The Food Collective,
an Urban Playground
Toh Hui Shang
National University of Singapore
The relentless pursuit of capitalists brings forth death to the commons and its social capital
through commodification where an intangible boundary emerges and fluctuates from the
material and immaterial as new commons.
Thus this thesis seeks to rethink the politics of space in urban districts, integrated with future
technologies at the core of commoning food surplus where new forms of architecture can
enable people to share in a more sustainable way while building social capital and inclusivity
in Singapore. This is an invitation to the collective movement, a march on restructuring of
economy and realigning our social and environmental principles. Hence, the design intent
proposes a Food Collective, an urban playground to reimage food surplus’s muted policy in
Singapore and its physicality as a social material matter.
Hui to start could you give us a brief introduction as to who you are, where have you studied, what stage are you in your architectural career?
I’m Hui Shang and I’ve just started my first job working as a marketing and communications exectuive in a local architecture firm. I completed my education from National University of Singapore with Masters of Architecture and my degree.
Why did you decide to study architecture?
I do not think myself as a creative or an artist, I was merely following through the flow of Singapore’s education system. Where in my early tertiary education, I was exposed to landscape architecture. I attended this course just so I can specialize in it but ironically, plans changed and I chose to stick to architecture because of the diversity it brings.
The project investigates the re-use of surplus foods, why did you decide to explore this important topic?
It is puzzling to see it is a national concern that we import almost 90% of all our food and many projects have explored and believe that urban farming ensures our food security. Yet our food waste is ridiculously high. The real reason behind our concerns for food security and food wastage is not simply because people throw away unfinished food but because they throw away proper food- food that still can be eaten. Anything from comestically-ugly fruits, perceived expired food and bread crusts, such food are what I refer to as surpluses that can be better distributed to people and not go into incinerator.
How do you feel architecture can play a key role in positively influencing social issues such as food wastage?
In the case of food wastage, it is not about educating people on recycling or cutting down food waste but there just hasn't been a place that can help people see the goodness behind it. That is when architecture comes into play, if this is an economist or recycling activist issue, it would had been solved by now. Sadly, architecture is subjected to solve global issues.
What is your stance on the radically developing architecture of Singapore?
I'm positive to see radical developments for the next 10-20 years and I think we are in the progress of moving and accepting radical changes. Over the years, there has been a few projects of a similar kind; Marina Barrage. It is solving national or global issues and at the same time redefining the social culture of Singapore.
What do you feel you have learnt by undertaking this project?
More than just learning new things, it is more of a un-learning to learn new things. What amazes me the most is that there never seems to be a project that really solves the issue of food wastage. It is either associated with landfills or recycle. But there is always a limitation because this is a global issue that has to be solved through a collective of different perspectives. Other than ugly, dirty, smelly, it can be fun and intriguing if approached in the collective way. Hence the project is called The Food Collective, it is never meant to be done alone.
Your imagery has a very distinct style, has any architect or artist in particular influenced your work?
I was inspired by Hank Liu and his Sin City project. The approach he had in explaining his architectural works were intriguing. And I personally has been serving as a designer in my church, this has heavily influenced me in the way of using design to communicate with people.
Could you give us an insight in to the process of how you produce your drawings and any software that you have used?
First, I have a raw modelling model in sketch up then import into illustrator to adjust its line weight and draw the missing details. I made sure I had 4 basic colors to work on- red, yellow, blue and green then assigning both a lighter and darker shade to each colour for shadowing purposes. Then I use photoshop to add in humans and other elements- text.
If you could offer one piece of advice to those architecture students reading this interview what would it be?
Be inspired and once you are inspired, be bold to make that move happen! There will always be waves come crashing into our lives, but be still and stand rooted to what you believe in.
Where can people find out more about your work?
Finally, if you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to young Hui who was just starting out in her architectural studies, what would it be?
"Not a single conversation you had, the people you met or the things you do has gone to waste."