Text by Fong Hoo Cheong
Reflections and recollections of the Designer of ITE Balestier (previously ITE Campus West) 1994 to 2013, Fong Hoo Cheong.
The ’94-’13 design contained the archetype of an architecture driven by a programme that was of pre-information society. It attempted to coalesce into form a place for technicians and student mechanics and machinist. In the conception of the ITE Balestier (’94-’13) the pre-competition briefing was quite telling. We were asked to both look forward to a ‘better’ image, to move away from the overwhelming sense of workshop as was then understood in the early 90s as well as to capture the essences of a ‘place’. The later statement was not explicitly mentioned but there seemed a genuine attempt to tell us that the students that are in the technical course needed to believe in a place or belonged to a place. The super articulation of the masses to include a maze of interstitial spaces waiting for the habitation and place forming was a response to this sense.
It is interesting to note that the ITE mega campuses today have opted to bring together several of these campuses into one largely continuous facility. In a way super articulation in reverse. This was the strategic change that spelled the demise of the old archetype. The ‘place’ that had been about technical education since 1940s is now left to be recycled for some other use.
Sixteen years does not seem a very long time for a piece of Architecture to remain substantively unchanged. Some pieces of architecture last for a long time and outlive their creators. Yet, in this society where we are so keen to keep at the leading edge of change it does seem fortunate and a privilege to have had a piece of work last for this duration.