SPARK 2020 12/12: Songs of innocence and experience in the Aquarian Age

It is difficult for designers to evaluate and demonstrate the social impact and meaning of their work on people and communities. Methods of measurement are at best elusive tools but needless to say we collectively need to place increased emphasis on the creation of social value in our project work.

SPARK works almost exclusively in the commercial arena so projects of a community and social nature rarely form part of our oeuvre.

For this reason, we commit resources and funds to undertake pro- bono projects that are aligned to our passions, skills and value set. This affords the privilege of advocating a client’s cause, as in our Fai-Fah project where we effectively become ambassadors for the project, very heart-warming!

There are mornings when we wake and think, “today I’ll be a better person” and spend time to inspire some personal growth and for a rare few moments there is a sense of fulfilment that good has been done for the community.

We increasingly live in a world where it is almost obligatory to be cynical about doing some good, there is an old saying that “no good deed goes unpunished”, that said we continue to invest in projects we think worthwhile and have enjoyed every one of them and proud to have contributed.

For the first time we are truly at the beginning of the Aquarian Age when humanity wishes to take control of its destiny, shake off Covid- 19 and deal with the environmental emergency, surely we can’t take any further naïve steps backward and “dig” coal as Donald Trump was fond of saying. We know too much, our fate is in our hands!

SPARK recently declared for Climate and Biodiversity so we will be evaluating all our new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown.


We will be advocating the upgrading of existing buildings (Retro-First ) like our GRiD project in Singapore, as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build.

We illustrate below a few of the many charitable pro-bono projects we have contributed to over the last few years including: SPARK “Dog House”, Fai-Fah, Capitaland’s Hope Foundation, and Green Hope Community School.

CapitaLand’s Hope Foundation

Having experimented with mono printing techniques in the studio over a number of months Wenhui and Stephen decided to sell the prints and donate the money to Singapore’s Community Chest. An exhibition of the prints was held at the Arts House in the civic District of Singapore December 2009 a small book was printed to accompany the exhibition.

Stephen and Wenhui’s monoprint exhibition, proceeds of which were donated to Hope Foundation
Artist Impression of Green Hope School in Muchuan. Photo Credit: CapitaLand

Green Hope School

In 2008 Sichuan experienced a terrible earthquake with 69,000 people losing their lives and leaving 4.8 million people homeless. The rebuilding process after the earthquake went on for many years and touched all aspects of the community.

SPARK was asked by CapitaLand to develop a design “brief “for a new school in Leshan to replace for the one that was damaged by the earthquake. The 6,000-square-metre school includes new classrooms, a canteen and a dormitory for teachers and students.

Green Hope School
Completed photograph of Green Hope School in Muchuan. Photo credit: CapitaLand

The design “brief” was developed at the original school in partnership with the children and the teachers. We spent a few days living locally to understand how best to articulate the requirements for a new socially and environmentally friendly facility.

The simple and pragmatic school was eventually designed and built locally, raising the quality the facilities exponentially. When the school headmaster met Stephen in Shanghai a few years later he gave him a big hug, job done!


In 2010 SPARK was asked by the Thai Bank TMB to design a school for under privileged school in the Prachautis district of Bangkok. The school is housed in 2 refurbished shop-houses. Volunteers from the bank run throughout the week arts and creative programmes for local children and teenagers.

SPARK’s Fai-Fah: inspiration

“Fai-Fah” means light energy and in this spirit designs were produced in collaboration with the Fai-Fah children, volunteer arts staff, and members of TMB’s CSR team. Ideas from the “design workshops” such as the façade screen and interior colours are evident in the finished building underlining the positive nature of the process and ownership of the concept by the community.

SPARK’s Fai-Fah: after transformation

SPARK in the Dog House

SPARK contributed 2 dog houses (kennels) to the Blue Cross pet charity. Organised by Bow Wow Haus the 65 kennels designed by architects, designers and artists were auctioned at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London April 2018 following a month long exhibition.

SPARK’s Dog house

SPARK’s Dog house 1

Read more about the dog house 1 here.

SPARK’s Dog house 2

Read more about the dog house 2 here.

SPARK’s first kennel was manufactured from upcycled Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles. The second manufactured from recycled plywood was a series of larger and smaller kennels arranged around a central drinking bowl under the moniker “Reservoir Dogs”

Both kennels were snapped up by some lucky pups!

SPARK’s Dog house 1

SPARK’s Dog house 2

SPARK Founder Stephen Pimbley. December 2020