Singapore by Design

by PhilStar Global

The Formica Kvadrat pavilion at SingaPlural uses upcycled formicat in a creative way to form a multi-use shelter.

Singapore is becoming a focal point and center for design, culture and the arts.

I have a long love affair with Singapore, mainly because it was my home for the entire decade of the 1990s. Life there was great because everything worked, it was safe to live in, you could get anywhere quickly because of a super-efficient transit system, and the place was rich with public parks and open green space. All of this is by design, so when offered the chance to visit again last month, I took the opportunity and brought my better half, Twink, who I actually first met in the Lion City.

The main reason for the trip was to attend the events of Singapore Design Week (SDW), including its flagship International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS) and SingaPlural. The annual event is organized by the Design Singapore Council and also counted nine key events, eight of which were partnerships with the National Heritage Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, aside from several industry partners.

Design is everywhere in this UNESCO-designated Creative City of Design, but the first thing we did upon arrival was to eat. We had lunch at Hawker Chan in Chinatown. The restaurant brags a Michelin star and offers yummy soya chicken rice and char siew comfort food at reasonable prices. From there, we took a quick tour of the nearby new Six Senses Duxton Hotel, which is an adaptively re-used boutique hotel designed by noted British designer Anouska Hempel.

We then checked in at the new Novotel Hotel at Stevens Road, a short distance from the main shopping high street that is Orchard Road. The hotel’s millennial-chill laidback interiors were complemented by great food and access to two infinity-edge pools overlooking the lush landscape of this quiet district.

This is the fifth edition of SDW. I’ve attended once before, but this year’s offerings have been expanded and the theme of design broadened to several districts in Singapore.

In the next few days I attended the Inaugural Brainstorm Design conference at the Marina Mandarin. The meet is a partnership of the organizers with Time Inc. Brands, part of the Meredith Corporation. The confab was led by the editorial teams of Fortune, Time and Wallpaper. Sixty global thought leaders in design, business and public policy talked on ways design and entrepreneurship were transforming businesses, communities, and everyone’s lives.

Among the several interesting talks were with noted furniture designer Patricia Urquiola, maverick Filipino real-estate wunderkind Robbie Antonio, Grab, Wallpaper’s New York editor Pei-Ru Keh, Joe Gebbia of Airbnb, and Mark Dytham co-founder of PechaKucha.

(Left)The fantastic Juan Luna exhibit at the National Gallery drew thousands. (Right)Hawker Chan is a one-star Michelinr estaurant for Singaporean cuisine.

We next attended the opening of the main design event SingaPlural. This was held at the National Design Center on Middle Road. The center is an adaptively re-used colonial building and provided a great setting for a slew of exhibits of Singaporean designers and industry partners like Ren Yee of UNstudio, Infuud Asia by Kki Sweets that is offering a new way for tourist to enjoy Singaporean cuisine, Arttd’inox, a lifestyle brand who are working with local designer Wai Tim of Trigger design for really quirky stainless-steel pieces.

Of course, the main anchor event was the International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS), a long-standing trade show of SDW. Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran gave the opening speech. Ernie Koh and Mark Yong of the Singapore Furniture Industries Council and the IFFS also were in attendance. An announcement was made that the next edition of the IFFS would be held at the Marina Sands Expo and Convention Centers, which will make an attractive destination for next year’s visitors.

At IFFS there was an embarrassment of riches in the way of furniture from the world. We also met JP Lasco, a young Boholano designer who had previously worked with Kenneth Cobonpue and was now on his own. He was one of 12 finalists for the Furniture Design Award for his creative Bench Screen in 2017. He exhibited a few more equally handsome pieces at the IFFS.


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