Research Practice

Some Haunted Spaces in Singapore

Glossy, technical, efficient: This is the obvious image that Singapore evokes at first. Yet something else also inhabits the architecture of the nation-state beyond its sleek appearance: spirits. “Some Haunted Spaces in Singapore” is an investigation of the collective imagination, and of the elements of the built environment believed to be occupied by ghosts, namely haunted spaces. Often dismissed as irrational, this mystical focus digs deeper than religious superstitions or teenage esotericism. Exploring the apparent contradiction between a city-state built up according to a rigid rationale of urban development and robust spiritual practices that endure to this day, the resilience of interconnected spaces and memories is uncovered, as well as forms of social resistance to the changes brought about by fast-paced urban growth and top-down national planning in Singapore.

2013-2019, with Marcel Jäggi

The research has two main outputs: a publication(Edition Patrick Frey, 2018) and a show (Architekturforum Zürich, 2019).

In the publication, assembled photographs, technical drawings, models and texts to document, allow to scrutinize and reconstruct allegedly haunted locations in Singapore, drawing on both contextual memory and physical characteristics. Intrigued by Singapore’s omnipresent ghost stories and fitted out with the tools of architecture and scientific investigation, the authors set off on an obsessive expedition across some of the island’s silent hidden areas, along the fine line between scientific rationality and absurdity. This book, the product of years of meticulous research, is a painstaking and yet casual attempt to scratch beneath the city’s surface and its physical realities to uncover occult realms.

(N° 271, Maximage, Softcover, 224 pages, 250 color images, 16 × 22 cm, ISBN: 978-3-906803-71-5)

The exhibition proposes a new reading of the territory and of planning approaches through the phenomenon of spiritual beliefs that can be expanded to other contexts.
Structured in 3 parts, the material aspects and physical forms of mystical expressions imprinted on the built environment are foregrounded. Introduced by a tropical jungle, the first part is a photographic essay by Philipp Aldrup of the expected, glossy side of the nation-state. But among the expected image peeks the unexpected, and the mirages of strange encounters and bizarre rituals point at a hidden side of Singapore. The second element is a cabinet de curiosités that presents eight allegedly haunted spaces as case studies. Research artifacts depict the tangible and intangible through mixed mediums (newspaper clippings, archives images, situation plans, photographs, ritual objects, joss papers, etc). Announced by a black map, the third part of the work is presented in darkness: the meticulous, obsessive reconstruction of these eight spaces, misusing ad absurdum classic architectural representations to show something that cannot be depicted, that is perhaps not there. The black paper models of the built spaces refer to the joss-paper used for honoring the deceased in Taoism rituals when the offerings are burned and sent to the afterlife. A ghostly soundtrack by Viviane Wong accompanies the discovering of the models.

(Show from August to September 2019, Afz, Brauergasse, Zürich)


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©Philip Aldrup
©Philip Aldrup