By Cheryl Teo / Article first published on Fresh Grads.
Our hawker centers are a crucial part to Singapore’s heritage, but sadly, they seem to be disappearing as rapidly as Singapore is developing. Can our hawker centers in the future still survive in the face of modernization especially with the issue of land space in our country and the new boom of sophisticated eateries in the F&B business? It is very worrying that this part of our heritage is bordering on the edge of extinction. Luckily, a very ingenious idea thought up by a visionary architecture company, SPARK, could potentially secure the future of Singapore’s hawker centers.
Basically, the brilliant idea of keeping our precious and most beloved hawker centers afloat, is to literally make it float! Keeping in line with their tradition of conceptual and visionary architecture proposals, SPARK Architects came up with a design for a floating hawker center which they decided to name “The Solar Orchid”. The Solar Orchid will be an entire hawker center to itself situated on water with self-contained, solar-powered, lightweight floating pods. Each pod accommodates cooking stalls (incorporating built-in exhaust, water, gas, electrical, waste collection and water recycling services) as well as table settings for hungry patrons to dine at.
Not only does it make for both a unique and delightful experience dining right along the water’s edge, the Solar Orchid’s conceptual design is very aesthetically pleasing as well. Most of the time, people avoid hawker centers because they seem dingy, hot and dirty, but it is going to be a whole world of a difference for the Solar Orchid. From an aerial view, the floating hawker center resembles a cluster of elegant glass orchids gently hovering on the surface of a body of water. Just imagine chilling on this floatable architecture masterpiece with a cup of teh tarik and a plate of char kway teow, feeling the breeze the water carries through your hair.
The architecture firm drew its inspiration for a floating hawker center from Singapore’s history, culture and heritage, the people and everything that Singaporeans enjoy about the city. In other words, the design of the Solar Orchid is catered specifically with us, Singaporeans, in mind.
Founder of SPARK and architectural extraordinaire Stephen Pimbley says that the reason why they decided to reinvent the traditional hawker center is due to “widely documented observation that the popularity of the traditional hawker lifestyle has begun to wane.”
“We seek to re-energize the hawker center typology while retaining the soul of a very Singaporean dining experience,” he added.
Those who paid attention in History and Social Studies classes would know that Singapore was built on an intimate relationship with the water. When Sir Stamford Raffles first saw Singapore in 1819, he got excited by its deep and sheltered waters in Keppel Harbour, and established for Britain a new settlement and international port on the island, which fueled an artery of culture, commerce and recreation. However, things have changed a lot since then; what with recent decades of urban development, industrialization and land reclamation deleting almost all of our traditional kampungs and kelongs from the coast, and most of our inland water bodies and beaches, we have lost our relationship with water despite being surrounded by it.
Therefore, this revolutionary concept for self-contained, solar-powered, floating hawker pods suggests a way to mend the now distant relationship between Singapore and its waterscapes, while celebrating and reinvigorating a favorite local pass time.
The Solar Orchid pods can be clustered together in various formations and styles to create hawker centers that are able to respond to different locations and conditions. Most importantly, they are eco-friendly and would leave no trace of their presence due to their self-contained nature.
SPARK’s designers take it upon themselves to develop and propose visionary ideas that can enhance the city and help improve the livelihood of those living in the city. They strongly believe that; “History offers many extraordinary examples of visionary projects that remain on paper, serving as vehicles for debate about the future of our cities.” Thus, the Solar Orchid project is one untarnished by commercial and planning restraints. It fits into the $11 million Singaporean government initiative to develop floating solar islands in Singapore’s reservoirs. The conceptualization of the Solar Orchid is a reflection on changing social, cultural and environmental conditions and concerns and how to best tap in on Singapore’s reserves to both better the country and make its citizens happy.
Share this article with your friends and family if you wish for this project to become a reality!