Produce Workshop draws inspiration from the ubiquitous void deck for its very first cafe commission in Singapore, writes Yvonne Lee.
13 August, 2014
The projects that Produce Workshop puts forth are always driven by a design narrative. In the case of NOM, a bistro with No Other Meaning, inspiration is drawn from the void deck, or to be precise, the lack of it in the surrounding older generation public housing (HDB) blocks, which are not raised on pilotis.
The void deck, in the words of Chief Creative Producer of Produce, Pan Yi Cheng, is “an intermediary space from outside to inside, a space which belongs to everyone but belongs to no one, a space devoid of meaning, fixed usage and interpretation”.
With its location in the Macpherson neighbourhood, it is only apt that NOM aspires to be a communal space that reaches out to the community, just as how a void deck should be.
The client did not want to add to the already large number of up-market (hipster) cafes on this tiny red dot, neither did they want this to simply be another neighborhood kopitiam, hence the dilemma they faced in the process of searching for NOM’s identity.
Nonetheless, this unsettling state of NOM’s identity helped to reinforce the notion of void deck as defined earlier. A bar counter, steel-meshed furniture, and repetitive metal frames with circular opening – these interpreted imagery of mama shops, mosaic-tiled communal furniture, repetitive columns and circular openings respectively, also brings forth the concept of the void deck and gives form to the uniqueness of NOM.
Even though these portrayals might not be apparent at first sight, as Yi Cheng says, “once people realise, they will remember”. Thus begins the dialogue on a relationship with one of the most common spaces in Singapore.
The name Produce should also drop a hint on their nature of business and capabilities. From dessert trays to lights fixture, one witnesses the integrated process of design and making, which proves to be a rare commodity for designers in Singapore, at least.
In less than a year, NOM has already made its presence in the community by attracting young people and families, with children, especially, being captivated by the miniature dragon slide – a nostalgic image from the late 1970s.
Photographer: Mindy Tan
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