Fang Low, CEO and co-founder of co-living company Figment, talks about how the post-pandemic situation has transformed how we relate to each other – and opened our eyes to compelling issues we need to address.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Masks. Sanitiser. Technical glitches. “Oops, you’re on mute”. Unmuting to say “thank you, bye!” This is our new normal. One that has many of us trying hard to recognise people from their eyes, mannerisms, posture and way of walking. It’s online shopping, food delivery and slowing down in socially-distanced queues, too. And Friday night family dinners across two tables or meals with only your best pals.

The world feels a little smaller. Although the effects of Covid-19 vary across countries and social groups, it is a global experience that hits much more immediately than, say, the climate crisis. We have a lot more shared experiences now, even more so among city dwellers. Some adjustments are bigger than others, and some that are just too big to only term an ‘adjustment’. So many businesses have had to pull down their shutters, and many residents are at a loss and unemployed. Indefinite postponements and clinging on to the next announcements are also part of the new normal.

During these times, I’ve been glad to see people mobilising themselves to save small businesses, like the Singapore Restaurant Rescue movement. The F&B business was never easy to begin with, but more people better understand that now. So I hope this will be part of the new normal, too. All the ground-up projects born in this crisis, such as how struggling Singapore independent cinema The Projector has uploaded its films for online streaming, I hope they continue.

The funny thing is, while we distance and isolate ourselves, Covid-19 has only exposed us to what we tried to shield ourselves from before: a vulnerable supply chain, unsustainably cheap labour, poor working conditions for migrant workers, vulnerable families, and more. They’re all out in the open now. The new normal is opening our eyes.

As city dwellers, perhaps we are all more connected now. We’re no longer passing each other carelessly on the train, but bumping into each other at virtual events we care about. You meet the neighbour you didn’t know at the nearby restaurant when you both try to skip food delivery middlemen. And you understand the dynamics of your home more than ever.

For Figment, being in the business of boutique co-living in heritage shophouses, we’ve come into more contact with our members than ever before. Previously, most left their homes for work, but now they are all in the same space for many hours of the day. They tell me that they’ve taken the opportunity to get to know each other better, and have started using their shared living spaces as workspaces, too. And that they’ve comfortably settled into these charming, old-world neighbourhoods. During this time of confinement, we should count our blessings when our homes can serve as daily inspiration for a thriving creative life.

Also, being grounded, little trips to parks and beaches are all the more precious. I’ve noticed our curbside plants wilding about now that they’re not trimmed so often, and I quite like it. The new normal is noticing and cherishing details. The new normal is seeing things as they are.


The objective

Figment currently operates 14 shophouses in Singapore. Each contains four to six suites. Their monthly leases range from $1,950 to $3,190.
My Reading Room

1, 2& 3

The Shang House on Pegu Road in the Balestier area was co-created with furniture brand Scene Shang. It features vintage and bespoke furniture, and Peranakan-inspired artworks.
My Reading Room
My Reading Room

4 & 5 

Canvas House on Blair Road, co-created with Ministry of Design, features mostly white furniture against whitewashed architectural canvas, making elements of the heritage shophouse’s original design pop.

Fang Low is the CEO and co-founder of local co-living company Figment.