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Fifty Years of Singapore Design Exhibition

Lets take a visit to the Fifty Years of Singapore Design Exhibition at the National Design Centre in the Singapore Bugis district. The exhibition organised by the Design Singapore Council had recently undergone an update. It touches on the past history of Visual, fashion and environmental and build environment design in Singapore over the past 5 decades, even before independence. That take an explore.

Fifty Years of Singapore Design Exhibition Gallery grounds with floor to ceiling art.
Gallery grounds with floor to ceiling art.

Located on the Design Gallery 2, the second floor of the National Design Centre on Middle Road, the permanent exhibition, Fifty Years of Singapore Design, is curated by the Design Singapore Council. It commemorates SG50, Singapore’s 50 years of independence.

National Design Center building at Middle road
National Design Center building at Middle road.

Furthermore, the exhibition at the National Design Centre captures Singapore’s design journey. It spans from the 1960s to the present day, showcasing the evolution of the industry. It presents a collection of 300 significant and influential designs that have shaped various fields such as Environmental Design, Fashion & Accessories, Product & Industrial Design, and Visual Communications. Alongside the notable object and designs on display, the exhibition also tells stories that reflect the trends, movements, and values of each decade.

A tidy gallery of Fifty Years of Singapore Design Exhibition
A tidy open gallery of the Fifty Years of Singapore Design Exhibition.

Five decades of documented design

Moreover, over the course of fifty years, Singapore’s design industry has emerged as a creative powerhouse. It is a driving force behind the nation’s innovation-based economy. This exhibition goes beyond being a mere timeline of accomplishments and milestones.

Here, it delves into personal accounts, presenting a self-portrait of Singapore’s creative sensibility and attitude amidst changing aesthetics, economic climates, and socio-political contexts. Also, the curatorial journey involved in-depth interviews and collaborations with designers. You can also find a curation of old logos of Singapore organisations. It is a comprehensive representation of the nation’s design scene.

Early logos, some still in use today.
Early logos, some still in use today.

Furthermore, to enhance the exhibition experience, community and pop-up showcase spaces have been introduced within the gallery. Also, these additions provide platforms for communities and audiences to draw inspiration from the featured seminal and latest contemporary works in the Singapore design scene. It also encourages collaboration and co-creation with the National Design Centre.

To the galleries
Event sign

Additionally, you can explore not only the design scene in Singapore but also gain insights into the wider global design landscape through curated exhibitions, programs, and retail experiences offered at the venue.

Building A Nation

The Building A Nation exhibition showcase takes you on a journey through the decades, showcasing the design elements that embody Singapore’s nation-building efforts. It begins after Singapore gained independence in 1965.

Urban building designs, some with an industrial and brutalism inspiration
Urban building designs, some with an industrial and brutalism inspiration.

Also, during the early post-independence years, the focus was on building the nation’s infrastructure, housing, civic institutions, and industrialized economy. Vocational institutes were established to equip the workforce with technical skills required for a manufacturing-based economy. Here you can also find some Fashion and accessories examples by Singaporean fashion designer Benny Ong.

Chronological journey
Fashion arts statement
Golden mile complex

Notable build environment designs here includes the Singapore Science center designed by Raymond woo and associates, and the Shangri-La hotel by Seah, lee and heah architects.

Moreover, in 1975, Singapore experienced an economic boom, which marked the emergence of the local design industry. Foreign multinational corporations, like Philips, began investing in design research and development, paving the way for industrial design in the country.

Economic boom from the mid 70s.
Designs following the economic boom from the mid 70s.

Wrapping up some notably Environmental Design examples here includes some historical buildings like the Jurong town hall, Subordinate courts and the now-demolished National theatre to name afew.

Chill out seats

Moving on with the rise of air travel, Singapore shifted towards tourism and developed its recreational landscape. The flourishing arts, culture, and fashion sectors reflected the growing affluence and demand for new lifestyle choices. This period of growth witnessed the expansion of local design houses and architecture practices, fostering innovation and creativity. Also, you can also find Public transport artwork such as guides and map designs of the Singapore MRT network.

New technologies into the global scene

Furthermore, the year 1985 was marked by Singapore’s rebound from an economic recession. The country opened up to international trade and investment, promoting design as a tool for businesses to create competitive products. Foreign architects and ideas shaped the city’s modern environment. The interior design market also emerged during this time, driven by an increasing appreciation for well-designed spaces.

Fifty Years of Singapore Design Exhibition entering the technology era of 80s
Entering the technology era of the retro 80s.

Leading onto the 1990s, then Singaporean designers ventured into the global arena, establishing their presence and identity. Also, the establishment of the Design Singapore Council further propelled the growth of the design sector, contributing to the nation’s economic development and quality of life. Bedok market is one interesting place brought to you by Tang guan bee architects.

Fifty Years of Singapore Design Exhibition technology industrial designs.
Technology industrial designs of the 90s. Recognize any of them?

On the Visual communications , Product and Industrial Design, we have examples of the Ericsson GF788 flip phone by industrial design house Lawton and Yeo, as well as the Unican plastic stool by Chew Moh-Jin.

The new era of the millennium.
Reaching out to the world in the new era of the millennium.

Moreover, by the year 2005, Singapore’s design scene had flourished into a dynamic and vibrant creative culture. Web 2.0, entrepreneurship, and interdisciplinary collaborations paved the way for ground breaking self-initiated projects. Looking towards the future, Singapore aims to reinvent itself actively while preserving and conserving its design heritage.

Looking back and forward on the closing galleries
Looking back and forward on the closing galleries.

Wrapping up

The exhibition had been running for a number of years, and today’s refreshed exhibition, titled “Fifty Years of Singapore Design,” is a tribute to Singapore’s 50 years of independence. You can find a timeline board towards the end of the exhibits.

Singapore Design timeline over 50 years
Singapore Design timeline over 50 years.

The timeline chronologically, documents and summarises the nation’s design landscape from 1965 to 2015, showcasing the evolution and contributions of design to Singapore’s economy and nation-building. You can find 300 iconic, pivotal, and popular designs across Visual Communications, Product and Industrial Design, Fashion and Accessories, and Environmental Design, the exhibition encapsulates the spirit of Singaporean design throughout the decades.

Physical displays
Contemporary designs
Closing areas

All in all, you are good for the Fifty Years of Singapore Design Exhibition for about an hour tops. There is quite a fair bit to read and reminiscent on in this small gallery in the heart of Singapore Bugis district at 111 Middle Road. The galleries runs from 10 Mar to 21 Dec 2023 at the Design Singapore Council’s National Design Centre. It is open daily Monday to Sunday, 9am to 9pm with free admission.


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