Design in Different Context – Food Tourism


Brian Lo


Food and the practice of eating is obviously an essential aspect or component of human being survival, and for the majority of the general public within the world food has became a fundamental part of daily routine; it is a human necessity (Henderson 2014, Henderson 2015). Therefore, food cultures and practices have obtained extensive attentions in these recent years. There are various functions or activities could be performed and accomplished by food, not just only satisfying the human’s physical and physiological needs. As a result of the social, economical and cultural of food, it is finally gaining the recognition as it deserved (Hall, Sharples, Mitchell, Macionis, & Cambourne 2004, Henderson 2015). Many studies and research have evidenced that there is an intensive bonding between food and tourism. Other than that, food has become one of the most significant subjects in the media. For instance, magazine; Cuisine, Australian Gourmet Traveller, or Food & Travel; radio shows, television shows; Master Chief; or event documentary (Hall, Sharples, Mitchell, Macionis, & Cambourne 2004), assist to create awareness and enhance the relationship or connection within food and tourism. Phillips L. (2006) has described how “food has been mobilized as commodity in global production and trade system, and also governed through global institutions” in his Annual Review; “Food and Globalization”.

Food would also be one of the important elements that assist to shape today’s Singapore identity. Singapore contains its own unique and defining features, in 1819, Stamford Raffles stated that Singapore became a trading post from the British East India Company (Henderson 2014), which was remarkable turning points that determine the food culture of Singapore. The early arrivals with diverse backgrounds such as Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, and multi-diversity, arrived into Singapore with their own cuisine in the 1965 when it became an independent republic. This influence could force the perspective on food to be an invaluable design that represents the food industry of Singapore.

The unique food culture design of Singapore has been converted into an international business. The practice of food in Singapore becomes the tourism resource and the new identity of the nation. Furthermore, food could also be a design that allow and encourage tourists to obtain more understanding about cultures and history (Henderson 2015) and this is the reason why “eating is often a major determinant of tourist satisfaction” (Kivela and Crotts, 2006).  Moreover, food is actually a form of storytelling, it assists to narrate, the cultural history, rituals, or even practices from different perspective, this meant that the tourists could physical experience and understand of another culture by experiencing their cuisines.

By using one of the iconic dishes; chicken rice, in Singapore as an example, this cuisine has already turned into a heritage or even a work of art that encourages individuals to understand Singaporean way of living and their essential part to the nations. Design might not be physical; it could appear in different forms.




Björk, P. 2016, ‘Local food: a source for destination attraction’, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 117-194.

Hall, C.M., Sharples, L., Mitchell, R., Macionis, N. & Cambourne, B. 2004, Food tourism around the world, Routledge, NY.

Henderson, J.C. 2014, ‘Food and culture: in search of a Singapore cuisine’, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, vol. 116, no. 6, pp. 904-917.

Henderson, J.C. 2015, ‘Food as a tourism resource: a view from Singapore’, Routledge, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 69-74.

Kivela, J. and Crotts, J. 2006, “Tourism and gastronomy: gastronomy’s influence on how tourists experience a destination”, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, vol. 3 no. 30, pp. 354-377.

Phillips, L. 2006, “Food and Globalisation”, Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 35, pp. 35-57.



Unified City-state of Singapore through Contemporary Architectural Design

“Designing is the process which we posit changes to the physical and virtual worlds in which we live through intentional acts.” -John Gero 2011

This definition is drawn from Gero’s book, Encyclopedia of Creativity, which explains the relationship between design, designing, the designer and the end user. It is a generic definition and can be applied to many situations. Design, however, evolves into different meanings depending on its context; architectural design, mechanical, electronic, industrial, textile (Gero 2011), contemporary, modern, retro (Smart 2016) or eco-design (Macdonald E.F. & She, J. 2015) – all of these types of designing methods are perceived differently under different contexts. Take a mosque built in Sydney as an example, it is a piece of architectural design that would be accepted and perceived differently under a local context, or inner context, or even cultural context. All various contexts are present at once yet one design piece has many interpretations.

This blogpost will look into the ways design is shaped by local context – specifically in Singapore, it will also explore contemporary architectural design projects created by Wallflower Architecture + Design, and discuss some knowledge that is being developed around Singapore’s social, cultural, economic and historical context, prior to visiting the country.

Since Singapore is an island city-state that houses a diverse 5.4 million people, its compact land allows for a close-knit, bustling environment that helps build local businesses grow as well as create a unified profile on the city-like country. The design of the famous food halls, hawker centres, are an expression of multicultural unification. It is a place where culinary experience from many cultures can be found and eaten for cheap; local dishes such as Hokkien Mee and Chicken Rice can be bought from $2.50-$5.00 (The Best Singapore 2016). Singaporean etiquette design is not lacking in culture as there is a particular way of doing things when it comes to hawker centres. An example would be to place your pack of tissue paper on an empty seat to claim your spot while you wait in line to order food. It is a local, unspoken rule – you won’t lose your seat, and having that peace of mind will aid in choosing the right dish for yourself (Hansen 2011).

The local design development of another part of Singapore is the neighbourhood of Tiong Bahru, its transformation of being the first housing estate in Singapore in the 1930’s, to becoming a ‘hot new hipster neighbourhood’, yet retaining some of its historic ‘ramshackle charm’ is a prime example of how design is shaped by local context (Polland 2013).

Wallflower Architecture + Design is a well recognised design firm in Singapore that work on both commercial and residential projects. One of its recent developments in 2015 called, Secret Garden House, is an aesthetic example of contemporary design in Bukit Timah, Singapore. It is a residential space that encompasses the aspect of privacy, land awareness, greenery and smart choices in material usage (Wallflower Architecture + Design 2015). Contemporary design means to be ever-changing, fluid, or of-the-moment (Smart 2016), and Singapore is a city-state which values environmental sustainability, design technology and appropriate privacy, hence as of now, this design piece, The Secret Garden is a prime example of contemporary design in Singapore. There are other developments in Singapore that are also great examples of contemporary design in Singapore such as the Water-cooled house (Wallflower Architecture + Design 2015) and Foster and Partner’s South Beach project (Foster and Partners 2016).

(Secret Garden House 2015)

It can be seen that Singapore is a country that is rich in culture, not of just one but many cultures – the combination becoming Singapore’s own unique culture. The social side of Singapore is an obvious bright, bustling, lively city that is known to be a popular tourist centre. It caters not only for its locals but incoming sightseers that want a taste of Asia from a well-developed point of living. It has cafés, cheap restaurants providing a wide range of asian cuisines; its multilingual society adds to the unification of the many cultures and helps tell the story of Singapore’s history. The country’s economic and historical context are no secret to the rest of the world, with its famous label as part of the Four Asian Tigers, its rapid growth was unmatched due to physical and capital accumulation (Barro 1998).

Reference List:

Barro, R.J. 1998, ‘The East Asian Tigers have plenty to roar about’, Economic Viewpoint, in press.

Foster and Partners 2016, South Beach, corporate website, United Kingdom, viewed 25 January 2017, <>

Gero, J.S. 2011,  in Runco, M.A. and Pritzker, S.R. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Creativity, 2nd edn, Elsevier Inc., Amsterdam.

Hansen, C. 2011, A Beginner’s Guide to the Singapore Hawker Center, Serious Eats, weblog, viewed 24 January 2016, <>

Macdonald E.F. & She, J. 2015, ‘Seven cognitive concepts for successful eco-design’, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 92, pp. 23-36.

Polland, J. 2013, Take A Walk Around Singapore’s Hot New Hipster neighbourhood, Business Insider, weblog, Australia, viewed 24 January 2017, <>

Smart, B. 2016, What is Contemporary Design?, weblog, Homedit, viewed 23 January 2017, <>

The Best Singapore 2016, The 5 Best Hawker Centres in Singapore, weblog, Singapore, viewed 24 January 2017, <>

Wallflower Architecture + Design 2015, Secret Garden House, Portfolio, Wallflower 624, Singapore, viewed 24 January 2016, <>


Secret Garden House 2015, Wallflower Architecture + Design, viewed 26 January 2017,<>

Design and Context

Good design is significantly shaped by local context. Designer Alexander Baum said that, design“is a practice with a philosophy of putting people first and involving them in every step of the design process” (The Guardian, 2016). As the very purpose of design is to meet the needs of the consumer, it is vital for designers to understand and take into consideration the external factors, may it be cultural, political, social or environmental, related to the target market. Consider the influence of climate in architecture, designers need to consider the type of materials used that can be suitable against the climate, the size of openings, location, and so forth. Therefore, it can be said that if a design is not shaped and influenced by the local context, it is unlikely that it will a successful and meaningful to the target market or community.

Singapore has always had a rich culture and heritage, as shown through various aspects including architecture, language, and local customs. Throughout their history, from being ruled by various countries to independence, all is reflected through their culture. One prime example would be seen through their architecture, such as shophouses. Shophouses are building types, most commonly found in Southeast Asia, that were built in the 19th century and early 20th century. They are narrow, two story or three story houses with a terrace and sheltered walkway in the front. These buildings are a type of vernacular architecture, which are buildings designed based on needs and social identity of the community, and current construction technology. As time goes by, these shophouses not only remain as a testament to Singapore’s cultural identity and heritage, but it still serves its original purpose of being both a shop and a house. With the 21st century, these shophouses are still being renovated and new ones are even being build with modern construction technology, adapting in terms of aesthetics and representing current culture.

The shophouses were designed in various aspects, taking into consideration the different contexts of Singapore during that time. Ranging from the patterns on the buildings to the materials to how the building itself was designed. As seen, the shophouses illustrate the various cultural influences of the time on design in Singapore. The French and shuttered windows, and the paneled doors are from European influence, the flowers from Chinese culture, and the fretwork from Malaysian culture.

0cf84c7e-b517-4c97-b6df-23baa16339dd-singapore-koon-seng-road-vincent-ng_destinationmain_1438355876142Image Source: Apa Publication Ltd, (n.d.). Singapore Shophouses. [image] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].

In terms of technological context, due to constraints in construction methods and building materials during the time, shophouses were usually only two or three stories high; with the first floor being a shop providing goods and services, whereas the second and third floors are usually residential areas. Furthermore, the roofs were built using clay roof tiles, which shifts away from previous organic construction materials, particularly the ‘attap’. The combination of a shop and house, as indicated by the name, may have been due to the increase in immigrants, notably from China. As Singapore was a small developing country during that time, economically and geographically; in order to support the needs of the growing population, it was necessary for building to be built up and didn’t require large spaces. In terms of taking into consideration the climate and economic condition of the citizens, features such as the covered walkway in front of the shophouses that serves as a shelter for pedestrians against sun and rain, and that open spaces that allow natural light and air to enter.




Sahabuddin, M. (n.d.). How Important Is Context In Contemporary Architectural Design. 1st ed. [ebook] Edinburgh, pp.2-3. Available at: [Accessed 15 Jan. 2017].

The Guardian, (2016). Why human centred design matters. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Jan. 2017]. (2016). The Shophouse. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].

Singapore: A Global City, A Designed City

Elizabeth Smith

Context defines the way cities are planned and formed – it must be adaptive, evolving the with the needs of the people, economy and environment from differing from place to place. As cites are living, breathing organisms (Kallidaikurichi, & Yuen 2014), they thrive not on long term, detailed planning but rather a combination of a long term trajectory and more immediate design responses that adapt and evolve with the ever changing social, economic and environmental climate of the city itself. The planning and treatment of Singapore as an ever evolving metropolis has led to it being known as one of Asia’s most forward thinking cities, however it is feared that gentrification of the city over the last fifty years and the value put on the external image the government wishes to portray has degraded the strong and complex cultural underpinnings that developed the foundation of the city itself.

To cope with Singapore’s rapid economic growth post-independence, the Singapore Master Plan was implemented in 1971, aiming to make the it a “thriving, world-class city” (Chew 2009). This plan was integral in the development of Singapore as a modern metropolis, conceptualising the “entire island as one single planning and functioning entity” (Beng Huat 2011) and thus developing a trajectory for the city over the long term. Liu Thai Ker, who worked with the Singaporean government for urban redevelopment in its earliest stages, stated that Singapore was their “urban laboratory” (World Architecture Festival 2016) –  allowing city planners to experiment and learn the fundamentals of city development through molding Singapore into their own vision of the future.  This constant planning and articulation however raises the question of whether Singapore is a city the responds to the modern needs of its population, or rather, it’s aspiring to respond to a much more postmodern ideology than a modern one.

Figure 1: Singapore’s 2011 Concept Plan (Urban Redevelopment Authority, 2016)

Certainly, from an objective perspective Singapore functions well – it’s the definition of a “liveable city”. Its geographic context has inevitably influenced the way in which the city has been shifted and evolved over time, the city’s success leveraged by the placement of industrial centres, amenities and infrastructure which allowed for strong population growth while retaining the economic benefits of the industrial sector. While it does lack the land resources of other nations, the designed layout of the city-state has allowed for an economy that thrives on the global market, while still being able to retain its own economy through industry as well.

While meticulous city planning has given Singapore the title of being one of the most liveable cities in Asia (Chua 2014), there’s a constant tension due to the gentrification resulting from high economic growth, and the loss of important cultural values and heritage creating a generational divide in the population. If Singapore wishes to cultivate its identity as such a global and liveable metropolis, it must conserve this cultural heritage, Kallidaikurichi, & Yuen (2014) stating that “Cultural heritage conservation can be an effective antidote the increasing ‘globalising sameness’ that is engulfing many cities in Asia.”. Through having a more homogenous relationship between generations, perhaps the city-state would open up a new channel for communication reinvigorate the desire for the younger generation to engage with its rich past. However, the class divide within the state prevents this, with much of the social and economic imbalances being hidden by the “visual homogeneity of the physical environment of public housing estates” (Beng Huat 2011).

While designed to fulfil the aspiration of being a prosperous economic state, Singapore is still a flawed model. The class divide and neglect of the aged perpetuated by the image of Singapore being a “modern metropolis” means that, without intervention, the cultural fabric of the city state will begin to fray. Therefore, the design of the city itself must respond to the social and cultural heritage underpinning its rich multicultural foundations, rather than disregarding it in favour of gentrification and economic growth.

Reference List:

Beng Huat C. 2011, ‘Singapore as a Model: Planning Innovation, Knowledge Experts’, in Ong A. & Roy A. (eds), Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Beling Global, Blackwell Publishing Limited, Hoboken, pp. 27-54

Chew, V. 2009, History of Urban Planning in Singapore, National Library Board, Singapore, viewed 20 January 2017 <>

Chua, G. 2014, Singapore is ‘fourth most liveable city’ in Asia, The Straits Times, viewed 20 January 2017 <>

Kallidaikurichi, S. & Yuen, B. (eds) 2014, Developing Living Cities: From Analysis to Action, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore

Urban Redevelopment Authority 2016, Concept Plan 2011 and Mnd’s Land Use Plan, 21 January 2017 <>

World Architecture Festival 2016, WAF Podcast – Liu Thai Ker (Senior Director – RSP)¸ audio podcast, viewed 20 January 2017 <>

The Past and Present: Marina Bay and Shophouses

Written by Joanne Lee

Singapore embodies a paradigm shift that comprises of both traditional and contemporary design and culture. With fifty years of independence, the visual design of culture resides in every corner – traditional kopitiams, shophouses and multiracial neighbourhoods – in which ultimately creates the country’s identity. Architecture and visual communication remained respondent to the issue of social connectivity, cultural and historical conservation. While design is a multifaceted field, Singapore embraces integration of the modern and historical fabric to incorporate what existed in the past to the present and future. The changing nature of its construction and development is therefore justified by the historical context of the country – independence, post-war period and economic shifts. As a result, Singapore’s infrastructure transformed and “entered a phase of maturity, excitedly readying itself to experience its own prime” (Anderson & Choo, 2015).

Marina Bay is the work of reclaimed land in which developed into “one of Asia’s model public spaces” (Anderson & Choo, 2015). As Singapore has an expansion of design and architecture, buildings have been refurbished for “adaptive reuse” and “to endow Marina Bay with landmarks that communicate national history”(Anderson & Choo, 2015). This was to symbolise the once booming trades of the British colonial-era where Marina Bay served as trading grounds for India and China. These remaining Neo-Classical structures functioned as British government offices that surrounded the port and have been restored for commercial use such as hotels and shopping centres. During the 1930s, it was an access point for both ferried goods, visitors and labourers.


Above: An illustration of the Singapore River in the 1800s, the trading centre of the British colonial port. Courtesy of Anderson, C. & Choo, I. 2015, Evolution of a civic downtown : DP architects on Marina Bay, Oro Editions.

However, the purpose of the river changed with complimentary skyscrapers and areas for entertainment. Although the image of the national gateway was renewed, the port has re-established itself as the “nation’s front door” (Anderson & Choo, 2015). This was due to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and their objective to create an “international and recreational hub, the new centre for business in Asia” (Anderson & Choo, 2015) and is now “the signature image of Singapore” (Loong, 2005).


Courtesy of Anderson, C. & Choo, I. 2015, Evolution of a civic downtown : DP architects on Marina Bay, Oro Editions.

Although Singapore encompasses a modern cityscape, historic buildings within the urban districts remained intact since the arrival of early immigrants. Blueprints were carried from China to construct vernacular shophouses that consisted of two or three stories – the ground level for a merchant’s business and secondary floors for residential accommodation. Further characteristics included strict sizings i.e. narrow space to secure a compact block of the same buildings, similar to terraced houses. These local shophouses are now conserved for multifunctional use such as a food and beverage outlet, community space or a service provider. As there are many different forms of shophouses, they are categorised into five styles according to their visual features and structure (Lee 2015). From the early to modern stages of handiwork, there are key elements that expose the differentiation of each style. For example, the Transitional style first explored vibrant colours and ornamental surface pieces called jian nian, a carved mosaic of floral and fauna patterns and imagery. Every element determines individual character as a shophouse and describes the narrative behind the cultural heritage. As for the late urban development, “a mix of elaborate ‘Late’, ‘Art Deco’ and ‘Modern’ shophouse architectural styles” were introduced to new towns, distinct from older districts (Urban Redevelopment Authority 2016). During the post-war period, these shophouses reformed with a geometric aesthetic and additional functional features such as air vents and glass windows. This allowed a visible evolution of residential housing where the historic buildings were conserved and successfully adapted for modern living.


Above: A depiction of the modern styled shophouse with accented geometrical features.
Courtesy of Joshua Lee from

In combination of public and private spaces, Singapore has adjusted to the relationship between the rising skyline and urban living, both in which has conducted a harmony of old and new, in an effort to sustain the history in regards to design in a cultural context.


Anderson, C. & Choo, I. 2015, Evolution of a civic downtown : DP architects on Marina Bay, Oro Editions.

Joshua Lee, 2015,  5 types of shophouses in s’pore that you definitely didn’t know of,, viewed 10 January 2017, <>

Sharanjit Leyl, 2015, Singapore at 50, BBC, viewed 10 January 2017, <>

Urban Redevelopment Authority, 2016, Conservation, viewed 10 January 2017, <>

Angloinfo, 2017, Singaporean cultural norms and traditions, viewed 10 January 2017, <>