No longer spaces where design is an afterthought, facilities for community and social service are now being transformed. Design thinking, applied to traditionally institutionalised settings, has changed the way they look and how their users interact with the space. In doing so, stigmas are removed, stereotypes are broken, and inclusivity is encouraged. We spotlight the new archetypes leading the way forward.
Enabling Village – an initiative of the Ministry of Social and Family Development and SG Enable – is a unique community space in Singapore that houses retail, lifestyle and training spaces catering to visitors with disabilities. Renowned local architecture firm Woha, in collaboration with landscape architect Salad Dressing, decked the spaces (a cluster of lowrise classroom blocks) with lots of greenery and water gardens.
This green approach successfully created a green lung within the quiet Redhill neighbourhood, attracting both residents in the estate and the public to explore the area and patronise retail joints within the compound. “Our compound features restaurants, a supermarket and an art gallery, which offer training and employment opportunities to persons with disabilities; an inclusive preschool and gym, community outreach clinic, stroke support centre, and outdoor fitness corners that are open to the public,” shares SG Enable CEO Ku Geok Boon.
A recent winner of the Singapore Institute of Architects Architectural Design Award 2016, Enabling Village is all-inclusive, with wheelchair-friendly link ways and amenities; its open-plan design also creates a welcoming vibe.
20 Lengkok Bahru, www.enablingvillage.sg.
Hive houses the Employability and Employment Centre (also known as E2C) — operated by the Autism Resource Centre (Arc) — where it provides job training and customised employment opportunities for those with autism. Old shipping containers and pallets have been repurposed to create unique meeting rooms, paired with inspirational quotes that dot the walls.
Breezy verandas and cabanas can be found throughout Enabling Village, to serve as informal meeting spaces. The lush greenery cools the areas.
“Much of the furniture was upcycled,” says Victor Ong, creative director of Arc.” Sheltered resting spots made from old shipping containers create eye-catching features in the compound.
The playground, too, is user-friendly for the physically disabled – it’s built with a ramp and a wide “see-saw” for wheelchair access.
Pre-cast concrete pipes are inserted below the amphitheatre as hideout nooks and spaces for visitors to rest. It’s one of the best photo spots within the compound, too!
The wheelchairaccessible, open-air amphitheatre is a perfect space for events such as concerts and movie screenings. Hearing loop systems around the terrace allow communication between users at different spots, as sound travels from one tube to another.
Penang-based artist Ernest Zacharevic worked with Kaylan Lim Jolie — a Pathlight Artist Development Programme student — to create the Secret Garden mural outside The Art Faculty, an all-in-one art gallery, training space, cafe and retail store.
Information and career centre Nest provides referral services for persons with disabilities, and caregivers. SG Enable has partnered with Arc, Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds), and the SPD (formerly known as Society for the Physically Disabled) to pair job seekers with employers.
VOX @ SINGAPORE CHILDREN’S SOCIETY
Vox at the Singapore Children’s Society (SCS) is the organisation’s 11th service centre catering to youth aged 13 to 18. Targeted at meeting the developmental needs of youth and reducing delinquency, the centre focuses on a social-work framework that includes building character, competency, confidence, connection and care.
With its wood features and clean, uncluttered look, Vox looks more like a hip cafe as compared to the traditional social-service space. The husbandand- wife team of interior design firm EHKA Studio, Hsu Hsia Pin and Eunice Khoo, “wanted youth to be inspired by the design of the centre. It helps communicate to the users of the space that they are important”, they add.
Vox’s cafe-style interiors were conceptualised based on a survey conducted by SCS of youth living in Kembangan and Chai Chee. The centre is welcoming and cosy, with pockets of spaces where social-service workers can interact with the youth, and imbue in them a sense of belonging.
44 Chai Chee Street, www.childrensociety.org.sg.
Seating outside the centre encourages residents to share the space with the youth. This helps bring the community closer.
To keep the project cost-effective and befitting of the cafeinspired look, Hsia Pin kept the exposed brick walls and painted them white.
The pantry space allows young people to bond and learn skills such as cooking and cleaning. “We provide ingredients such as rice and flour for basic cooking, and hope to nurture a sense of responsibility in the youth,” shares Amanda Zee, assistant director and head of Vox. Materials such as lacquered plywood and mosaic tiles are used here, paired with industrial-style pendant lights.
EHKA Studio designed moveable shelves to create a “discovery wall”, with individual modules that can be shifted around.
Black metal frames create a raw look on this full-height feature wall.
Loft-style nooks serve as break-out spaces, while keeping the users connected to the surrounding environment.
Designed by design consultancy Colours: Collectively Ours, Silvercove is NTUC Health’s first senior wellness centre. A groundbreaking project, its design was conceptualised with the help of community workshops that engaged with the future users of the space — residents in the neighbourhood, especially the elderly living in the Housing Board studio flats in Marsiling Heights — to better understand their needs and preferences.
Founding partners of Colours, Dr Chong Keng Hua and Kang Fong Ing, created a well-ventilated space with lots of natural light. Ample seating throughout the centre encourages residents to gather and communicate with one another, fostering “a new form of kampung spirit”, says Dr Chong. NTUC Health worked with various partners to create a holistic space that serves the residents; facilities include a gym, an in-house dental clinic, a traditional Chinese medicine clinic by Eu Yan Sang, retail services by NTUC Fairprice, and a mini library with books contributed by the National Library Board.
180A Marsiling Road, www.ntuchealth.sg/silvercove.
The library opens up to views of the “vertical garden” and is bright and naturally ventilated. Wood-look laminates add colour and texture to the otherwise plain walls.
NTUC Health engaged the help of the National Parks Board to provide suitable plants for the centre. Since its inception, Silvercore has seen residents helping to water the plants – some have even contributed plants to the space!
Rattan chairs are used throughout the space; as “they bring a sense of nostalgia the elderly can relate to, and a homely ambience to the space”, explains Fong Ing. They were also selected for their stability and height. Lights are disguised as woven baskets hanging from the ceiling in a random fashion, adding a quirky touch to the interiors.