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Speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, at the Launch of the Revamped Singapore City Gallery, AUDE Space, Re: Bench, and “Contemporaneous Architecture” Publication

  Published: 20 March 2019

Good morning. I am very happy to be here for the launch of three projects – each of them meritorious in their own right: the revamped Singapore City Gallery; the new Architecture and Urban Design Excellence (AUDE) Space; and the publication “Contemporaneous Architecture”. We are also here to celebrate the winning designs of the Re: Bench competition.

Everyone has a role to play in how our city is planned. Shaping a successful city requires many hands, hearts and minds. For people to want to get more involved in shaping our city, it is important that they first understand what city and urban planning are about, and the challenges that planners have to overcome.

Sharing Singapore’s transformation story

Since it was launched in January 1999, the Singapore City Gallery has been an important platform to showcase Singapore’s tremendous physical transformation over the last 50 years. This revamp is timely, as exhibits need to evolve to reflect the current planning direction and the kind of city that we aspire to become. 

In our revamped gallery, there is a new extension that showcases maps, plans and models created by countless planners, architects and designers, who have worked tirelessly to explore every option to make our city better. The gallery has also been refreshed with new interactive and immersive exhibits.

You will discover how our city works, how to be more involved, and hear stories about people who are pitching in to help in the process. One such person featured in the gallery is avid cyclist Mr Han Jok Kwang. Jok Kwang’s passion for cycling led him to partner Government agencies such as NParks, LTA and MOT to help improve cycling facilities and infrastructure in Singapore.

As a car-lite advocate, he organises cycling tours to help people discover ‘hidden gems’ around the island. In doing so, he helps us appreciate a different side of Singapore and shares with us how the choices we may make, such as cycling instead of driving, can improve the liveability of our city.

When the Gallery first opened in 1999, it received some 20,000 visitors each year. Now, it gets close to 150,000 a year. As the numbers grew, we also heard requests for guided tours.

In 2017, URA started offering free guided tours once a month. I am pleased that these free tours will be offered much more frequently starting from tomorrow.

These tours will be led by our community volunteers, such as Madam Tan Yen Fong. Madam Tan is 64 years young. She retired 6 years ago and began in earnest as a volunteer with URA, after experiencing a Gallery tour herself. It made her realise the sheer amount of planning that goes into making Singapore work. She discovered that there was so much about her home she didn’t know, or that she sometimes would take for granted. I’m happy we have passionate people like Madam Tan, and I’m glad that she plans to be URA’s volunteer guide for many more years to come.

I hope Jok Kwang’s and Madam Tan’s passion will inspire you to get involved in your own way to shape our city

Supporting our industry partners

Another important group of people who dream, inspire and shape our city are our architects. They shape the larger landscape, create spaces that foster community ties, identity and social belonging. We want to give our architects a place to share their good ideas with the community.

That is why we have set up the Architecture and Urban Design Excellence, or AUDE Space, just behind me. This space gives our Singapore architecture and design firms, in particular small and boutique firms, a platform to showcase their designs, network and spark collaborations. We hope that it will become a place where aspiring architects too can draw learning and inspiration.

Mr Chu Yang Keng of IX Architects is our first exhibitor for the AUDE Space. For him, such spaces are a canvas for conversation and change. He plans to use it to share new knowledge on design and test unexplored concepts.  He also intends to use AUDE Space as a platform to gain more exposure for his work. We hope that other firms will join him, and find the space useful.

AUDE Space will also house a collection of significant books on Singapore architecture and architectural firms. The latest addition to this collection is URA’s new publication titled “Contemporaneous Architecture”. It documents 70 exemplary architectural projects that have shaped Singapore’s landscape in the last 15 years. It also showcases our home-grown architects and architecture to the world.

Supporting industry partners is part of our ongoing efforts to make Singapore a distinctive city.

Empowering Young Designers

In front of the AUDE Space as well as around the atrium, you will see some new benches created by young designers and fabricated from the historic wooden seats of the old National Stadium. These benches are designs from “Re: Bench” competition. For this edition, the project reached out specifically to our young designers, empowering them to be involved in sculpting our city.

Looking at the results, it is evident that there is so much creativity out there among young Singaporeans.

There were many good entries but 14 designs were picked by the judging panel after much deliberation. A set of these benches have been placed at The URA Centre.

To ensure the good designs can be enjoyed by more people, another two sets have been fabricated and installed in Marina Bay, and in a homecoming at the Singapore Sports Hub.

One of the benches, a pair of over-sized hands, was designed by 31-year-old Goh Zheng Ning. He chanced upon the Re:Bench competition on the internet and realised that some of the interesting benches he had seen around Singapore were the products of the previous edition of Re:Bench.

Zheng Ning shared that his design experience with the project helped him think more deeply about his work as a product engineer. He hopes that the public can continue to shape our public spaces through ground up initiatives such as this, to further provide identity and meaning to our public spaces.

I am encouraged by Zheng Ning’s passion, which has resulted in such beautiful work, and I am delighted to be able to present him and the other winners with their awards shortly. Thank you for contributing to shape our urban spaces, and congratulations.


It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the refreshed Singapore City Gallery, with its new interactive and immersive spaces. I invite you to learn more about our country’s development journey, as well as our journey ahead.

I am delighted to declare the revamped Singapore City Gallery open, as well as launch the AUDE Space, benches from the Re:Bench project, and the “Contemporaneous Architecture” publication, today.

To everyone who has helped to make today’s event a success, thank you. Have a good day ahead.