‘Design is about a style of life, and not merely lifestyle. It is the original idea in everything – driven by concepts, and generated by a process of transformation and representations – giving our material culture its value, meaning, and balance.’ (DesignSingapore Council 2008, p. 4).
Singaporeans has gradually come into the realisation that design plays an important role in creating outstanding facilities, architecture, places, systems and touch points to make their country a livable and enjoyable place to stay. Design incorporates art, technology, business and science to work together in building human potential, wealth creation and innovation. In a progressively ideas-driven economy, design has been a significant key for a transformation in solving problems and creating new value and markets (Design Singapore Council 2008). According to Lily Kong (2012), in order to be a truly global city, Singapore needs a lively arts and culture scene and participations from the residents.
A simple but interesting example of how creative engagement can contribute to the city can be seen in the picture below.
Niven Road Studio, which is located in a residential neighbourhood in the heart of the city, is a result of a contemporary redevelopment from a shophouse. Nearly 20 years after buying the shophouse, local architect Maria Warner Wong and her team have transformed the building into the city’s new cultural space for art and design. The shophouse used to be a residential property and a worker housing, but Wong said, ‘we began to realise that the space could be used in many other ways, as a catalyst for creative collaboration’ (Frearson 2015).
The development of creative contemporary design lies in recognising the current situation of Singapore in its local context. Looking through its demographic lenses, Singapore is a densely populated island city-state where 100% of the population is urbanised (Senthilingam 2016). According to Trading Economics (2015), the census figured that the total population in Singapore was approximately 5.5 million people in 2015, whereas in 1960, there was only 1.7 million people. This rapid population growth brings several advantages to Singapore, such as: boosts the economic sector, introduces more tourism and opens doors for innovation and cultural growth (Singapore Tourism Board 2016). However, without proper infrastructure to maintain such rapid development, urbanisation can cause more harm than good. Amazingly, Singapore has implemented sophisticated urban solutions as it is cited as the greenest city in Asia according to the Green City Index (Senthilingam 2016).
Singapore’s commitment to green planning has been one of the most effective ways to reduce the city’s carbon footprint (Singapore Tourism Board 2016). One of the famous existing example is the huge tropical park, Gardens by the Bay. It makes the National Parks Board Singapore’s vision of making a City in a Garden comes to reality (Gardens by the Bay 2017).
Another green solution to the city is a newly under-constructed cloud forests proposed for Singapore’s Marina Bay.
Landscape firm Gustafson Porter has revealed plans to create tiered gardens and waterfalls with a towering development unified by louvres and wavy garden atrium for Marina One. The atrium which is called Green Heart, was designed to be the biggest green urban sanctuary within Singapore’s central business district.
Although the architecture design is very contemporary, the interior gardens that is known as “sky terraces” are influenced by the design of traditional Asian rice terraces, which is seen by the undulating platforms (Mairs 2015).
It can be seen that through the design, there has been an integration of several aspects, including culture, heritage, sustainability, as well as economy. In addition, the role of design has made Singapore a better city to live, work and play. To conclude, as the meaning of design goes beyond a mere invention and lifestyle, I think design is a solution. It is a solution to both problems and innovative improvements.
DesignSingapore Council 2008, Dsg-II: Strategic Blueprint of the DesignSingapore Initiative, DesignSingapore Council, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Singapore.
Frearson, A. 2015, WOW Architects opens art and design venue in converted Singapore shophouse, dezeen, viewed 24 January 2017, <https://www.dezeen.com/2015/10/21/wow-architects-opens-art-and-design-venue-in-converted-singapore-shophouse/>.
Gardens by the Bay 2017, History and Development, viewed 24 January 2017, <http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/the-gardens/our-story/history-and-development.html>.
Kong, L. 2012, ‘Ambitions of a global city: arts, culture and creative economy in ‘Post-Crisis’ Singapore’, International Journal Of Cultural Policy, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 279-294.
Mairs, J. 2015, Verdant “cloud forests” and waterfalls proposed for new Singapore high-rise, dezeen, viewed 24 January 2017, <https://www.dezeen.com/2015/10/27/marina-one-bay-gustafson-porter-high-rise-singapore-elevated-gardens/>.
Senthilingam, M. 2016, Singapore: Concrete jungle or greenest city on Earth?, CNN, viewed 24 January <http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/11/travel/singapore-greenest-city/>.
Singapore Guide 2017, Singapore Attractions A to Z, viewed 25 January 2017, <http://www.singapore-guide.com/attractions/all-attractions.htm>.
Singapore Tourism Board 2016, 3 ways Singapore models green city living, mashable, viewed 24 January 2017, <http://mashable.com/2016/03/07/singapore-urban-sustainability/#AQP2QYK_PuqU>.
Trading Economics 2016, Singapore Population, viewed 24 January 2017, <http://www.tradingeconomics.com/singapore/population>.