Hawker Centres

Image Source: Singapore Guide, (n.d.). Maxwell Hawker Centre. [image] Available at: http://static.asiawebdirect.com/m/phuket/portals/www-singapore-com/homepage/top10/top10-singapore-hawker-centres/allParagraphs/03/top10Set/01/image/Maxwell-Hawker-Centre.jpg [Accessed 24 Jan. 2017].

Hawker Centres are buildings, usually found in various parts of Asia, that house and sell a variety of local affordably-priced food. Singapore, in particular, is a country well known for their hawker centres, both to tourists and locals.

According to the Strait Times, however, these hawker centres face a bleak future (2016). Although they are a popular destination for tourists and locals, Christopher Vanderperre states that, “…when we go to a hawker centre, we see more shops that are closed or more shops offering something different. I’ve seen French cuisine being offered in hawker stalls which is much more expensive than your usual plate of noodles” (Strait Times, 2016). As Singapore’s rich history and food culture has been correlated with hawkers since the 1800s, and still continues to be an important aspect of Singapore’s heritage, it is vital that not only the government takes initiatives in order to support this important aspect of Singapore’s heritage, but also for locals to be aware of the possible decline of this culture. There has been an increase in the closure of hawker stalls, due to the lack of successors succeeding the previous job.

The closing of local hawker stalls are not the only concern for Singapore, as the opening of glocalized hawker stalls can also be a major concern to declining local food culture. Food found in hawker stalls has been a part of Singapore for over 40 years, passing down from father to son. An increase in glocalized hawker stalls may indicate a shift towards western or glocalized food, and away from local food. With this shift, it may indicate a declining food culture as the new generation will grow up eating glocalized food instead of local food.

The government has taken various initiatives in order to combat this problem. One design initiative taken, ‘Our Hawker Centres –A Heritage and Art Project’, raises awareness of the cultural value of hawker centres towards the new generation (National Environment Agency of Singapore, 2015). This is done by facilitating a space in hawker centres where locals are allowed to create murals and installations. Over 70 schools, local artists and organizations have taken part. A few indicators of a good design is by ensuring that the values of the target audience is considered, the design contributes positively to those using them, and the heritage and cultural aspects are preserved. This design initiative has taken into consideration these aspects as it allows for those involved to feel as though hawker centres are a part of their identity instead of just a place to eat or something that they read about in the newspaper, promotes hawker centres as part of the food heritage and culture to the new generation, and allows the new generation to be a part of that culture and history. In addition, the installation of murals and artworks allows for “vibrancy, color and creativity to enliven the environment for hawker food experiences that continue to be well-loved at home…” (National Environment Agency of Singapore, 2015). This addition of new murals and installations preserves the heritage, lengthens the future of this heritage, and allows the new generation to understand where they fit in Singapore’s food culture and heritage.

Other design initiatives proved to be quite successful included the teaching of young hawkers to succeed the hawker stalls, the subsidy of old hawker stalls by the government and high barriers to entry for newer hawker stalls.

By taking into consideration the good design process aspects in design initiatives, particularly importance of culture, heritage, and the values of the community involved, it allows for goals to succeed and in this case, heritage and cultural values to be preserved.



National Environment Agency of Singapore. (2015). Heritage And Art Initiative Launched To Celebrate Singapore’s Hawker Centres. [online] Available at: http://www.nea.gov.sg/corporate-functions/newsroom/news-releases/heritage-and-art-initiative-launched-to-celebrate-singapore-s-hawker-centres [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017].

National Library Board, S. (2016). Hawker centres. [online] Eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Available at: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_1637_2010-01-31.html [Accessed 24 Jan. 2017].

The Strait Times, (2016). Singapore’s fading food hawker heritage. [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapores-fading-food-hawker-heritage [Accessed 24 Jan. 2017].


Hawker Stalls: Let’s Talk About Food

“We ask that you please bear with the changes and enjoy the new environment when the renovations are completed…[T]hree markets/food centres will be built into one centre, to be named “Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre” – date of completion is May 2005.” (Duruz & Gaik, 2014).

Above: Today’s hawker stalls shown from (left) Behind the Food Carts and (right) FUNG BROS’ “FUNG BROS FOOD: The Hawker Stall! (Singapore)”

Since the release of Malaysia’s control, food has become an integral part of Singapore’s identity. Much so that it has developed into a tourist attraction next to the famous Merlions. As “the influx of large numbers of new immigrants into the city-state set to continue”, the country cannot avoid the cultural development from several nationalities including Malaysian, Indonesian and Chinese (Yeoh & Lin, 2012). This gradual change has affected food in kopitiams, hawker stalls and boutique coffee shops, allowing the country to expand into a multicultural cooking network. As the cuisines have clashed, fused and transformed into new flavours, the variety of eateries have amplified for both locals and tourists alike.

As a second generation Australian born Malaysian-Chinese, Singaporean food crosses similarities with what I have eaten in the past. In saying this, food has evolved from ingredients to the taste, signifying the subtle changes that can differ a specific dish from Singapore and other countries. With a Malay influence, Singaporean food contains elements that indicates a unifying cultural thread. To preserve these traditional dishes, ethnic districts have reconstructed food courts that correspond to the relevant cuisine. From the exert ‘Foundational Narratives: The Village Boy Makes Good’, Singapore is “caught in the vortex of developmentalism’s imperatives…competing with desperate attempts to preserve (and indeed, redevelop) a remembered heritage,” describing the inevitable nature of modern change (Duruz & Khoo, 2014).

The relationship between the old and new has redefined the nation’s identity however the two aspects struggle to cohabit. With renovation, hawker stalls have lost primary characteristics – mobile carts, outdoor atmosphere, stools have been replaced by an air conditioned all purpose shopping complex as they are “built into one centre” (Duruz & Khoo, 2014). This was to maintain regulations to “ensure hygienic food preparation and consumption” as they were known for being a public nuisance and a health issue. Thus, Auntys and Uncles were in need of a legal permit to serve what was considered clean by the Hawkers Department’s Special Squad due to exclusion off the streets. The relocation lead to “sentimental and practical” objections as Duruz & Khoo (2014) states “The category of ‘sentimental’…hawkers who feared a loss of place and community; the ‘practical’…concerned with questions of maintaining a customer base and storage facilities,” depicting the opposing opinions of what may result in an obscured heritage. Therefore, the introduction of hawker centres “posed interesting challenges for redrawing culinary landscapes and structures of belonging” (Duruz & Khoo, 2014), damaging the cultural imagery of hawker stalls.

On the other hand, history is withheld in the establishment through memory and remembrance. Although there was urban development among these stalls, these alterations have become a fundamental detail of the contemporary design. They are now a functional construction that is preserved to a certain extent in which Singapore’s diversity in food remains present.


Jean Duruz and Gaik Cheng Khoo, ‘Spreading the Toast of Memory: From Hainanese Kopitiams to Boutique Coffee Shops in Singapore’ (Chap 2); ‘Growing Up Transnational: Travelling through Singapore’s Hawker Centres’ (Chap 4); ‘Dumplings at Changi: Singapore’s Urban Villages as Spaces of Exchange and Reinvention’ (Chap 5) in Jean Duruz and Gaik Cheng Khoo, Eating Together: Food, Space and Identity in Malaysia and Singapore, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Maryland, 2014.

Brenda Yeoh & Weiqiang Lin, 2012, Rapid growth in Singapore’s immigrant population brings policy challenges, MPI, viewed 16 January 2017, <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/rapid-growth-singapores-immigrant-population-brings-policy-challenges&gt>

FUNG BROS 2015, FUNG BROS FOOD: The Hawker Stall! (Singapore), videorecording, YouTube, viewed 22 January 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJEynhvMUYg&t=394s&gt;

Kim & Phil, 2015, Hawker stalls: Singapore, Tumblr, viewed 22 January 2017, <http://behindthefoodcarts.com/post/111918755924/hawker-stalls-singapore&gt;

The “Bridge” between East and West


Brian Lo

Macau; literally means “Bay Gate” (in Portuguese, which is widely mentioned or referred in the city) besides Macau could be spelled Macao (in English), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China is well-known for its developed Casino industry (Xi & Wei 2010). Other than that due to its own special and unique culture and history, appealing recreation and entertainments, Macau has turned into a popular tourist destination (Zhang 2012). However, Macau was unbefitting to become a world-famous tourism destination before one-thousandth anniversary. In general assumption many people assume that Macau has been unattractive in contrast to its close neighbour, peripheral the Pearl of the Orient – Hong Kong (Ung & Vong 2010). According to Rooke (Ung & Vong 2010), described Macau as a ‘sleep little back water near Hong Kong’ and additionally Ngai (1999) stated that “even in the mainland, people are more familiar with Hong Kong” (Ngai 1999), and used to combine Hong Kong and Macau together as one which labeled as “Kong Ou”. This indicated that at that period of time Macau was insignificant and imperceptible.

Nevertheless, in 2002, the Macau government has loosen the restrictions of its gambling industry, which has changed the development of Macau and leaded it to a different direction; as a world-class gambling casino industry (Xi & Wei 2010). Furthermore, Macau offered and contributed to the world history as a “bridge” (Ngai 1999 and South China Morning Post 2002), by presenting two different civilization and cultures (the junction of Portuguese and Chinese culture). These multi-sensory experiences of aesthetic, history, architectural, religion(s) from the two-contrastive/ divergent regions, allow to add eventually improvise new aspects to Macau and strengthen in representing its own unique cultural history, identity and heritage.

In regards to the term “heritage”, Dr Ien Ang (Ang 2001) has mentioned that the interpretation or definition of heritage is still debatable and undetermined. Heritage is more than what the general desire to preserve and save from the past, it is an invaluable property that “can be ‘built’ and ‘created’ out of a critical and creative engagement with the myriad intertwining histories,” (Ang 2001). The contemporary meaning of heritage can be differed from various perspectives, however it is more about how every individual did value and cherish the past and how could heritage and culture implement to the community at the present time or even in the future.


The Cathedral of Saint Paul (São Paulo) would be one of the iconic design initiative and cultural heritage of Macau that influences the harmonization to develop and enhance Macau’s distinct cultural identity and social status within the world. The Ruins of St. Paul is the site of St. Paul Church and built from the 1602 to 1640 by the Jesuit. Other than that, this church was adjoined with the Jesuit College of St Paul, which was the first Western-style university in the Far East during that time (Ngai 1999). This remarkable architecture has become a significant medium to encourage the religious and cultural exchanges between Europe and China. Visitors or tourists would able to experience the harmonization of Chinese and Portuguese spatial concepts which evident and demonstrate in this unique building; the St. Paul’s Ruins.

This significant construction not just only convey the importance of the coexistence of cultural sediments of eastern and western origin, beside this also motivates the influence to enhance the perspective of the public general, and ultimately provide them to physically experience the unique and individual practices from Macau. This design initiative ensures and at the same time challenges the development and transformation of Macau, particularly in regarding to the aspects of colonialism and capitalism (China) within the past five centuries. Nowadays, Macau has eventually become a “multi-racial” and “multi-cultural” society (Ngai 1999) and also become the major gateway of economic within Mainland China and South East Asia and Europe.



Ang, L. 2001, ‘Intertwining histories: heritage and diversity’, The Annual History Lecture History Council of New South Wales, lecture notes, History Council of NSW, Sydney, viewed 19 January 2017.

Hao, Z. 2011, Macau: history and society, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong.

Jarosz, A. 2013, ‘Macau beyond the roulette wheel’, BBC, 19 September, viewed 18 January 2017, <http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20130724-macau-beyond-the-roulette-wheel>.

Ngai, G. 1999, ‘Cultural heritage traditional bonds hold key to identity’, South China Morning Post Ltd., 19 December.

South China Morning Post 2002, ‘Recognise macau’s Portuguese heritage or lose it’, South China Morning Post Ltd., 27 September, p. 19.

Springer, K. 2015, ‘A 400-year-old-port – with no boats’, BBC, 12 November, viewed 18 January 2017, <http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20151110-preserving-macaus-seafaring-soul>.

The State of Administration of Cultural Heritage of the People’s of Republic of China 2005, The Historic Monuments of Macao, viewed 19 January 2017, .

UNESCO World Heritage Center 2017, Historic center of Macao, viewed 19 January 2017, <http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1110>.

Ung, A. & Vong, T.N. 2010, ‘Tourist experience of heritage tourism in macau sar, china’, Journal of Heritage Tourism, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 157-168.

Xi, L. & Wei, C.S. 2010, ‘The way to the diversification of macau’s social economy: a study on macau’s cultural tourism development’, International Journal of Trade, Economics and Finance, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 131-135.

Zhang, M. 2012, ‘Reading different cultures through cultural translation’, John Benjamins Publishing Company, vol. 58, no. 2, pp. 205-219.

History Facilitating Creativity: The Reinvention of Cockatoo Island

Elizabeth Smith

Through its rich and diverse heritage, Cockatoo Island manages to encapsulate several different histories within the confines of its shores and has developed and its own unique purpose due to having such a multifaceted identity. While the conservation of the island is integral for us as the public to understand the history of the Sydney Harbour, the island has also developed a new, renewed purpose in facilitating contemporary installation art for special events.

The past of Cockatoo Island carries several different intertwined histories, each influencing the architecture of the island in a particular way. Initially, the island was used as a convict settlement, which then evolved into a girl’s reformatory with these earlier buildings using stone quarried from the island itself. The shipyards later added to the evolving landscape of the island, facilitating a demand for architecture that was vast and industrial in order to cope with the nature of the work undertaken. This period lasted from the early 1900s up until the Shipyard’s closure in 1991 (Sydney Harbour Federation Trust 2017), the island developing a variety of industrial architecture throughout time.

Figure 1: Cockatoo Island’s vast industrial spaces (Marchant 2013)

When the island reopened in 2007 its purpose was much different, allowing the public to experience and educate themselves on the island’s history though experiencing the diversity and atmosphere of the spaces themselves. It also became a space used by the Sydney Biennale, the event utilising the vast interiors of the shipyards and the characteristics of various areas of the island with the aim of “exploring how we perceive reality in our increasingly digitised era” (Biennale of Sydney 2016). These ideas of the relationship between space, physicality and experiencing alternative realities can be seen in the works during the biennale – and example being Chiharu Shiota’s installation “Conscious Sleep”. The work, pictured below, draws on the island’s heritage as a convict prison and girls refuge, the beds intending to “evoke notions of dreams, sleep, and memory, while the knotted threads can be read as bundles of nerves connecting the conscious mind to the world of dreams” (Forrest 2016). The work is a manifestation of both the artists own context combined with the complex heritage of the island, creating a work that forces us to actively engage with the immediate environment in a critical way.

Figure 2: Chiharu Shiota’s Conscious Sleep (ABC 2016).

Site specific installations are said to “shift the world around us, creating unfamiliar terrain in our everyday surroundings while forcing a reconsideration of history in light of the present day” (Frock 2014). With the Biennale being housed by the island since 2007, the site-specific installations held on the island have facilitated a more critical understanding of the heritage of the island. Cockatoo Island can therefore be used as a model for future reinventions – giving us an understanding as to how we can transform dilapidated, yet historically rich spaces into ones that encourage artists to build on that history to create engaging and provocative works.

While the circumstances and history shaping Cockatoo Island are certainly different to those we will encounter in Singapore, the transformation of the space from a derelict industrial shipyard and prison into one that provides an immersive, critical understanding of the island’s history can be a catalyst for future ideas we explore, especially regarding how we can both preserve the heritage of a space while reinventing it for a new audience.

Reference List:

Biennale of Sydney 2017, Cockatoo Island – 20th Biennale of Sydney, viewed 21 January 2017 <https://www.biennaleofsydney.com.au/20bos/venues/cockatoo-island/>

Cockatoo Island, Sydney 2013, photographed by C. Marchant, Flickr, viewed 21 January 2017 <https://www.flickr.com/photos/forayinto35mm/11750049574>

Forrest, N. 2016, Video: Chiharu Shiota’s Surreal Sydney Biennale Installation, Blouin Artinfo, viewed 21 January 2017, <http://au.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1387249/video-chiharu-shiotas-surreal-sydney-biennale-installation>

Frock, C. 2014 ‘Introduction – Site Specific Installation: Some Historic Context’ in J. Spring (ed.), Unexpected Art: Serendipitous Installations, Site-Specific Works, and Surprising Interventions, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, pp. 8-11

Om J.2016, Sydney Biennale: Past and future collide, ABC News, viewed 21 January 2016 <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-14/biennale/7245068?pfmredir=sm>

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust 2017, Our History – World Heritage List – Cockatoo Island, Australian Government, Sydney, viewed 21 January 2017 <http://www.cockatooisland.gov.au/visit/our-history>


“Asia’s Greenest”

Only forty-two years young and Singapore is considered to be ‘The Greenest City” in Asia (Senthilingam 2016). At first, one is to question whether the term green here means immature, foolish and gullible (Green 2011) or whether the term refers to the environmental green. According to the CNN article, it would mean to be the latter. Having such a label in this century is without a doubt an impressive feat considering the global urgency to counteract the cause and effect of global warming. The path towards Singapore’s results were aided by the establishment of the design initiative that is the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark Scheme (Building and Construction Authority 2017), which is aimed to bring about environmental sustainability using a rating system to evaluate every building’s impact and performance on the environment (Senthilingam 2016).

So is this considered a green, innocent way of thinking? As adults would call infants green in thought, too young to understand that most things in life are irreversible and undeniable, such as global warming, would Singapore also be categorised into this green class? Is Singapore being too naive to think that a complete country could become environmentally sustainable by designing a way of life that incorporates a seamless cooperation of architecture and nature? This blogpost will explore the design initiative of the Green Mark Scheme, specifically looking at how current and future man-made technology is able to preserve and challenge the cultural and social heritage of Singapore through the art of architecture.

The importance of preserving a place filled with cultural and social heritage, as well as embracing a newly evolving and fast paced lifestyle with technological advances is certainly not an easy task. However, Singapore has grown to become that place; incorporating the bits and pieces of history in its landscape and architecture whilst fusing the beauty and design of a diverse future into its society. Singapore has transformed itself into a place which values the nostalgia and memories of the land amidst its growing technologically focused nation (Kong & Yeoh 1996). By adapting a modern way of thinking, the country has shown that it is in fact not green-minded but is receptive and progressing in a world that is deteriorating from the lack of care for the green environment.

As mentioned above, the Green Mark Scheme is a rating system on every building in Singapore to evaluate its impact and performance on the environment, which is ideal for statistics and acknowledgements; however, that would mean that there must be buildings in order to be rated. This contradicts the label of being green because preoccupied space must be cleared for there to be new infrastructure developments, hence challenging the existence of Singapore’s cultural heritage landscapes.


Singapore’s Botanic Gardens: Supertrees (2010)


Singapore’s landscape plays a significant part in its cultural heritage, as less than a century ago, it was classed as a third world country (BBC 2015), thus ridding its native terrain would disrupt and challenge Singapore’s identity and history. And though there are buildings such as The Beach Road project by Foster & Partners, and the supertrees at the Gardens by the Bay, which both aim to amplify the power of natural energy supplied by the atmosphere, they are still technically developments that require space and produce waste to make and maintain. The true hero to reconcile the initiatives that challenge Singapore’s cultural and social heritage is the introduction of The Heritage Road Scheme in 2001, which conserve some of the scenic, tree-lined roads of Singapore that contain some of the country’s oldest trees. These mature trees are reflective of the hard-work and dedicated care and growth of the country, and are worth considered heritage (National Parks 2015). The Green Corridor should also be noted as it was a successful people-led movement to conserve the land (Senthilingam 2016), which portrayed society’s care for their land and heritage.

Singapore is indeed a ‘green’ country, and most likely Asia’s Greenest in terms of advancing in environmentally sustainable infrastructures and schemes that not only embrace, but challenges its cultural and social heritage. The country itself, as young as it is, has transformed into a well respected city-state that many of the first-world countries should reflect and learn from.

Reference List: 

BBC 2015, Singapore: From third world to first, United Kingdom, viewed 17 January 2017,< http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32012069>

Building and Construction Authority 2017, About BCA Green Mark Scheme, Government Information Website, Singapore, viewed 17 January 2017, <https://www.bca.gov.sg/greenmark/green_mark_buildings.html>

Green, J. 2011, How did the word “green” become synonymous with “new” or “inexperienced”?, forum, Quora, viewed 16 January 2017, <https://www.quora.com/How-did-the-word-green-become-synonymous-with-new-or-inexperienced>

Kong, L. & Yeoh, B. 1996, ‘ The Notion of Place in the Construction of History, Nostalgia and Heritage in Singapore’, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 52–65

National Parks 2015, Heritage Roads: The Heritage Road Scheme, Singapore, viewed 17 January 2017,< https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/heritage-roads>

Senthilingam, M. 2016, Singapore: Concrete jungle or greenest city on Earth?, weblog, CNN, United States, viewed 16 January 2017, <http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/11/travel/singapore-greenest-city/>


Singapore’s Botanic Garden 2010, photographed by F. Bianchi, Flickr, viewed 17 January 2017, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/fibia/13088395595/in/photolist-kWzs22-7jFZKg-cLUjNC-dRvho8-7N133Y-4BxBP3-5MgXT4-7tjivR-2x4hvP-cZGPa7-csaWas-NAnqy-d21UWq-dAgQ6N-9WngZQ-qHw8zX-aTBne8-cZGJm1-NAnqN-NAnqW-nqrKh-iMsK6Y-47qmJX-iMqrPp-aAKYya-iNMbzZ-aVP3ut-c9KMiQ-drDYtm-dVRA5D-NAnqC-7AdaVE-cdCuo5-8hih5R-9VJuXZ-gmoRS-cnhfqs-cosEw7-cFpXkL-cosoiS-afg6QA-cNzmc3-9Ct6LC-sgbho-cosPMQ-6mNLdn-ctY1w9-dRf6H2-dmTeNc-2pmC7J/>