The Solar Orchid: Floating Hawker Centre, in Singapore

In the tradition of conceptual and visionary architecture proposals, SPARK Architects reveal their design for a floating hawker centre – the Solar Orchid.

This concept for self-contained, solar-powered, floating hawker pods suggests a way to mend the now distant relationship between Singapore and its waterscapes, while celebrating and reinvigorating a favoured local pass time.

Singapore was built on an intimate relationship with the water, which has historically been an artery of culture, commerce and recreation. However, the recent decades of urban development, industrialisation and land reclamation have largely severed this relationship, deleting most of the traditional kampungs and kelongs from the coast, inland water bodies, and sea.

SPARK’s concept for a floating hawker centre draws on our experience of the city, its culture and heritage, and all that we enjoy about it, to imagine a new relationship with Singapore’s public waterscape. This visionary project imagines a mobile, reconfigurable and sustainable floating hawker centre that could ‘pop up’ in a variety of locations and formats. The Solar Orchid recalls the mobility of the original Singaporean hawker – the mobile street vendor – with self-contained, solar-powered, lightweight floating pods. Each pod accommodates cooking stalls (incorporating built-in exhaust, water, gas, electrical, waste collection and water recycling services) as well as table settings.

The protective canopy is an energy-generating inflated ETFE pillow incorporating thin-film photovoltaic cells. It complements the $11 million Singaporean government initiative to develop floating solar islands in Singapore’s reservoirs. The Solar Orchids can be clustered together in various formations to create hawker centres that are able to respond to different locations and conditions. They would leave no trace of their presence due to their selfcontained nature.

Stephen Pimbley says: “The idea of reinventing the hawker centre grew from the widely documented observation that the popularity of the traditional hawker lifestyle has begun to wane. We seek to reenergise the hawker centre typology while retaining the soul of a very Singaporean dining experience”.

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We have a duty as designers to develop and propose ideas and visions that can enhance our cities, as well as contribute to making them more liveable places. History offers many extraordinary examples of visionary projects that remain on paper, serving as vehicles for debate about the future of our cities.

SPARK’s Solar Orchid proposal is a bold vision unhindered by commercial and planning constraints. It is our reflection on changing social, cultural and environmental conditions and concerns and how the best the untapped pockets of the city can be used to support and make better the lives of Singaporeans.

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