This year, Singapore celebrates an important milestone – its 50th birthday. As one of Asia’s Four Tigers, there will be plenty to celebrate. But along with its success in commerce and finance, the city-state also wants to build its reputation as a global design destination.
An important part of the drive behind this is Singapore Design Week (SDW). Following a successful inaugural event in 2014, SDW returned this year from 10 – 22 March at various venues in and around the Singapore Design Centre.
According to organisers the DesignSingapore Council (Dsg), the aims of SDW are simple – to bring together design communities, businesses, students and the general public to “raise awareness of good design, deepen the appreciation and understanding of design innovation and encourage the use of design for innovation and productivity.”
There was something for everyone at SDW, with over 60 events including trade shows, symposiums, exhibitions, installations, public talks and workshops. There was even a whizzy shuttle bus – Design Trails – to whisk you around the garden state’s key design destinations.
There were three main exhibitions at SDW. Fifty Years of Singapore Design celebrated local design from the past five decades. The President’s Design Awards showcased works by recipients of Singapore’s highest design accolade. And, in a particularly savvy piece of programming, SDW secured New British Inventors: Inside Heatherwick Studio.
Presented by the British Council, as part of their GREAT Britain campaign, Inside Heatherwick Studio displayed landmark projects from one of Britain’s most respected design studios whose practice spans architecture, urban infrastructure, sculpture and strategic thinking.
Some of Heatherwick’s recent triumphs include a groovy new take on the iconic London bus, the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron, the Rolling Bridge, and the Seed Cathedral – a cube made up of 60,000 linked clear acrylic rods containing 250,000 seeds from the Millennium Seed Bank. Models of the Seed Cathedral, Cauldron and Bridge were on display as part of the exhibition which will now tour to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Mumbai.
In tandem with the exhibition, the Studio opened its new Learning Hub for Nanyang Technological University.
A bit of Parisian glamour slinked into SDW, with MAISON&OBJET ASIA the high-end French interior and home-lifestyle trade show. The show is traditionally seen as ‘the’ place for industry to spot emerging trends and for up-and-coming designers to grab the attention of retailers.
The show, which was open to the public for the first time, attracted 320 brands and a swarm of international visitors and buyers. A third of the brands were from Asia and included Thai lighting label Ango, Hong Kong accessories label Makaron and Singapore tableware specialist Luzerne.
If a good yarn was more your thing, you could find it at the Singapore Design Business Summit which brought together thought leaders, experts and practitioners from Asia and Europe to discuss, share and reflect on ideas around the business of design.
One panel discussion, Designing Better Experiences, featured speakers mulling over how to consider psychology, ethnography, cross-cultural experiences and social media when transforming product and service design into experience design.
Another panel Design Thinking: Creating Impactful Products, shared eight useful tips for product developers.
One of the most popular events at SDW was SingaPlural 2015, a dedicated platform to celebrate Singapore’s talents across its creative industries – advertising, architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, interior, furniture, graphic and fashion design.
Housed in a former police station, SingaPlural was organised by the Singapore Furniture Industries Council and DesignS, a collective of eight national design associations and industries.
Now in its fourth year, this year’s theme was Process, with graphic designers, urban planners and architects demonstrating how they develop their products and ideas through talks, tours, and symposiums.
The ground floor of the building was dedicated to installations with around 45 designers displaying their work. The global travel accommodation favourite Airbnb took over the basketball court to build a replica of a Balinese house, with a display of their accommodation from four cities.
SingaPlural has expanded from its original brief to just cover furniture.
“Design comes from all areas…and we wanted to show that this year,” Mark Yong, chairman of SingaPlural, told The Straits Times.
Two slightly subtler, but no less important, highlights of SDW came in the form of Layers of Light and Co-Design for Public Value.
Layers of Light, a beautiful lighting installation by Nipek, used ‘Washi paper’ to show how light and shadow co-exist.
Co-Design for Public Value brought together public officials, academics, designers and students to explore how design can be applied to create public value. It was hosted by ThinkPlace, a design consultancy with a presence in Australia, New Zealand and, more recently, Singapore.
SDW’s strong, innovative programming proves it should be considered alongside other major international creative events such as the Venice Biennale, New York-based The Salon: Art+Design, the London Design Festival, Masterpiece London and the Milan Furniture Fair.
Singapore’s ambition to become a design destination deserves to be supported by the global design community because it is becoming a realistic place for designers to live, work and develop their practice – no mean feat in tricky economic times.
Australian designer, Jarrod Lim, who made the move in 2007, told Design Daily last year there are many opportunities for designers in Singapore.
“There are lots of small projects that you just don’t get in Australia with heaps of little bars and boutiques opening every day. These entrepreneurs are willing to use young and fairly unknown designers,” Lim said.
The Taiwanese city of Tapei was named the 2016 World Design Capital, following in the footsteps of Turin, Cape Town, Seoul and Helsinki. Judging by the energy and enthusiasm shown at SDW, Singapore may soon be snapping at their heels.