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How Singapore’s godfather of furniture design married function and form at Changi’s Jewel.

Around the world, if you ask anyone who knows design to name a Singaporean furniture designer, Nathan Yong will be first to mind. The multi-award winning creator, whose designs have been exhibited around the world and adopted by legendary brands including Ligne Roset, not only runs the Industrial Design Course at Lasalle College of the Arts but is also co-founder of new creative space Grafunkt in Singapore’s Funan mall. Therefore, it seems only right that he was invited to design the public seating for Singapore’s landmark experiential retail destination – Jewel at Changi.

Since it opened in 2019, the Moshe Safdie designed complex has drawn global attention as a destination in itself for travellers passing through Changi airport as much as for the enjoyment of Singaporeans looking for a day of entertainment. Premium retail and dining combines with an extraordinary internal garden, the highlight of which is a 40-metre high rain vortex. This indoor waterfall is a cascade of harvested rainwater that streams spectacularly from the glass-domed roof down seven floors. Surrounding is a forest valley of lush trees and palms and above this, two walkways. The effect is a fascinating juxtaposition of the mental escape provided by nature with the buzz and dynamism of a high-end mall.

When asked to design for this space, Nathan Yong’s take was to provide a cool and calm balance to this energetic environment. His aim was to create a place where visitors could sit, absorb and reflect. Drawing on his favourite Flow bench, the seating he has designed is stripped of superfluous details. Narrow strips of American white oak form soft curves that are soothing to the eye and the shaped white oak seats look invitingly comfortable.

This is where Yong shows his real skill as an industrial designer and artist. Seating in one of Singapore’s busiest public spaces needs to be tough. American white oak is widely used for its strength and stability and these timber strips are 1cm apart and supported by a metal frame. Furthermore, the fabulous glass dome roof in Jewel created a need for an alternative air-conditioning solution. Yong’s benches conceal underground aircon units. The seating structure can be quickly and easily dismantled to allow service access and cleaning. LED lights illuminate the seating at night when visitors are treated to a lightshow in the canopy.

The design, like its creator, is a cool and understated exterior hiding an innovative and highly intelligent core.

For more information about Nathan Yong: http://nathanyongdesign.com/nathanyong/default.asp