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Singapore students give winning ideas for future livable cities

Twenty Singaporean students have been selected as finalists in a competition to generate creative solutions to future urban problems.

Based on public voting by over 12,000 individuals, the top 20 finalists were selected earlier this month from the nearly 150 students from local tertiary institutions who competed in the ‘Future Living Space’ contest held by electronics firm Philips Singapore.

Students from architecture, design, arts and engineering programmes entered the competition by presenting their ideas on-line in YouTube videos.

Prior to entering, they were challenged at a July seminar at Singapore Management University (SMU) to design sustainable solutions for future urban problems such as increased crowding, climate change and an aging population. Contestants were told at the seminar to answer the question: What do you think the living spaces in Singapore would look like in 10 to 15 years’ time?

Seminar panellist Tai Lee Siang, who is group managing director of Singapore-based architecture firm Ong & Ong, said in a statement that Singapore is known for embracing hardware and technology, but needed to focus on developing a city with a soul. “We still have a lot of work to do to build up the social and cultural aspects of our city,” he added.

Many contest entries focussed on Singapore’s aging population - by 2050, Singapore’s median age will be 54 – and how to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages.

Dr Mary Ann Tsao, president and founding director of Singapore NGO the Tsao Foundation, said a livable city had to be inclusive and invite participation from all citizens in all aspects of life. “Singapore is a remarkable city, but I am not sure if we are a city of all ages, especially for the elderly,” she noted.

She said that technology and urban planning could improve connectivity between people and with nature. “We need to re-look at how we plan public spaces, make them accessible, and at the same time, improve the flow of information, amongst people in the community, young and old, be it within or outside of homes,” added Dr Tsao.

Juventia Tjahyon, a finalist from Nanyang Academy of Fine Art, designed a future walking stick to meet the needs of elderly people. The walking stick is fitted with a screen that can display a planner and calendar, as well as provide location and directions.

One of the most popular entries in the contest, the video Efficient Lighting and Optimizing Space made by Basheer Mohamed Haroon from Temasek Polytechnic, received more than 1,180 votes. The video explores options for fitting public housing flats with solar glass walls and panels to help households save energy, as well as using automated car parking to minimise land required for vehicles.

A judging panel of five experts in design and sustainability will choose one winner each for the categories of ‘Best Idea’, ‘Most Innovative Idea’ and ‘Most Inspiring Idea’. These winners will win cash prizes of S$2,000, S$1,500 and S$1,500 respectively, in addition to Philips Electronics products.

Up to 19 of the most popular entries, based on public voting, will receive a S$50 cash reward in addition to prizes.

The winners will be announced by 31 October.

Head of 3D Design at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Sabrina Long, said the contest was a good opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience. “This competition is significant, not only for the relevant subject matter to our discipline, but also because the theme of innovations for the future is meaningful,” she noted.

Wong Lup Wai, country manager of Philips Singapore, said the contest, which is part of the firm’s 60th Anniversary in Singapore celebrations, was meant to raise awareness and inspire students to rethink the planning of physical and social spaces through design and technology.

“Innovation centred around human needs is the key to improve people’s health and well-being and to help secure the long-term future of our city,” he said.

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