Spark at the Great British Week in Singapore

SPARK founder Stephen Pimbley was one of the six great British minds invited by the British Council to share their insights in Shaping the Future: Inside the Creative Mind, a discussion event hosted by Jason Pomeroy of Pomeroy Studio. Held in Art Science Museum in 11March 2015, the afternoon of illuminating insights and discussions is part of the Great British Week in Singapore, a 7-day calendar affair jam-packed with a variety of events showcasing the best of British innovation,creativity, and education.

SPARK founder Stephen Pimbley talks about designing the city experience and SPARK’s unique perspectives in Shaping the Future: Inside the Creative Mind, anafternoon of illuminating insights and discussion held in ArtScience Museum, Singapore.

During his half-hour session, Pimbley shares SPARK’s journey in designing the city experience. Earning his architectural degree in 1984, Pimbley was a disciple of British hi-tech movement who had always been interested in the nuts and boltsof the architecture. But it was upon joining Richard Rogers’ practice that Pimbley experienced a rapid learning curve towards urbanism.

Under Rogers’ wings, Pimbley worked on a masterplan to connect London with itswaterfront. The masterplan revolved on two axes: the Embankment along and abridge across the river Thames, connecting Charing Cross to Waterloo. The ambitious and far-sighted project was never realised, but it is forever a favourite unbuilt project torefer to when one is talking about “what could have been” for London.

Architecture as place-making elements and architecture for the betterment of the city have since been the goal of Pimbley’s projects, wherever their locations are. “Iwant to design buildings that are of my time, that reflect my concerns andsensibilities, not those of another generation or some faux notion of what is polite and acceptable,” he says.

Singapore’s Clarke Quay redevelopment was Pimbley’s first major project under the banner of his practice, SPARK, after relocating to Asia. Winner of 2008’s Cityscape Asia Award for Best Waterfront Development, Clarke Quay is a convivial design solution to a heritage area that is at once sustainable and commercially successful, passively reducing ambient temperature by 5 degrees and drawing12,000,000 visitors each year.

From tree houses in Bird Island project to a 100,000 sqm retail mall Vision City in Kuala Lumpur, SPARK shows that there is no right way or the only way to making place in the city. Pimbley also presented Solar Orchid and Home Farm, SPARK’s two latest research-based proposal that illustrates how the studiocontinues to create designs that challenge the preconceptions of built typology.

In line with Thames Embankment, Solar Orchid seeks to reconnect Singapore with its waterfront,reinstating an everyday relationship with the waterscape that not so long ago characterised Singaporean life. Solar Orchid places the Little Red Dot’s makan (eating) culture in clusters of mobile, self-contained, and sustainable floating pods; a hi-tech reimagining of the city state’s original street food vendors and open-air hawker centre. The canopy sheath incorporated solar-cell film and would tilt to track the sun. Each solar-powered pod is light weight, and could be towed or relocated easily,enabling the clusters to pop up in a variety of water locations. And in large numbers, it is not impossible for Solar Orchid to become a new alternativesource of energy.

Home Farm is another conceptual proposal that brings together two different typologies; it combines urban retirement housing with vertical urban farming. The concept features housing units – again, a far-sighted reimagining of Singapore’s existing HDB apartment scheme– in a high-density vegetable gardens with aquaponic systems and rainwater harvesting systems where seniors can find enjoyable post-retirement employment. Home Farm is a realisable solution to two pressing challenges faced bySingapore:rapidly ageing society, and food security.

It is worth noting that both Solar Orchid and Home Farm are completely self-initiated, non-commissioned projects. And there will be more of these projects coming from SPARKS, Pimbleysays, as it is the duty of designers to propose and develop ideas and visions that can enhance our cities.