Singapore as an Imaginary World



Globalisation is a result of the progressively closer contact between human societies across the globe, which is supported by the advance of the technology. In this situation, the boundary between national, cultural, and political spaces are collapsing, so does the boundary between the “real” and the “imagination”. Singapore, as a nation that relies on tourism for its income, is trying to use the opportunities provided by globalisation to boost its tourism sector. The new concept of F1 Café and Exhibition will become an addition for the selection of tourist attractions in Singapore.

The idea for the design of F1 Café and Exhibition is to create a utopia. It is inspired by the concept of simulacra, where a representation has replaced the reality. When this representation becomes more real than the reality itself, it will create a hyperreal world. This is what the design of F1 Café and Exhibition is trying to achieve, an imaginary world where visitors can experience the excitement of the F1 race.

1. Introduction

“A globalized world is one of increasing instantaneity, where communication media enable people in disparate locations to experience events simultaneously.” (Ray, 2007, p. 1)

Globalisation happens without us even realising it. It is a result of the progressively closer contact between human societies across the globe, which is supported by the advance of technology. Airplanes, ships, telephones, the Internet have made global transportation and communication very easy and can be done in a short amount of time. The term “Global Village”, coined by Marshall McLuhan (1992 cited in Ray, 2007, p.1), describes the situation where boundaries between national, cultural, and political spaces that have collapsed because the fast speed of communication.

Aware of this ever-changing world, Singapore has always tried to be relevant and kept up with the pace of globalisation. As a nation that relies on tourism for its income, Singapore tries to manipulate the opportunities provided by globalisation to enhance its tourism sector. The proposed project of F1 Café and Exhibition will become an addition for the tourism selection in Singapore.

The design of the F1 Café and Exhibition will also utilised the idea created by globalisation. Globalisation has blurred the boundary of the “real” and the “imaginary”. Digital media, such as television, the Internet, and computer games, has created a new world of the “hyperreal”. It is a world where reality is being exaggerated. In that world, people can be whoever they wanted to be. This idea of hyperreal world will be applied to the design of the F1 Café and Exhibition to create a unique experience of F1 racing for the visitors.

2. Singapore as an Imaginary World

2.1 Uniquely Singapore

The speed of transportation has increased significantly in this era of globalisation. Travelling around the globe has become very fast and easy. As a nation without natural resources, Singapore is dependant on tourism to boost its economy. The “Uniquely Singapore” brand was launched in 2004 to promote the tourism sector in Singapore. Since then, Singapore has planned and organised unique tourist experience through enhancement of identified tourism area (Orchard Road, Marina Bay, Singapore River, and Chinatown) and also organized world-class event (first Formula One night race in 2008 and Youth Olympic Games in 2010).

With the key advantage of strategic geographical location, Singapore has always been the junction of trading and cultural route. Singapore has always tried to be relevant to rest of the world and aimed to position itself as the forerunner of globalised country. Therefore, international luxury brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci could emerge ubiquitously along the famous shopping belt of Orchard Road.

In the 1970s, Orchard Road has shown the potential to be an entertainment complex. Previously, there were only few buildings like C.K. Tangs, Plaza Singapura, and the Mandarin Hotel. Today, Orchard Road has become a magnificent 5 kilometres shopping belt with new shopping malls that keep springing up along the road. Even the older shopping malls have consistently revamped themselves to keep up with the competition and to stay relevant with the newest trends. Beside the enhancement of Orchard Road, recently Singapore has also been trying to remake itself into the “Monaco of the East”. The new Integrated Resort and Casino is trying to mimic the glamorous lifestyle of Monaco, not to forget the new world-class event of Formula One street circuit that previously was only owned by the historical Monaco Grand Prix.

Singapore has become a tourism paradise. It provides everything that is needed by tourists. Every sort of entertainment can be found in Singapore, from large shopping district, various types of cuisines, luxurious resort, casino, theme park, to world-class events. Furthermore, tourist attractions in Singapore are planned specially to provide a unique experience for the visitors. In the end, Singapore has transformed itself into an “Imaginary World”.

2.2 Glocalisation of F1 in Singapore

After understanding the context of Singapore and the demand in its tourism industry, it is decided to create a new concept of F1 Café and Exhibition. In 2007, a five-year deal was signed by Singapore GP Pte Ltd, the Singapore Tourism Board and Bernie Ecclestone to hold world's first Formula One night race at Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore.

This has been a great success for Uniquely Singapore's campaign. The three-day event held over the weekend of 26-28 September had attracted approximately 50.000 visitors from around the world. As a world event, Singapore F1 Grand Prix has also been able to draw a large numbers of global television audiences, which help to expose Singapore to the world.

Unfortunately, with a street circuit, F1 in Singapore can only be experienced once a year. Therefore, Singapore needs a “monument” to keep the awareness alive. F1 café and exhibition will act as a permanent exhibition so tourists can experience F1 in Singapore throughout the year. Besides, F1 Café and Exhibition will also bring revenue and open more job opportunities for Singapore.

Yet, apart from boosting the tourism, Singaporean themselves are lacking of enthusiasm for F1. Although there is 13 percents increase in F1 audience in 2007 compared to 2006, Singaporean still sees F1 as a mere tourist attraction event. That's why, through the design, F1 Café and Exhibition must be able to glocalise the global brand of F1 while also globalise the new concept of the F1 Café and Exhibition itself to the world.

2.3 Designing an Imaginary World

2.3.1 Simulacra, Simulation, and the Hyperreal

The idea for the F1 Café and Exhibition design is to create a utopia, where people can experience the excitement of F1 race inside the space. This idea is inspired by simulacra. Simulacra are a representation of something, a copy of a copy. Representation stands in between the sign and the real. This representation will create simulation. Simulation is not pretentious; it challenges the boundary between the “true” and the “false”, the “real” and the “imaginary”.

According to Baudrillard (1994), there are 3 orders of simulacra. The first order is the simulacra that are natural, founded on the image, on imitation and counterfeit. The second order is the simulacra that are productive, founded on energy, force. The third order is the simulacra of simulation, founded on information, the model, the cybernetic game. In the first order, images only act as an artificial representation. The images are what people see and recognise as the representation of the real, for example novel, drawing, and map. The second order blurs the boundary between the reality and the representation. It is when the images are made so detailed that even though they are only a representation, the image itself can also be seen as the real. The third order is the hyperreality. It is when the representation becomes more real and perfect than the “real” itself.

Hyperreality exists because the boundary between the real and the imaginary can no longer be distinguished. It is a product of the advance technology where the contemporary media, such as television, film, print, the Internet, computer games, is no longer only relaying information but also creating their own interpretation of the information. People are convinced that what they see is real although in fact it may be just a fiction.

This distortion of reality will be applied to the design of the F1 Café and Exhibition. To create the F1 Utopia, first it must be able to blur the boundary of reality and imagination. F1 café and exhibition is the representation of the F1 street circuit. The elements inside the space will also be a representation of what's happening in an F1 race. This holistic representation will create a hyperreality that brings out the imaginary world of F1.

2.3.2 Case Study: Sleeping Beauty Castle of Disneyland Paris

“In Fantasyland, guests enter an extraordinary world found only in their dreams - and in the fantastic worlds of Walt Disney.” (Littaye and Ghez, 2002)

Disneyland is one of the examples of a hyperreal world. It has taken the reality into the extremes. It plays with illusions, blurring the boundary between the real and the imaginary. The setting in Disneyland is made absolutely realistic that visitors would forget that they are actually inside a fantasy world.

The fantasy world of Disney is achieved through deep research and understanding of the context. The “Imagineer”, the design and development team who is responsible for the creation of Disney theme parks, needs to understand the real world and the fantasy world to create contrast between the both worlds. The design must be whole, following a set of story rules that creates the fantasy environment of the place: the colour, the ambience, the detailing, usage of symbols, etc.

As a centrepiece of Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle has the task of uniting the overall creative theme in one place (Littaye and Ghez, 2002). The “Imagineer” surveyed about two-dozen castles and cherry picked their inspiration from those most remarkable chateaux. They studied the elements and details of the “real” castle and applied them in their Sleeping Beauty Castle. However, it is not an obvious copy of the reality. The “Imagineer” only took inspirations of the real castle. Those inspirations are later to be enchanted into something that is uniquely Disney.

However, Sleeping Beauty Castle is only one example of the element, from the thousands other elements, that created the whole imaginary world of Disney. It is the consistency and thorough treatment to the whole area that has transformed Disneyland into a fairy tale world. Disneyland makes us forget the “imaginary” world outside and believe that we are inside a “real” world of fantasy.

This is the process of how Disney created the third order of simulacra. Instead of creating only an artificial representation - like in the first order of simulacra, the “Imagineer” successfully transformed the images and representation of the real into something beyond the real, the fantasy world of Disney. It is a meticulous work into the smallest detail, creating an absolute reality from the reality itself.

2.4 The F1 Global Design

After conducting a survey, Centerstage at Marina Square is chosen to be the site of the F1 Café and Exhibition. This location is chosen because of its 3 benefits. Firstly, it has a direct view to the F1 street circuit itself. As a representation of the Singapore F1 street circuit, it is very important for the F1 Café and Exhibition to have a connection with the actual street circuit itself. This will also provide the opportunities for the visitors to enjoy the Singapore F1 Grand Prix event from the F1 Café and Exhibition. Secondly, it is located among tourist attractions such as Esplanade, Singapore Flyer, Suntec City, and Millennia Walk. As stated before, the purpose of F1 Café and Exhibition is to create a new selection of tourist attraction that's why a strategic tourist area is also one of the considerations of choosing the site. Lastly, it has a beautiful view to One Raffles Quay area and Marina Bay area. This view will add value to the dining ambience of the F1 Café and Exhibition.

The design for F1 Café and Exhibition must be able to break through the boundary of cultural preferences and the boundary of the “real” and the “imaginary”. The aim in the design is to create a utopian space where you can experience the F1 racing inside the space. This aim will be achieved through the concept of “Overtaking Manoeuvre”.

The concept of “Overtaking Manoeuvre” is derived from the racing line of the cars at the first corner after the start and few overtaking that happened in Singapore GP 2008. From the analysis of the racing line, it is understand that there are overlapping, intersection, and zigzag movement between the normal racing line and the overtaking manoeuvre, those are the keywords for the concept. The keywords are later translated into a form, which will be adapted into the site. To the interior, the form will act as a floor, wall, ceiling, and furniture, therefore creating spaces needed for the dining and exhibition. This form will also act as the representation of the racing line inside the space so when people enter the space, they will feels like they are entering an F1 race itself.

To stimulate the excitement and tension of F1 race, the visitors will be served with detailed information of F1. In the exhibition area, visitors will be given chance to sit in the cockpit of the F1 car. There are also simulators that will provide the visitors chance to experience driving an F1 car. The dining area itself is a continuation of the exhibition. There will be car parts floating above the dining to represent crashes in F1 racing.

The selection of materials and colours are taken from the materials and colours that are usually used in F1. The form is made from carbon fibre which is the material that is most used to make an F1 car. The flooring and wall covering material is from tar and rubber, which are usually used for circuit surface and tire. The colour scheme used in the area is black, white, and red, which are the colours of an F1 logo. All of these are to create a more real environment of F1 therefore enhancing the experience of the visitors.

Using the representation and the stimulation of experience, the design will bring out the imaginary world of F1. It will create a space where people can escape the ordinary and enter the world of F1 racing.

3. Conclusion

Globalisation has broken down the boundary between national, cultural, and political spaces. It has also blurred the boundary between the “real” and the “imaginary”. With the advance of technology, almost everything is possible. It has a created a new world of hyperreal, a world where everything is possible. Singapore is using these opportunities provided by globalisation to boost its tourism. In the end, Singapore itself has created an “Imaginary World” of a tourism paradise.

F1 Café and Exhibition is made to fulfil the demand of tourism sector in Singapore. The design of the F1 Café and Exhibition aims to reinforce the world of utopia. Using representation of the real and pushing it to the extreme, the design of F1 Café and Exhibition will create an imaginary world where people can experience the excitement of an F1 race.

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