Design in Different Context – Food Tourism

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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.

 

 

References:

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, <http://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/south-beach/>

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, <http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/09/guide-to-singapore-hawker-center-street-food-where-to-eat.html>

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, < http://www.businessinsider.com.au/tiong-bahru-neighborhood-in-singapore-2013-3?_ga=1.144377909.1821756477.1485424652&r=US&IR=T#over-the-last-few-years-theres-been-an-explosion-in-hip-western-style-cafes-like-drips-2>

Smart, B. 2016, What is Contemporary Design?, weblog, Homedit, viewed 23 January 2017, < http://www.homedit.com/how-to-define-contemporary/>

The Best Singapore 2016, The 5 Best Hawker Centres in Singapore, weblog, Singapore, viewed 24 January 2017, <http://www.thebestsingapore.com/eat-and-drink/the-best-5-hawker-centres-in-singapore/>

Wallflower Architecture + Design 2015, Secret Garden House, Portfolio, Wallflower 624, Singapore, viewed 24 January 2016, < http://wallflower624.firstcomdemolinks.com/webdemo/secret-garden-house/>

Images:

Secret Garden House 2015, Wallflower Architecture + Design, viewed 26 January 2017,<http://wallflower624.firstcomdemolinks.com/webdemo/secret-garden-house/>

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.

 

References:

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.

References

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;