Everyone knows what design should aspire to: good design. It’s a catch-all phrase that rolls easy on the tongue and sounds pleasing to the ear. No wonder this has become the profession’s holy grail for all, from the consumer to the client, and even the critic. An industry of design awards have been created around it; Some even have it in their names.
But what exactly is “good design”? Probe deeper and it doesn’t sit so comfortably after all. What may be good design for a business may not be good for the environment. What looks good to you may not be to others. “Good design” turns out to be loaded with subjective values. No surprise then that what we consider “good” today emerged from a post-war movement led by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art to equate all things “modernist” as “Good Design”.
While I type these words on my laptop at a hawker centre, I can’t help but notice the uncles looking over from the next table. They are not the only ones. Passersby stare curiously, including the cleaner who slows down whenever she pushes her trolley by.
Maybe it’s how my sleek laptop stands out from the gaudy mustard table. Or how I had casually plonked this shiny aluminum slab on a plastic surface stained by kopi and teh. As the only customer using a laptop in the hawker centre, I stand out like a sore thumb. My back certainly feels that way from sitting on the stiff stool.
Architect William S.W. Lim’s radical ideas on the Asian city were the subject of a playful exhibition on city life at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore.
That no architecture models could be found in an exhibition about an architect speaks volumes about the work and diverse influences of William Lim Siew Wai. Though the Singaporean architect has practised for over four decades—having worked on projects ranging from the brutalist mixed-use icon Golden Mile Complex (1974), to the recently demolished postmodern Gallery Evason Hotel (2000)—Lim is best known today as an advocate. His message is that cities in Asia can develop their own urbanism and people can be involved in building cities.