Surbana creates a hub for the Malay community in Singapore
Pasar Geylang Serai is a new market / food centre development completed in June 2009, inspired by cultural and ethnic elements specific to the Malays of South-East Asia. Concepts and theories of traditional Malay architecture pertaining to climatic designs, spatial designs, environmental designs, building systems, design flexibility and community development are applied to the design and construction of Pasar Geylang Serai.
Buildings designed and constructed in rural areas are more use-oriented rather than market-orientated. Buildings are more for shelter based on needs, rather than for profit and investment. Buildings are therefore more autonomous, whereas buildings in the urban areas are more heteronomous, meaning that buildings are more self-governed and the user involvement and decision-making in the building form and function are important. It starts from the design stages to the final stages of the building construction. This provides a better match of the user’s needs and priorities to the design process; this translation of the user’s needs to their required space becomes more accurate, direct, and varied according to the needs of each user. The user also feels a sense of belonging and pride through his interactive and iterative involvement in the building process and is willing to take responsibility for an environment created by himself and not by others for him.
This notion of ‘self-help and mutual-help’ and the autonomy of the traditional Malay house, although typically set in the rural context, are approaches the architects used from design conceptualisation to the built environment. The initial challenge was daunting; how to fit a large-scale 20-metre high building that is multi-functional with market stalls, food stalls, commercial shops, a heritage corner and a 10-metre wide pedestrian mall on a 0.8 hectare site, and yet create a building that exudes a sensitivity and intimate relationship with its immediate surroundings? There is a disparity in the philosophical base of traditional Malay architecture from that of the conventional westernised modern building; the environmentally-respectful against the nature-demolisher; the conserver culture against the consumer culture; decentralisation against centralisation and basic needs against luxury needs.
Through studies and analysis of local climatic conditions for the design of Pasar Geylang Serai, detailing for the architectural and structural elements were carefully done in correct proportion to emphasise the different elements. The extensive use of local materials and craftsmanship accentuated the feel of the market as a welcoming, homely destination; Batik motifs and geometric patterns used on walls; ventilation grilles at gable ends; decorative screens with intricate fenestrations that helps to reduce glare from direct sunlight and rain and a raised-floor design with a linear three-tiered hipped roof with wide overhangs are all attributes that traditional Malay architecture always seemed to exude. The raised floor design was adapted to allow distinct zones to be created, with wetter activities such as the market stalls to be located on the first floor, and food centre on the second floor, as it is better to have vibrant bustling activities on the higher floor because of the area’s exposure to public view.
Pasar Geylang Serai has not only become a hub for Singaporean Malays, but also to the Malays of Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, serving as the ‘Malay Emporium of Singapore’ where Malays come together as a community for common and shared activities. As such, the architects feel that the involvement of the stakeholders and the community throughout the design process and decision making, indirectly provided Pasar Geylang Serai the opportunity to evolve as an expression of the social and cultural ways of life of the Malay community.