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.



Hawker Centres

Image Source: Singapore Guide, (n.d.). Maxwell Hawker Centre. [image] Available at: [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: [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017].

National Library Board, S. (2016). Hawker centres. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2017].

The Strait Times, (2016). Singapore’s fading food hawker heritage. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2017].

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, <>.

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, <>.

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, <>.

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.

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, <>