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Living by design
99 Beach Road
Till March 15
By Arthur Sim
THIS year's show is a fun romp through the works of mostly Singaporean designers from diverse disciplines ranging from architecture and graphic design to advertising, product design and even fashion. But unlike previous instalments, this year's design festival is more structured and thematic, thanks largely to the fact that it was for the first time, curated.
SingaPlural 2015 is overseen by a curatorial team from GOVT, a creative communications agency, and PLUS Collaboratives, a design thinking studio. Together, they imbue a sense of cohesiveness in the event, which is felt as soon as one enters the main exhibition gallery at 99 Beach Road (the former Beach Road Police Station).
The gallery spotlights three designers and one artist who have collaborated with laminate specialist Lamitak to reinterpret the material (usually found on cabinets and wardrobes) to create new objects for the home. Called Project X, this exhibit showcases objects created including an easy-to-assemble dog (or cat) house by WYNK Collaborative and objet trouves in the form of flowers by the artist Miun.
As part of her display, Miun has also included her development sketches and found objects that were part of the process of creating her works. Incidentally, the theme for SingaPlural 2015 was "Process". According to the curators, the theme was meant to emphasise the importance of the creative process over the final designs submitted by all the participants.
In the courtyard just beyond the main gallery is another collective exhibit called Your Hood: Singapore Urban Inspired Stories. This is a collaboration of eight designers with timber firm SAMKO.
Using an engineered wood called Heveatech, the designers have come up with several ingenious applications for the material based on each designer's personal attachment to local history. The result is a re-imagined playground with some references to the past.
The most overt of these are in Jane Tang's Playstool which resembles the slides that looked like dragons found in HDB playgrounds during the 1960s and 1970s. Going back further when kampungs or shanty villages still existed in Singapore, Chan Wai Lim has fashioned rocking animals out of Heveatech that could, if used in playgrounds today, fare better than those in now demolished HDB playgrounds.
There are several other group exhibits at SingaPlural 2015. Some represent local professional bodies including the Singapore Institute of Architects and the Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP). SIP has taken this opportunity to present its model of the future with Skyland, an urban city set amid vertical greening. In this utopia, SIP proposes to free available land for total access and to reclaim the air space for new land.
Less lofty in its ideals but no less interesting is A Moment of Singapore, a collective showcase of work by students of Nanyang Polytechnic School of Design who express their views of Singapore over the last 50 years through their works.
There are also ceramic works by Leow Wen Jim of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and jewellery designs by Chun Fui Yin from the Raffles Design Institute that represent the next generation of designers.
Professionals have also participated in SingaPlural 2015 and one notable creation is by landscape firm Salad Dressing. Called Royal Stinker. Salad Dressing has created a shrine of sorts to a humble durian fruit cast in acrylic that can only be reached after crossing a room hung with string curtains on which scenes of nature are projected.
Topos Design Studio and Phunk Studio have teamed up to create In The House of Change, a large construction resembling a doll's house that invites the viewer to look inside an interior that is constantly changing, and looks like it could be a prototype for Singapore's next hot nightclub. Indeed, if ideas are sparked by this design festival, the organisers should be happy because it is what SingaPlural is really about - the birthplace of the next big design idea.
Designs on lifestyle
Fifty Years of Singapore Design
Design Gallery 2, Level 2, National Design Centre
On till Dec 31 2017
By Tay Suan Chiang
GO to any coffeeshop in Singapore, and you're likely to sit on one of those red plastic stools. Who knew that the ubiquitous stool is a Singapore design?
Called the Unica Plastic Stool, it was designed in the 1990s by Chew Moh-Jin, an industrial design consultant. The stool was produced by Singa Plastics, a Singapore manufacturer of beer crates and pipes.
Designed to be lightweight and durable, the stools can be stacked and secured with a chain through the holes down the centres of the seats.
"The stool was designed more than 20 years ago, but it is only recently that it is receiving more attention," says Mr Chew, who was approached by Singa Plastics to design the stool.
Mr Chew hopes to do a second generation of plastic stackable stools. "The current stool looks masculine. It has to look robust, as plastic had an unfortunate reputation for not being stable enough to sit on," he says. For his next generation of stools, "the design can now look more organic, as people are used to the idea of sitting on plastic".
The Unica Plastic Stool is just one of the over 200 exhibits of Fifty Years of Singapore Design, a permanent exhibition that documents the local design landscape since 1965. This is the first time that such an exhibition and of this scale is in place.
The story of Singapore's design scene is told through the different decades, covering works by pioneer designers to emerging designers of today.
"Design plays an important role in nation-building," says Mahendran Reddy, senior assistant director of centre programming at the DesignSingapore Council. He says that for designers, the exhibition is a chance for them to feel proud and be recognised for their work. For businesses, "these are real-life examples of good design to persuade them to adopt design as a business strategy", he says.
And for the public, the exhibition can help them to better understand design, and to see how it plays a part in daily life.
WY-TO Architects' Tjong Jia Yu, one of the curators, says that the team picked objects that were iconic and popular. The team spent six months researching which exhibits to include.
The exhibits span designs from four fields, namely Visual Communications, Product and Industrial Design, Fashion and Accessories, and Environmental Design.
"I enjoyed talking to people, and hearing their stories," says Ms Tjong. "There are some things that we took for granted, which came as a surprise to me when I found out they were designed locally."
She cites the example of the logo for the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Singapore, which resembles a spinning globe. Designed by Su Yeang Design, now called LloydNorthover Yeang, the logo first emerged as a winning design from over 200 entries in an international logo design competition in 1996. After the conference, the logo was unanimously accepted by all 127 member nationals, and adopted by WTO as its official identity in 1997.
At a media preview of the exhibition, veteran architect Tan Cheng Siong talked about his design for Pandan Valley, the first condominium in Singapore to cater to middle-income families. Despite being a high density residential complex, Pandan Valley offered spacious living units with generous green spaces weaving through the estate.
While brands such as Hansel and Raoul are fashion brands known in recent years, back in 1987, fashion designer Thomas Wee made waves for his Mixables Collection. The ready-to-wear collection, comprising suits of lean silhouettes, was conceptualised for the modern career woman, for whom dressing up was to be fun, fast and fuss-free. "The newscasters of those days would wear these pieces, and the next day, I would get many calls from women who wanted to buy them," says Mr Wee. "Today, the suit is still relevant. Women still need an armour in the boardroom."
On the more recent front, Ikea's BookBook also made it to the exhibition. Designed by Maurice Wee and Tinus Strydom of BBH Asia Pacific, the 2015 Ikea catalogue pokes fun at Apple products. Through a campaign that went viral worldwide, it had a video inviting users to experience the power of a book, while highlighting selling features such as eternal battery life and pages that load instantly without any lag.
But no exhibition that showcases Singapore design would be complete without a mention of the Sarong Kebaya, the Singapore Airlines' uniform for its stewardesses. The iconic piece was designed by legendary French designer, Pierre Balmain.
The exhibits are either 2D or actual artefacts. Fifty Years of Singapore Design gives a good round-up of works that have shaped Singapore's design scene, but it would have been better if there were more artefacts on display.