Cover Design By Numbers is the flagship exhibition at this year's SIDFest Photo: Courtesy of SIDFest

Add this event to your weekend plans—led by festival director Dennis Cheok, the Singapore Interior Design Festival (SIDFest) 2021 returns with an exciting line-up of immersive installations at the National Design Centre

Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”. This saying holds true for the team behind this year’s Singapore Interior Design Festival (SIDFest), which will run from June 18 to July 18 this year at the National Design Centre.

In its third edition, the festival was put on hiatus last year due to the pandemic restrictions; originally planned to run in May, its launch was further delayed by the tightened restrictions in the recent months. Presented by the Society of Interior Designers, the month-long festival brings designers and design enthusiasts together to celebrate innovative ideas and positive perspectives. 

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“SIDFest is an event for the public to enjoy, an opportunity for people outside the design community to see and experience good design,” says festival director Dennis Cheok, who also helms local design studio UPSTRS_. 

“We had to postpone this year’s event by a month due to the heightened measures. But considering that we had to cancel last year’s edition, we are simply thankful to have been able to organise this year’s special edition, where we have placed innovation at the forefront while tackling key issues like the impact of design in a post-Covid-19 world.”

The team’s forward-looking grit embodies this year’s theme, Optimised/Optimism, which reflects the National Design Centre’s overarching 2021 curatorial theme of Casting Hope.

“We rallied all sectors of the design industry to step forward with an optimistic take on the global pandemic, and to put up a showcase of the lessons learned and achievements earned,” says Cheok. “The festival title was first penned by James Wee, a secretariat at Society of Interior Designers, who is also a budding writer. It warms my heart to bear witness to so many dedicated individuals coming together with the shared purpose of making this festival happen.”

We rallied all sectors of the design industry to step forward with an optimistic take on the global pandemic, and to put up a showcase of the lessons learned and achievements earned.

—Dennis Cheok, festival director of SIDFest

With a spectrum of immersive exhibitions, showcases, as well as engaging talks and symposiums, the month-long festival will span throughout the entire complex. “Apart from the main atrium with our flagship event Design By Numbers, we’ve managed to flesh out a series of programs at various locations and spaces around the historic building—I think this is quite unprecedented,” says Cheok.

Here, Cheok takes us through some of the key highlights to catch at the festival. 

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1. Design by Numbers

Occupying the main atrium space, Design by Numbers is presented as the highlight of the festival with a series of immersive installations from various local designers and studios. The showcase features large-scale structures of different heights and sizes that form various interactive and multi-sensory exhibits. The diverse installations sit on a numbered plot that represents the different segments in the industry coming together in a cumulative module.

Highlights include Space Furniture’s visually arresting exhibit with veteran interior designer Peter Tay, an interactive tactile showcase from Cosentino, featuring abstract rock-like sculptures from SIDS President Keat Ong and Jimmy Tong of Luxx NewHouse, and two experiential tunnels from lighting label Sol Luminaire. 

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“The assembly and coming together of Design By Numbers within the atrium space of National Design Centre is something that I’m really excited about,” gushes Cheok. “We carved out a grid of 1.5m by 1.5m, established the rules of the game, and it was basically carte blanche for each of the creatives and brand partners. We’re really excited to show the making and coming together of the exhibit, and we will be capturing the whole process with a time-video of the entire transformation of the space. Keep a lookout for this.”

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2. Generation Next

As its name suggests, Generation Next introduces the work of emerging designers who have been tasked to create works that demonstrate design solutions that can also create a positive social impact. This exhibit features the winning entries from the Singapore Interior Design Awards (SIDA) Youth 2020, as well as the works from students at local art and design schools that include Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Raffles Design Institute Singapore and Singapore Institute of Technology.

“I think that the fresh lens of an inquisitive young mind can bear ground-breaking design ideas and solutions,” says Cheok. “At the same time, the showcase is a recognition of their good work and we cannot stress enough the importance of sharing of good student work publicly. The exhibition space for Generation Next is something that I also look forward to. With corrugated cardboard as the only building material, four training rooms within National Design Centre have been completely taken over in a physical display of material, process, and design outcomes that harnesses the virtual world at moments.”

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3. [Outside] the Box

Located at the entrance courtyard, this outdoor installation encourages one to think of diverse design solutions with social impact.

This showcase features Doonya, a modular home and shop designed to improve and uplift the lives of those living in urban slums around the world. Designed as an innovative solution for those living in slums worldwide, the installation at SIDFest showcases the ease of transforming the structure into a shop by day and home by night.

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4. Lockdown

An experiential installation by Indonesian design studio Sciencewerk, the exhibit is based on their 2020 project Survival Guide, a series of interviews from creatives around the globe who expressed their thoughts on the pandemic. Brought to life as a motion installation, the showcase features the opinions, strategy, and advice from the interview excerpts of creative individuals from around the world.

Lockdown is something quite close to my heart,” Cheok reveals. “I was one of the participants that Sciencewerk reached out to, and they covered seven countries across the globe when we were all in the thick of a global pandemic lockdown. There was so much creative restlessness when we all did it a year ago, and I am thrilled with the result: a three-dimensional design outcome of moving graphics & soundscapes.”

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5. The Asia Roundtable and other symposiums

A series of virtual and in-person talks will also be hosted as part of the festival. Gathering the design community from 15 different countries together for a webinar on June 25, the Asia Roundtable will share exciting perspectives on the future of design in a post-pandemic world.

“Through the industry leaders of each nation and territory, we will have a better understanding of how the interior design industry in each region is doing as well as their plans for rejuvenation,” says Cheok. “Hosted as a series of rapid quickfire sessions, each of the 15 country’s delegates has less than five minutes to present their findings and propositions in the live webinar.”

Another international conference will also be held on June 26. A hybrid conference supported by the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI), the SIDS Symposium will be attended both physically and virtually by delegates and the international design community who will discuss the future and changing needs of interior design.

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