Communal spaces of gathering in Singapore take on many forms and hawker centres are an example of this. Hawker centres can be found in neighbourhoods and town centres, and host tenanted food stalls that often specialise in a select range of dishes. They are convenient and provide a wide variety of cuisines at affordable prices.
This project is a historical survey covering a century of how hawker centres have developed in Singapore. First conceived in 1908 by the colonial government, hawker centres grew during the post-war and independence eras to become iconic venues where different ethnic groups and people of all ages gather.
Stacks of coloured melamine crockery, along with the trays typically used to carry plates of food, are arranged in a circular manner around the table. Each stack of coloured plates explores a different aspect of the hawker centre’s socio-political genesis, design evolution and cultural renaissance, ranging from tropical architecture and its forms, history, culture and sanitation concerns. Visitors are invited to sit at the table, pick up these plates, and partake in these different strands of enquiry.
Lai Chee Kien is an architectural & urban historian, and a registered architect in Singapore. He researches on histories of art, architecture, settlements, urbanism and landscapes in Southeast Asia. His publications include Through the Lens of Lee Kip Lin (2015) [Singapore Best Non-Fiction Title, 2016] and Building Memories: People, Architecture, Independence (2016) [Singapore Book of the Year, 2017].