On the face of it, the ubiquitous Singaporean function room is a space in a condominium development to be used for private events by the residents.
The name of the room itself is synonymous with Singapore functionality and the bland description leaves it open to many interpretations. My immediate thoughts on the Function Room are based on parties as that has been my experience of such spaces. Primarily they seem to be designed to house whatever people’s imagination can come up with. As grey, bare, empty rooms they are relatively uninspiring leaving the person to put their stamp on the space, albeit fleetingly. Whilst the stamp is made, there is still no getting away from the fact that this is a pretty grey space, both physically and metaphorically.
The list of activities that could be held here is long but in the main contained to less dynamic almost administrative activities with children’s party’s being the most active events. One can imagine resident’s meetings, quiz nights, celebrations for both young and old and even wakes taking place here. In general it is a space used by those wanting an easy way of getting people in to one place with the least amount of effort, giving the illusion that they have organised a great event without needing to leave their home.
Function Rooms act as the extra space that people don’t have in their condos for entertaining. The large dining room or entertaining space that you might find in a larger house. It also needs to be environmentally managed. Air conditioning and natural light along with a roof provide a comfortable space out of the sun to while away another Saturday morning party or Sunday afternoon sporting event in front of the big screen or to mourn the passing of a loved one.
The Function Room is at the same time public and domestic. An extra space within the condo complex but the need for payment to secure it makes for an odd combination of domestic and public. Given that the space is often walled by glass (sometimes on all sides) one would hardly say it is private but once inside one is cocooned by the cool AC and glass walls leaving the thirsty, hot public/private residents on the outside.
One of the main things that makes this space so fundamentally un-private (and indeed un-domestic) is the need to book it with the unbiquitous and omniscient condo management. The all seeing eye knows your every movement within your space and will advise what you may or may not do within it. In many condo developments you will need to book the space weeks and sometimes months in advance even though the cost is minimal. In a way it is a microcosm of the many local community centres to be found around Singapore. A square space waiting to be occupied by anyone who would like to book. The difference is you never need to leave your gated community to do so.
The image I have taken undertakes to show the physical space in use for a child’s party. It is interesting that there are more parents than children in this shot. It’s often the way. Two parents to each child and all of a sudden the communal space is swamped and becomes as much a social for the adults (Tiger beer in hand) as the children. I have tried to convey the grey walls and space punctuated by bright balloons, wall decor, tables of fun and not forgetting the indoor bouncy castle. Outside we can see very little even with the tinted glass such is the force field of light holding the uninvited outside. The ‘exit’ sign, fire extinguisher and functional grey floor tiling also give away the space for what it is. The facing wall shows us the rules of the house, laid out so one must not contravene them during the debauchery that is children’s party morning.