Participatory Design in a Rental Housing Community. Can it actually be a reality? With Heart Initiative 5, it is now coming true.

 

Heart Initiative 5 (H.I. 5) is a community outreach project initiated by 3 Master Thesis Students (AY2013/14) from NUS Architecture who came together for a common interest of exploring a whole new boundary of community design.

 

Currently, H.I. 5 is interested in rethinking HDB Rental Housing estate design & planning. We believe that the community “kampung” spirit could play a greater role in rental housing estates, especially in creating a more sustainable community where residents could share resources together to create a more vibrant and humanistic community whereby residents keep a lookout for one another.

 

Planning could revolve around a more community centric approach as opposed to the current top down planning approaches adopted by HDB.

 

The aim of our movement is to explore and showcase architectural ideas which are capable of creating a more self sustainable community whereby the rental housing estate acts as a platform for the rental housing communities to better empower themselves to move up the social ladder, and to co-create a more cohesive and caring environment for those who will be staying in the estate for a long period of time.

 

Through this platform, we hope to document our journey of this community outreach initiative and showcase some of our ideas and alternate vision for the rental housing communities in Singapore.The site we chose to explore this concept of alternate rental housing planning is currently sited in Jalan Kukoh, Jalan Minyak & York Hill.

 

As a start to understand the community better, our team set out on preparing a booth at the Community Free Market @ Jalan Kukoh on 2 November 2013! A little about this ‘Free Market’ first, it is organized by the Pekik Group. The organizer will round up the donations given from the various external organizations or kind hearted individuals, and distribute it to the residents every few weeks, there is no money involved in this ‘Free Market’, residents can just come and take what they would like. If you would like to make a little difference and contribute in any ways, toys, clothes, books, feel free to contact Pekik or us! :)

 

This event marks the first stage of outreach to the community for us to better understand them, as we will be working with them in the next few months to test out participatory design as our thesis project’s main focus (You can learn more about our project & initiative @ http://heartinitiative5.wordpress.com).

 

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Team H.I.5 with Mr. Ahmad, co-founder of the Pekik Group.

At around 2pm, residents gathered at this void deck space either to set up their stuffs or to sit around and mingle with each other. Kids started crowding around our booths, asking many questions and getting very excited about what we are doing.

 

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Setting up of our booth, the Orange power

 

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Presenting our booth!

 

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Kids crowding around our booth immediately.

 

For this event, we have two parts to it. The first is estate mapping, a board showing the plans of the estate, with the block numbers and main amenities labeled and colour coded is presented. Residents are invited to mark their favourite and least favourite spaces in the neighbourhood, and share with us their thoughts. A separate board called the ‘Wishing Board’ is also presented, residents are invited to share with us what facilities or amenities or anything that they would like to see in their neighbourhood to make it a better place.

Everyone got real excited as they took over the stickers and started labeling where they like or not, and excitedly shared aloud the various reasons. This activity give rise to some interesting suggestions and ideas on what could possibly be in Jalan Kukoh to make it a more well sustained estate or a better place for all generations.

 

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Now for the results of the day!

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Estate Mapping Board filled with likes and dislikes represented by the green and red dots respectively, together with some suggestions!

 

From the result, we can see many green dots on the rooftop garden space, which is one of the main communal spaces where a diversity of communal amenities is in place for the residents. Other main place/ spaces residents preferred are like the hawker centre, coffeeshop and some small conveniences stalls.

 

We could see however, there is a lack of preferences and even few dislikes at Block 11, 12 & 13 area, although there are relatively more communal spaces and amenities provided there. Reasons given were due to the type of people hanging around there, example like drug addicts, that makes that area unsafe and avoided, especially from the kids perspective.

 

Little is known about the offices and commercials that are located there from the residents’ perspective, however, one of the Pekik member actually told us that there is a law firm located there that is collaboration with them, to help the community at Jalan Kukoh.

 

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The Wish Board filled with many aspirations and wishes!

 

Some responses from the residents:

“There are many residents here who stayed for a long period, like my mom stayed here for over 20 years. However I do not see much improvement in the provision of amenities. For kids, for elderly, for working adults. We need to travel to get any basic necessities.”

–      Daughter of a resident who resided here for 20 plus years.

 

“I only wish there are more facilities for my daughter, I wish the place could be safer for children to play.”

–     Male resident, in his late 30s.

 

Residents also wish for more amenities like childcare centre, daycare centre, supermarkets, 24hours clinic, soccer field, bigger playground. In terms of improvements to existing facilities, they also suggested to incorporate more elderly friendly and children friendly communal spaces (example less steep slopes for walking). In addition, the kids also wished for more toys and books, and had normal aspirations example to become policeman etc.

 

Overall, it was a meaningful day spent with the community in estate mapping activity! We would like to thank Pekik and Mr. Ahmad for giving us the opportunity to engage with the community. Thanks to the many residents that participated and welcomed us warmly into the Jalan Kukoh family! Thanks to Edmund and Fern from “Aspiring for more”, for sharing with us many thoughts and experience on site. Thanks. Lastly, we would also like to thank Mizah, also our senior, from Participate In Design (http://participateindesign.org/) who shared with us her experience in engaging with the community.

 

Next up will be the Community walk @ Jalan Kukoh organised by “Aspiring for more” (http://aspiringformore.wix.com/captureaspirations). We will be joining the walk to better understand the different assets Jalan Kukoh has. Stay tune for the documentation of this walk at http://heartinitiative5.wordpress.com:)

 

 

 

 

 

HI 5

This abstract is written in conjunction with the “Heart Initiative 5 (H.I. 5) Community Outreach Movement initiated by a group of National University of Singapore, Master in Architecture Thesis Students who focus on rethinking public rental housing design & planning in Singapore through community participatory design.

 

 

Learn more about Heart Initiative 5 (H.I. 5) @ http://heartinitiative5.wordpress.com & https://www.facebook.com/HeartInitiative5