This piece of writing was inspired by the news of Dakota Crescent’s redevelopment and it explores the intangible values of estates in the historical, cultural and social realms.
Advice: You may want to read the Chinese writing below first if you are a Chinese reader, and return to the english introduction afterwards. The following paragraphs in English are meant to summarise the content (in case you are unable to understand Chinese), and explain the background of Dakota Crescent as well as how I was inspired.
Dakota Crescent is one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore and has a significant historical value. These low-rise flats are located at Old Airport Road, part of the larger residential zone known as the “Old Kallang Airport Estate”. The red-bricked walls, old provision shops in void decks and Dakota’s iconic Dove playground all told a story of Singapore’s past and were part of many’s childhood memories.
Despite its substantial history and valuable architecture styles, Dakota Crescent could not escape the fate of redevelopment. This is discernible, as the conditions of the amenities and buildings were deteriorating with time, and pretty much everything was just falling way behind the development of modern HDB flats.
Surely, from a macro-perspective, it seems like the redevelopment is beneficial for sustainable developments of our public housing.
Yet, a mini tour around Dakota Crescent got me pondering about the other perspectives. As one of the residents shared his stories of how he grew up in Dakota Crescent, this place became more than a physical space with a tangible value – through the vivid descriptions of interesting stories, the old days of Dakota Crescent came to life in front of me.
I saw how an estate could be imbued with a significant value beyond anything monetary; how the homes were not just four walls and places to sleep or eat, but places where important memories were rooted in.
And this makes perfect sense, because according to neuroscience, memories are inextricably tied to places in our brains. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania has discovered how our memories are “geotagged” based on location using a GPS-like brain system. These “geotags” bring back a flood of memories associated with specific places from your past. The nostalgia of being home for the holidays is a perfect example of this type of memory encoding. And feeling an emotional attachment to the place you’ve been growing up in, is yet another common example of this works.
Hence, while I can’t entirely relate to the immense grief felt by Dakota residents for being uprooted, I felt a sense of anxiety and fear when I simply extrapolated their experiences into my future.
Remember how the Kampungs were burnt down and people had to move in HDB flats? Now people are moving out of HDB flats and moving into fancier HDB flats. What’s in for the future then? Other than having to abandon the places of memories, the evolving of infrastructures and buildings also meant that people are more easily displaced. Not just geographically displaced, but culturally displaced. Are we sure that we will be spared from the geographical and cultural displacement in the future? How would the changes in these buildings and redevelopment of cultural sites also affect our sense of belonging and identity?
Fortunately though, parts of Dakota Crescent, such as the iconic Dove playground will be preserved, and it is conspicuous that the government is striving to strike a balance between development and preservation. Surely, it would be over-idealistic to always indulge in a sense of nostalgia and reject change, and I discern the fact that sometimes we just have to move on and create new memories in new spaces. However, this writing is dedicated to the alternative perspectives of the residents and wishes to explore the boundaries between when development is “necessary” for a higher standard of living and when development becomes “excessive” with our insatiable greed.
身边的儿孙不解地看着阿嫲，心中对甘榜虽然有些不舍，却更加期待着搬进新组屋后的生活。“阿嫲，走了啦，我们要住新组屋了，有好日子过咯！” 阿嫲哭着摇头，又摇头，低声呢喃：“你们小孩子，不懂呐……不懂呐…..“ 眼泪滴落在泥土里，迅速地渗入，最终一丝痕迹也未留下。
我想：所谓前程万里， 下去 也是无底深渊。