SPARK 2020 07/12: The sweet birds of youth

“When the age is in, the wit is out.” —- William Shakespeare

There are more young people than ever before, 40% of the global population of 7.8 billion is aged 24 or under.

These young people approach adulthood in a world scarred by a pandemic, a global recession and a loss in parts of the world of freedom of speech.

Youth culture is a distinctly 20th-century phenomenon but apart from the school and the home, most of our built environment ignores young people unless they have money to spend. We always seem to look for ways to keep them off the streets, but youth can play a pivotal role in the growth of city centres. But where can they go?

The youth generation are connected, they have access to education, they are healthier, they are less bound by social conventions and their expectations are high.

Thanks to social media and the internet’s globalisation and democratisation of information, young people from all backgrounds and locations are more open to alternative life choices, they have an open communication platform at their fingertips that allows them to connect on a global scale.

The internet is the place where young people most find their opportunity to explore and express their identities and their social relations, and navigate their way through the values that are on offer. So how does the built environment respond?

SPARK‘s GR.iD: fun graphics and bespoke interior installations

At SPARK we design to alter perceptions on the kind of future society we deserve. Our work is concerned with social change, the relationship between past, present and future, and what this means for the younger generation. Like them we embrace technological advances and share their optimistic vision of human nature. We steer clear of the paper utopias that postulate green floating futures of perfection. Today’s purpose-driven youth demand interventions that have a believable narrative and a sense of meaning.

They are not fooled by dystopic fantasy projects, indeed they are not needed if we are vigilant and defended the social values of the new generation.

We have a collective responsibility to deal with the global threats to our way of life like climate change and social injustice. Don’t let them happen. It depends on you.

The SPARK projects illustrated below are places we have designed for youth, hopefully places that illustrate imagination and capture the energy of a world where social media, mobile technology and online communities have become one of the greatest vehicles for social and environmental change.


Client: Gaw Capital

SPARK’s GR.iD: before and after

SPARK has transformed an old retail mall into a youth focussed destination for Gaw Capital that embraces the eclectic and vibrant atmosphere of Selegie, Singapore. The value of street facing shops has been captured into a “Tetris” of retail and F+B volumes with terraces. E have created a new brand identity for the development that links basement leisure and food outlets via a 5m wide triple height social staircase to the adjacent School of the Arts. Transformative installations include new washrooms, new social “hang out” spaces and activated voids.

GR.iD is set to become the happening place for Singapore’s youth community.

SPARK’s GR.iD: site location

SPARK’s GRiD: social stair

SPARK’s GR.iD: social washroom

SPARK’s GR.iD: food street

SPARK’s GR.iD: event space

SPARK’s GR.iD: main entrance

SPARK’s GR.iD: graphic language

SPARK’s GR.iD: “tetris” stacked retail

OR_SOME @ Grange, Singapore

Client: Perennial

SPARK’s “OR_SOME”: event spaces

SPARK’s “OR_SOME”: a new youth destination on Orchard Road

SPARK has conceived OR_SOME an exciting youth focussed destination predicated on providing events and performance combined with casual dining and active educational retail.

SPARK’s “OR_SOME”: event space

OR_SOME is improvisational place making inspired by the theoretical ideas of Cedric Price’s 1962 “Fun Palace” where the public were immersed within an interactive environment.

OR_SOME is a new visual and physical vocabulary that radically expands the typical Orchard road typology to create a destination that conjoins Orchard’s “Youth Triangle” destinations together.

SPARK’s “OR_SOME”: the permanent pop up

SPARK’s “OR_SOME”: flexibility

SPARK’s “OR_SOME”: event calendar

The notion of “guerrilla” or “tactical urbanism” has proven around the world the “permanent pop-up” can successfully serve many purposes. One of these is agility in testing new ways of dealing with the remediation of physical space and the encouragement new youth experiences by providing platforms and faciulities for invention.

E gaming at SPARK’s “OR_SOME”

SPARK’s “OR_SOME”: digital + green screens

Beach Club Aranya, Beidaihe

Client: Aranya

SPARK’s Beach Club Beidaihe: youth amenity on the beach

SPARK’s Sand Castle is a waterfront amenity that envelopes a water sports centre, rock climbing wall, beach shower and washrooms, beach bar, lookout, performance stage and retail shop. Located on the southern beach of the Aranya Resort, Beidaihe, the Sand Castle is the latest addition to a string of functional follies for the resort. Partially buried in the landscape and a continuation of the beachfront walk, the Sand Castle provides friendly multilevel multi-directional access, via ramps with integrated seats and a slide. It grows out of the beach and is topped by beach warning flags and a windmill that generates power for the retail store. A courtyard is at the heart of the castle serviced by the beach bar, store and social stair. During festivities the “lookout” doubles as a tribune for the DJ.

SPARK’s Beach Club Beidaihe: broad walk

SPARK’s Beach Club Beidaihe: seagull view

SPARK’s Beach Club Beidaihe: fun youth facilities

SPARK’s Beach Club Beidaihe: building as a sand dune

SPARK’s Beach Club Beidaihe: multilevel multi-directional access

SPARK’s Beach Club Beidaihe: albatross view