Social Media Competition BIG4ENBLOC Before We Forget

MONEY OR MEMORIES?
©The Substation & Beverley Ng

​What would the demolition of iconic heritage buildings mean for the communities of these spaces, or for Singapore? The BIG4ENBLOC competition explores the effects of en bloc redevelopment.

In the face of population growth and demographic changes, Singapore’s skyline is constantly transforming. The city design and the pace of development are determined by the country’s urban master planners who need to strike a balance in long-term land uses. The nature of land leases in Singapore, as well as the shortening of the buildings’ average life cycles, can lead to a group of owners deciding to go “en bloc”, which is the collective sale of a building complex by its multiple owners, in turn leading to possible demolition of the buildings. Such is the fate looming over the so-called “Big 4” of Singapore’s most iconic buildings – namely, People’s Park Complex, Pearl Bank Apartments, Golden Mile Tower and Golden Mile Complex.
 

PARTAKING THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA 

Big4EnBloc Insta Competition ©The Substation/ Goethe-Institut The Substation, Singapore’s first independent arts centre, launched ‘Cities change. People die. Everything you know goes away’ in June last year. This programme featured two competitions on social media to encourage a broad range of voices among the participants. The first was a short film competition on Instagram and the second was a creative writing prize on Facebook.
 
The winner of the short film competition, which was presented in collaboration with the Singapore Heritage Society and supported by Goethe-Institut Singapore, was unanimously selected by the competition’s judges. Out of 94 entries, Rajendran Nadarajan’s interview with a Golden Mile Complex resident stood out for the jury. Entitled ‘Unsettled’, the short film won the Grand Prize of $1,500 and a return trip to Germany. 
 
Jury Chair and Vice President of the Singapore Heritage Society, Dr Chua Ai Lin, described Rajendran’s work as one that “engages deeply with the personal experience of someone directly affected by the issue.” Dr Chua added, “An interview provides narration that reveals a complex range of emotional and practical responses to the prospect of Golden Mile Complex’s en bloc sale. Strong visuals are well-chosen to complement the interview and provide an insider perspective of different spaces within the building. The film is finely-crafted within the limitations of the 40-second framework, telling a complete story using tight pacing, without feeling abrupt or rushed.”
 

  
Rajendran is a visual journalist, producing mostly video content for TODAY Online. “I have an interest in people, places and the stories they have to tell, and the cultural aspects carried with them.”
 
On his winning work, he said he has always been fascinated by Golden Mile Complex – “from looking in wonder at the terraced exterior as a child while travelling along Nicoll Highway, to becoming a regular patron of the eateries at the complex.”
 
“It was ahead of its time when it was built, and I have always wondered what it would be like to live in one of these apartments,” Rajendran explained. “Having found someone who lived and worked at the complex from the time it was built was like hitting a goldmine.” For Rajendran, Instagram’s limitation of a 40-second film seemed almost impossible to overcome at the onset but later turned out to be “quite a fun challenge”. “Crafting the story to fit the time limit made me leave out many nuances, but I was glad I manage to fit in the general aspects that was related to the theme of the competition.”
 
Rajendran felt that architectural identity is important for a city, but constant redevelopment makes this difficult – or, as he stated in the interview, “this constant change alienates us in some ways.”
 

From Singapore Modernist Icons to Bauhaus

 
As the Grand Prize winner, Rajendran (@rajipoo) will visit Berlin and Weimar while Germany celebrates the Bauhaus centenary from 9 to 19 May 2019. During the trip, he will also take over Goethe-Institut Singapore’s Instagram account for five days (from 15 to 19 May) to share his personal thoughts and visuals.
 
Big4EnBloc Insta Competition Winner Rajendran Nadarajan Rajendran Nadarajan | ©Brandon Tanoto According to Rajendran, he is looking forward to visiting buildings that are prime examples of the Bauhaus school of architecture, an influential modernist design movement founded in Germany. “I think the thriving arts scene in Berlin will be interesting to document. How gentrification in certain parts of the city have perhaps contributed to the positive and negative aspects of how people live, work and play in these surroundings might be an interesting subject to do a visual piece on.”
 
A ceremony was held at The Substation’s SAD Bar on 23 March 2019 to award the prizes to the competition winners. The other winners for the BIG4ENBLOC Insta-Film Competition include Anthea Ng Yuan Zhi (@nemosocool), who won the People’s Choice prize of $800, based on the most number of likes for her entry. The six members of the jury also pick their respective choices to win the Jurors’ Choice prizes of $500 each:
 
  • Lynn Wong Yu Qing (@lynnwongyuqing), picked by Dr Chua Ai Lin (Vice President, Singapore Heritage Society)
  • Mark Chua Shen Ern (@tinkerertinkerer), picked by Yuni Hadi (Director, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking & Executive Director, Singapore International Film Festival)
  • Lai Wei Min (@collarious), picked by film director Jason Soo
  • Peggy Goh Pei Qi (@pgpq), picked by Karen Tan (Founder, Pocket Projects and The Projector)
  • Sachika Kumar (@sachika.design), picked by film director Tan Pin Pin
  • Sankarasubramanian Subashri (@thatsculptorgirl), picked by landscape architect Faiz Bin Zohri 

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