the open, away from the confines of the conventional void deck? Given also that the carpark now provides the convenience of bypassing the void/e-deck by way of the elevator to motorists, does this mean that the void/e-deck may also become irrelevant in due course?

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All photos and views expressed are the authors own.