An architecture of intimate encounter : plotting the Raffles Hotel through flora and fauna (1887-1925, 1987-2005)
This thesis reconstitutes the 'architectural subject' by placing the intimate encounter between the experiencing subject and the architectural object as central to the architecture of the Raffles Hotel, a well-known colonial monument in Singapore. By expanding Julia Kristeva's notion of 'the semiotic' through the context of feminist architectural theory, this thesis theorizes the original concept of an architecture based on intimate encounter - a method, which emphasizes the agency of the experiencing subject and relational modes of architectural interpretation. The intimate encounter may be broadly surmised by three key aspects - the relational role of the experiencing subject, the construction of architectural histories and theories through a chronologically complex spatial armature, and interpretations of the intimate detail, an object central to the experiencing subject's architectural experience. Working through academic methodologies, historical-theoretical speculations and performative textual strategies, the investigation combines modes of historical, theoretical and inventive architectural interpretation and production. The hotel's two key spaces - the Palm Court and the Billiard Room - are interpreted through their floral and animal 'plots', that is, architectural concepts based on metonymica and metaphorical relationships. Although the investigation through flora and fauna relates to a 'tropical' situation, this methodology ultimately critiques prevalent regionalist architectural discourses common to the hotel's geographical context. This research has five main objectives. It develops a theoretical framework that critically accounts for subject positions outside those of the architect's. It expands the repertoire of evidence relevant to architectural research. It employs modes of interpretation and writing, which draw on knowledge and techniques from architectural theory, history and criticism, feminist and literary theories, and philosophical ideas. It suggests that architectural history and theory is an imaginative spatial enterprise involving diverse times, spaces and subjects. Finally, it innovates a creative architectural typology for the hotel, based on its floral and animal plots.