Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New beginning with an old heart.

The long and arduous journey started on 16 Sep and it has evolved into a path filled with complexity and anxiety. Finally the housing and furniture issues have been settled, although there are still some glitches with the furnishing. First day at school was really an eye opener, it’s such a melting pot here in London and especially AA, there is absolutely no dominant nationality in school. There are so many students from different countries with very mixed parentage. There’s this Jordanian/Romanian girl and this French/Japanese girl who looks like Jocelyn. There are people from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, India, France, Britain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Channel Islands, Qatar, Jordan, Greece, Romania, Sweden and so on. The list keeps going on. It was exciting to talk to each other, it was a very open-hearted experience; very different from Singapore where I would probably feel kind of reserved in talking to new people. There was no need for brainless ice breakers or orientation games, the environment itself provided a very good platform for communication and sharing.

AA thrives on participation or participatory democracy as what Brett Steele, director of AA says; and I feel that it is very evident right from the start of school, everyone interacts in this closely knitted environment literally (AA is only made up of 2 sets of 4 town houses). Participation and debates are the essential tools for survival in here, the exchange of ideas is more important than the actual product. The ability of the AA in pitching itself as a talking shop – as it constantly conducts public lectures weekly – allows the development of ideas to flow freely. Especially with such a good mix of people, there is really a lot to be learnt from each other – the students, tutors and the public. It has an architectural education that has not been really worked out, it changes constantly, so forget about the prospectus, it’s probably been revised and revisited unknown number of times. It is only through the uncertainty and changes that will lead to growth. Most good projects are the very ones that provide more questions for developments, rather than a ‘the end’ type of solution. Finally, he closes his speech by saying that architecture is not a profession, but an obsession.

Although there are only 44 of us in the first year, Singaporeans did make a statement by having 4 representatives (9%) – the highest number in AA first year history. It would be even more amazing to think of it in terms of AA student per country population or size of country. There’s me, Kai, Sarah and Zamri. It was really a small world to met Kai and Sarah through my friends, Li Guang and Shi Ning respectively. They are from NYP digital media design and it is really great to see their 3d animation works. Interestingly, we only met Zamri at the welcome lecture today and we were kind of delighted to have him around. Zamri is this 32 years old architectural assistant in WOHA; he graduated from SP many years back and worked for William Lim before joining WOHA. He needed to be refreshed again and wanted to find a possible change in his profession. The interesting thing about AA is that it doesn’t really train you to become an architect but rather, they train you how to think and debate about social, political and design issues. This is probably what makes it stand out from the other schools. There is a myriad of professions that are so architecturally related, sociology, anthropology, politics, geography; I guess the list may be inexhaustible. Well, I may have another profession after 5 years of study but as of now, I just want to ‘play’ with an open mind and heart.

The lessons are structured such that there will be the History and Theory modules on Tuesdays morning, Media modules on Tuesdays afternoon and Technical modules on Thursdays. In addition to the 3 main components will be studio work which will have a presentation every Friday. There is no unit system for first year, so we only get to choose specialized studios from year 2 onwards. Well, it’s seemingly slack from the given timetable but it hellish workload awaits me. We will start our field trip to somewhere in UK from 9-15 Oct (sadly the studio went to Barcelona last year) and the location is unknown until Thursday when our first studio project meeting commences. As for the remaining two days before school really starts, we will be visiting some design firms around London. Well, most people signed up to visit Hadid’s firm, but I decided to go visit some socially centered firms. I wanted to sign up for dRMM which is a firm that produces highly innovative and socially useful architecture; and it makes non-standard architecture from standard constraints. However, I couldn’t go for that cuz of our project meeting. So, the other alternative was to visit David Adjaye whose works are quite civic and cultural in nature. Well, our introduction week will end off with a freshers’ party and I really hope that it will not be a smoky affair.

Although, things are exciting for me, but I still do miss home. Part of me wants to be exposed to all the new things, but the other part of me is longing for friends and family back home. No matter how interesting or great the people are over here, they are incomparable to the warmth I get from my home, Singapore. I just live really near the Regent’s Park and London Zoo. It only takes me 5mins to jog there and the park space is really beautiful, with huge green pastures, it’s even more serene than Botanical Gardens. If I were to compare the distance from my house to Regent’s Park, it would be the same distance from Coronation to Botanical Gardens. As I was running through the park, enjoying the breeze, I had the romanticized idea of walking the heffalumps with eve, having a soccer match with the jiaobins in the soccer field, having a bible study in the open. The feeling will be simply great. Furthermore, the security isn’t really tight here, the police do not bother about fights as they are so common. Fights occur outside my house very frequently as my house is a bohemian and weird area, it’s like geylang without prostitution with a good mix of far east shopping centre flavour. One of the UCL seniors was robbed along the streets and a murder occurred early this year due to some drug turf disputes with the murderers hijacking the whole bus to escape from the police. All these examples really make me appreciate my home much more. Those of my course mates who have been to Singapore all said that it is a very good place to live in, clean, green and safe. I guess if only we are more contented with our lives back home, it would really be great to live and only then we will truly be Singaporeans.

* Message from Chilumlump*

Mommy, uncle c hasss beenm soo niceer to mee, he gave me a purple pillow to be my bed. See, I have learnt how to type nowdjf althootegh, my fingeeaers are fattt and I press tooooo many keeys sometimmes. Me miss lumpy, me wonder every night if lumpy can sit on dumbo and fly over hheere toot loookl foore mee. Uncle c prays foore mmooomy everrry niighte sssooo thaat sh€ee wwill be happy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


thank you for all of your prayers, i'm fine and well in london now. i have been rushing around trying to look for accomodations to stay in and i've finally found quite a neat and decent place to stay in. there are 6 of us (me, kai, bryan, justin, joseph, shu jun) sharing a 3 bedroom and a studio apartment house beside the camden tube station, 2 mins away from the biggest supermarket, 15mins away from school, 10mins away from regents park. it is a very good catch cuz of the location and the furnishing of the flat. i'm hoping to shift in this friday.

well, before we found this property, there were lots of saga going on. firstly, we approached this property agency, foxtons, which provided high end rentals, but they seemed to be kind of biased. although they seem professional, but they didn;t really treat us well as our budget is quite low. we found this really pretty place at myddleton ave near finsbury park which was very peaceful and serene but sadly it was taken up and the agent didn;t really want to serve us the other property. we were not very satisfied with his professionalism and thus we decided to check out other properties. we found this good property in belsize park which was quite peaceful but decided to search for other better properties too. bryan and joseph got in touched with this dodgy guy, mickey whom we suspect to be a porn ring leader, who wanted to rent his 2 bedrm house at 250 per wk. he was quite helpful when we told him that we were bryan's friends and that we needed a house too.. so he brought us to some house near finsbury park. however, the place is really a "shit" hole. if i can grade the oldest one room flat in singapore on a grade of 100 as 20, i would grade that finsbury park house which mickey showed us to be 0.5... it was really bad, broken windows, security cameras everywhere, rubbish dump beside the house, it's just disgusting.

next, mickey brought us to his house which he wanted to rent to bryan and joseph. at first 250 for 2 bedroom at kings cross seem to be a great deal but after viewing the property, it was definitely a nono for them. kai and i had a very eeky feeling about the house. firstly, each of his room has a tv, dvd player and a vcr with a mixer and he showed us his collection of porn dvds. he has this "secret" room which he padlocks it and we are not allowed to enter at all. one of the room has pink curtains and some teddy bears. his house is also full of model posters. we kind of suspect that he is in some illegal black business. we were very skeptical about his "secret" room, what if it's a store room for drugs or it's a torture chamber. we decided that it's best for bryan not to go for that property. it got even more bizzare when he suddenly offered bryan 100 per week, which is too low a price in london. although, the money seems quite attractive, but we will only regret it if we live there.

thankfully, we chanced upon this refurbished flat in camden this morning, if not we will still be roaming for houses.

i must emphasize that singapore is still very much better than here, even though we deny ourselves to be a first world country. the efficiency is very much better in singapore. just take a look at hsbc, which calls themselves to be the world's local bank; their efficiency is simply attrocious, we had to wait for such a long time in settling our bank procedures. even after waiting for such a long time to be served, the bank was still unable to meet our requirements, which is so unlike singapore. secondly, looking at the type of public housing they have here, i can definitely say that singapore's public housing policies are very much superior than most first world countries. be contented, you can't find another place that is as clean and green as home.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

i love you and take care...

thank you everyone for coming to the airport to send me off... i will miss you everyone... thank you for being part of my life all these years!!! i really love you and i'm very blessed to have you all... i guess my journey will start here... god bless!!!