A neighbourhood in transition
Posted on June 15, 2014
A small group gathers at the kitchen area of a 4000 sq. ft. light industrial space learning how to bake cookies with herbs on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The workshop instructor from Wholesome Co. pulled out the baked creations from the oven provided by Mudian Crafted, a boutique carpentry firm, the aroma tempted a few curious shoppers from the corner of the space to peek over while they browse an assortment of well designed lifestyle goods curated by online store Naiise.
Situated at 115A King George Avenue (115KG), closest to the Lavender metro station on the eastern side of Singapore, Transitional___ is a travelling creative platform that brings life to unused spaces around the city. In a gentrified neighbourhood known for its eclectic mix of colourful night pubs, hip cafes and the local hackerspace. Transitional___ @ 115KG adds much dynamism to a street that houses rows of hardware stores. Foreign labourers from India can be seen moving goods in the day while mature Singaporean men can be seen patronising the local coffee shops and pubs for a round of drinks in the evening.
The space is owned by The Bamboo Group, a boutique real estate investment and development company, who collaborated with Shophouse and Co., an activation and creative agency developing cultural projects in urban spaces.
“The idea was borne out of a need to identify an interesting tenant mix for this particular property. We believe in applying a cultural context that is relevant to the existing communities surrounding our properties. For this particular project at King George’s Avenue—located in what is traditionally a hardware district with a burgeoning café and lifestyle offering—we thought that having a community element that reflects this would allow our building to dialogue with the public in a meaningful way,” said Ben Gattie, founder and director at The Bamboo Group.The idea of pop-up retail isn’t new, probably the earliest brand to start the trend in Singapore was Japanese fashion label, Comme des Garçons, who first took the idea of a temporary pop-up store to the heartland neighbourhoods amidst public housing estates in the 90s. However, the idea of collaborating with multiple partners to present a multi-sensory experience in a non-flea market environment is probably the first of its kind in Singapore.
In Singapore, most land areas are zoned and dictated by the government for residential, industrial or commercial development needs. Therefore, it’s unusual for a creative space to pop-up in the midst of a light industrial area which turn nightfall, attracts a myriad of colourful characters seduced by the bright neon signs and mouth-watering hawker fare.
“We were setting-up pink neon lights one late evening to test out the lighting in the space. Next to this space is a budget hotel and we see many interesting patrons to the hotel. As the whole space was glowing red, an Uncle (older gentleman) who was heading to the hotel with a younger companion stopped and asked if we were opening a new bar. We have many interesting neighbours in this area and enjoyed the random interaction and conversations. That really added an interesting dimension to this neighbourhood,” said Stella Gwee, co-founder of Shophouse and Co.
Richard Korff, a Dutch native who has been in Singapore for almost 20 years, said, “The space invites social participation and collaboration. A ground-up initiative like this is not something you would have seen 10 years ago. I am curious to see what the next space will bring.”
Transitional____ is expected to be running until the 22 June before being dismantled and handed over to its new owners. The space is open daily to the public from 12pm to 7pm.
“The whole vision behind Transitional___ is to activate underutilised spaces in the city. The response has been very positive and we already have leads to new sites,” said Stella Gwee, co-founder of Shophouse and Co. and appointed festival producer for Archifest 2012 and 2013, a month-long festival celebrating the urban environment, communities and ideas through a myriad of public activities and events.