Arts Singapore

Unexpected Innovation and Fresh Perspectives: The City Ramble Design Trails by Shophouse & Co.


Singapore Design Week is upon us again, and creative placemaking studio Shophouse & Co. are back with the fifth edition of The City Ramble Design Trails! One of their most popular programmes, each trail is a chance for participants to discover a side of the city they’ve never known, ripe with inspiration and the most creative of designs.

Stella Gwee and a scale model of Funan 2.0 made of Lego

At the media preview held on 8th March, Shophouse & Co. director Stella Gwee took us on a tour around some of the highlights to look out for during the tour. Gathering at Funan Showsuite on High Street, there probably no better place to possibly begin our tour.


No longer ‘Funan the IT Mall’, Funan 2.0 is undergoing a complete makeover before it reopens in July 2019. Set to be a major creative hub within the city, Funan Showsuite gives visitors a tantalising glimpse of what they can possibly expect from the rebranded mall. From the future home of W!ld Rice’s new theatre to bringing in Carolyn Kan’s Keepers and Carrie K, Funan 2.0 is a designer’s dream mall, with the promise of gorgeous bikes, neon signs and plenty of terrariums.

Visitors don’t have to wait till Funan reopens to experience some of the magic it has to offer though. Currently, the Funan Showsuite organises weekly craft workshops, and is free to enter. At the preview, we were introduced to independent designers JJ from Rehyphen Studio, repurposing lengths of old cassette and videotape to weave new unique tapestries, as well as Eileen from Miss Petal and Bloom, a self-taught paper florist who handcrafts flower displays from Italian crepe. Both JJ and Eileen will be conducting classes and talks at Funan Showsuite in the coming weeks.


But perhaps the highlight of today’s preview was the trip outside of town to see a side of Singapore we never knew existed. Hopping onto a bus, visitors have the chance to take a tour down to a little farm just off Queenstown – Citizen Farm Penjara.


If you do decide to head on the Citizen Farm leg of the tour, one of the first things you’ll see is likely to be Tobias’ City Ramble vintage Volkswagen. Despite its age, the Kombi Highroof VW Van has been very well maintained by the enthusiast, and besides being a great photo-op, serves as a ticket booth and ice cream truck for visitors on the tour.


One of the most exciting bits of the tour however, has to be what probably amounts to the ultimate hipster dream. Over at the farm, we were introduced to Big Tiny, pioneering a new way of living with tiny cars on wheels. Said Big Tiny co-founder Adrian Chan: “Because it’s such a small space, we use multifunctional furniture to fit everything inside. People became interested in tiny houses after seeing it on TV, and we’ll have a total of about 50 unites by the end of 2018.”


Based in Singapore but primarily marketed in Australia, the 4 by 4 metre houses created by Big Tiny may be small, but still come fully equipped with everything you need to survive, from a standing shower to even air conditioning! Using sustainable energy methods such as solar panels and rainwater collection systems, not only do you get a gorgeous, functional mobile home, you’re also saving the environment while living amidst nature itself while on the road!


Of course, being on Citizen Farm itself, we also learnt plenty about its produce. Although small, Citizen Farm is a community with big dreams, focusing on concepts such as farm to table, and cultivating plants and vegetation that end up as everything from ingredients to garnishes, to even beauty products, which they sell onsite.


Citizen Farm also happens to be home to the first licensed insect farm in Singapore, breeding Black Soldier Fly larvae to act as natural composters. These worms work quickly, decomposing natural waste, which is then transformed into organic plant fertilizer. A zero waste system, when the worms pupate and metamorphose into adult flies, the resulting pupa is apparently high in protein, and is used in the farm’s animal feed and compost. Not for the squeamish, but it’s a fascinating project, and set to expand as well with more trays of worms planned to be set up by year end to process more waste. Of course, having that experience had no effect on our tasty lunch, provided by vegan fast food joint VeganBurg. It’s no wonder they’ve lasted so long in the industry – the food is pretty tasty, and it’s obvious they’ve put a lot of hard work and heart into making each dish.


Design doesn’t just happen within the city limits – there’s plenty of incredible discoveries to be made in the heartlands too. Beyond Citizen Farm, this year’s City Ramble programme also offers up visitors a chance to visit industrial warehouse with a Gothic tower turned creative hub The Mill over in Bukit Merah, where you can learn how to make traditional Japanese woodwork and enjoy an ice cold beer from the 1925 Brewing Co. On the City Ramble Heritage trail, participants visit three refurbished historical buildings and learn the heritage behind them. This weekend, go on a tour to find both yourself and Singapore with Shophouse & Co’s City Ramble Design Trails, and return home with a fresh take on the world around you.

The City Ramble Design Trails will take place from 10th – 11th March 2018, across different venues and will be ticketed at different prices. Visit for more details. 

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