The Re-making of Black-and-Whites (2009)

Singapore’s ‘black-and-whites’ are an architecture type made all the more distinguishable in today’s modern urban landscape of gleaming glass towers. The stately black-and-white bungalows, with their darkened trimmings contrasted against whitewashed walls, hark back to a colonial era when these private properties were developed as homes for the elite class. Multi-unit black-and-white apartments accommodating military officers and their families were also constructed in Singapore during the British colonial administration, forming self-contained clusters in a number of locales on the island.

Wessex Estate, situated 3km inland from Singapore’s southern shoreline and 6km from the central business district, is a precinct with 26 walk-up apartments and 58 semi-detached houses built in the 1940s in the typical black-and-white fashion. Once a residential cluster housing British army families, the black-and-whites in Wessex Estate are today state-owned, adaptively reused as live-work studios, and leased to creatives in a bid to nurture and grow the local art scene. Set in a quiet and green niche with limited access by public transportation, Wessex Estate creates its place identity not only from the heritage architecture contained within but also from the indiscreet environment which surrounds the precinct.

This photo essay is an exercise at capturing the essence of Wessex Estate through stylized images of building and space. Can such images reveal insights into the people—the creatives—who have taken up residence in Wessex Estate? Are there indications of contrived or organic efforts to shape Wessex Estate into a hub for creative industries? How do these efforts reinforce the place identity of Wessex Estate and, hence, cultivate the community of creatives who live and work in this precinct?

Important Note: The following images and multimedia piece are the original works of Su-Jan Yeo and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without prior written consent.

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