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.

 

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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;

“I Not Stupid” – Singapore Educational System

i_not_stupid

Brian Lo

“I Not Stupid” in English narration is refered to “Children are not stupid”, this is a distinctive Singaporean comedy film which narrates about the lives, struggles and adventures of three Primary Six school fellows who are studying in the academically inferior EM3 stream. In 2002, this film has officially released in domestic cinemas and earned over the 3.8 million Singapore Dollars, which was rated as into the second-highest grossing Singaporean film. In relation to the cultural context of this film, this movie comprises various of serious and significant topics for instance, relationships in family and between friends, educational system and government policies in Singapore. Even though this is a comedy film, however the content is exceptionally inspiring and encourages the audience to consider and understand different aspects of Singaporean culture.

Based on the movie; “I Not Stupid”, the viewers would be able to recognise that Singapore is still rapidly developing and transforming from an ordinary urban to a modern industrial leading country in Asia-Pacific region (Young Singapore 2017 and OECD 2010). Throughout the past decade, Singapore’s education system has maintained its status and standard at or close to the top of most major world education level (OECD 2010). Within the country; Singapore, education would be recognised as the “central to building both the economy and the nation” (OECD 2010). Since the Singapore government has the ability to fulfill the requests and needs in education system and they are convinced of the existence of skills and knowledge would be the origin of aspects and also become crucial competitive advantages.

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In light of this, more researches have been developed in order to discover and understand Singapore education system further. All the children in this nation would be legible to receive a minimum of 10 years of education and their teaching instruction is “highly-scripted and uniform across all levels and subjects” (Nayak 2016). According to Professor Hogan (2014) from the University of Queensland, he has mentioned that Singapore’s education system is “the product of a distinctive, even unique, set of historical, institutional and cultural influences.” Moreover, the learning and teaching standard/ quality is monitored and prescribed but the Singapore’s national curriculum, which has emphasized and enhanced the nation’s education policy. In addition, “schools play a significant and remarkable role within the Singapore community, encourage to delivery the Singaporean values, characteristic and cultural identity.

In order to refer the Singapore teaching curriculum as “education system”, “or “arrangement”, it would be appropriate to consider this as mental strength support that enhances the student holistic developments. In another term, this education system is a belief, which allows them to utilise their knowledge into practical tasks and also maximise their potentials at the most.

Reference:

Hogan, D. 2014, Why is singapore’s school system so successful, and is it a model for the west?, The Conversation Media Group Ltd., viewed 20 January 2017, <http://theconversation.com/why-is-singapores-school-system-so-successful-and-is-it-a-model-for-the-west-22917>.

Nayak, S. 2016, Singapore schools: ‘the best education system in the world’ putting significant stress on young children, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, viewed 20 January 2017, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-06/best-education-system-putting-stress-on-singaporean-children/6831964>.

OECD 2010, Singapore: rapid Improvement followed by strong performance, viewed 19 January 2017, .

Young Singapore 2017, About Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board, viewed 19 January 2017, <http://www.yoursingapore.com/travel-guide-tips/about-singapore.html>.

Singlish

With the melting pot of different races coming together in Singapore, one of the most unique outcomes found is Singlish. Singlish or Singaporean English, is the ‘street’ language of Singapore and derives from various languages, such as Malay, Hokkien and English. Although Singapore’s national language is considered as English, many Singaporeans used Singlish in informal, casual situations, and it is now considered as a symbol of national identity. If one does not understand Singlish, it can be considered that one is not Singaporean and it may be hard to be form closer bonds with those who use Singlish. According to BBC, various campaigns promoting the proper use of English has been deflected by Singlish, as Singaporeans still prefer to use Singlish in their casual environments over proper English (2015). This illustrates how deeply rooted Singlish is in their identity and heritage.

singlish.jpg

Image Source: University of Pennsylvania, (n.d.). Singlish. [image] Available at: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/~bgzimmer/singlish.jpg [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].

As Singlish is the melting pot of languages and cultures, the combination of words from different languages form a ‘new’, colorful and unique language formed, ranging from the tone and emphasis of the words spoken to the vocabulary and grammar used. It can be said that Singlish illustrates the personality of Singapore; a country full of vibrant and friendly people from various backgrounds. This can be seen through the 1991 rap song, ‘Why you so like dat?’. It is a song illustrating the conversation between two school boys as they bicker about various issues.

It can be seen, that Singlish reflects and supports the intimacy between people, as people who speak Singlish to each other are shown to be closer compared to those who speak formal English. This can be shown by comparing the Singlish lyrics to the formal English counterpart. When Siva Choy sings, “You tell me dat you don’t like girl, I also dunno why, but when you see a pretty girl, your voice go up damn high!” (Ming 2007), it can be seen, that more slangs are used and it is much more intimate as it seems the friends are quite close to one another. The English counterpart can be formal as it can be translated as such, ‘You told me you do not like girls, I do not understand why, but when you see a pretty girl, your voice pitch becomes higher’. Even the usage of Singlish amongst strangers, supports a friendlier and more intimate conversation than using formal English, as Singaporeans tend to act friendlier with those who can speak Singlish. The usage of Singlish indicates a more casual and comedic tone, which allows people to become friendlier to one another.

Another significant and interesting change, as shown in the lyrics, is the use of particles at the end of the sentence such as ‘ah’. ‘Ah’, alongside other particles as ‘lah’ or ‘leh’, can change the tone of the sentence. These particles change the overall attitude of the sentence. Compared to the English counterpart, ‘Why are you like that’, which can sound more formal and assert a more frustrated tone, the Singlish counterpart, ‘Why are you like that ah’, asserts more of a friendlier tone and supports a lighter atmosphere.  The vocabulary used in the song is also quite interesting as it shows how words derived from other languages replace English words, can change the overall tone and can also shorten sentences or phrases in some cases. The usage of words such as ‘alamak’, support a closer relationship between people who understand the meaning of the words compare to those who do not. It also supports a lighter and more comedic tone.db1a23c4c7853e628e6ecbbf3934b468.jpg

Image Source: Pinterest, (n.d.). My English. [image] Available at: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/db/1a/23/db1a23c4c7853e628e6ecbbf3934b468.jpg [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].

As shown in the song, Singlish is an important part of living and socializing in Singapore. This is supported by James Wong, a Singaporean who isn’t fluent in Singlish as his parents supported the usage of formal English in everyday context and frowns upon Singlish. Due to this, in social contexts, such as ordering food at food stalls or socializing with others was much more difficult, as they either couldn’t understand him or they considered him ‘posh’ for using English instead of Singlish (BBC 2015).

 

References:

Choy, S. (1991). Why You So Like Dat?. [Youtube Video] Singapore: Viyo Records. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra7xt9eLLIk [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].

Wong, T. (2015). The Rise of Singlish. BBC. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33809914 [Accessed 16 Jan. 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: https://www.insightguides.com/destinations/asia-pacific/singapore/cultural-features/singapore-shophouses [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.

 

 

References:

Sahabuddin, M. (n.d.). How Important Is Context In Contemporary Architectural Design. 1st ed. [ebook] Edinburgh, pp.2-3. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/2040500/How_Important_Is_Context_In_Contemporary_Architectural_Design [Accessed 15 Jan. 2017].

The Guardian, (2016). Why human centred design matters. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/ing-direct-being-human-in-a-digital-world/2016/nov/14/why-human-centred-design-matters [Accessed 15 Jan. 2017].

Ura.gov.sg. (2016). The Shophouse. [online] Available at: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/vision-and-principles/The-Shophouse [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].