Week 06: Transposing design elements into forms

-Recap from last week –

PSD matrix was constructed based on the characteristics of the north hall heritage trees: Banyan = Fluidity, Tanjong = Vitality, Binjai = Transience.

This week we aim to transpose the three design elements into meaningful visual forms that represent its characteristics.

Multiple types of green are already scattered around the communal plaza. Positioning the actual plantation of  Tanjong, Binjai and Banyan via sculpture/installation may be seen as a common sight. The question we’d like to ask ourselves – how do we differentiate the existence of these trees from the rest while not making them look out of place?? 

The possible executions were narrowed down to:

A) Allows nature to grow accordingly to the form of sculpture(s) or

B) Sculpture that takes on the form of nature (e.g. growth of trees / seasonal process of leaves shedding / blossoming of flowers)

We found an artist who works on a similar concept that uses tree as part of his installation in a public space along Crown Street Mall, Wollongong, Australia. Mike Hewson uses misshapen palm trees and sandstones to create ‘tree seats’ and a children’s playground. He hopes to bring the city’s landscape into the mall, while providing identity-forming icons for the city. (source)

However, we want it being more than just an aesthetic ornament. There’s more significance value if we look into the environmental considerations of the communal plaza (space, current facilities, limited light sources at night etc).

We decided to drop the idea of involving the actual trees as part of our sculpture, as it does not serve to invoke the sense of common identity within audiences (i.e residents). Their characteristics will rather be expressed in an abstract form with a purposeful function. Our design focuses to facilitate more social interaction among the residents.

Site Observation

We find the seats were sparsely scattered around the communal space. Awkward placements of the geometrical seats make them less inviting to sit on as an individual or a group. Light source shines at the trees rather than the pathways.

This leads us to looking at comfortable seats that lights up during night time. Public benches that looks homely and comfortable enough to take a moment to rest on before heading back home.

Research References

Seats that looks invitingly comfortable to snuggle in ( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)

A Sculptural Chair for Relaxing by Nova Obiecta
Steam 12 by Bae Se Hwa

CHITCHAT: Designed to inspire social interaction – Strangers break the ice to interact as they join in to balance the seat.

CHICHAT by Teun Fleskens

Quick Prototypes of Seating Sculptures

*green marked tapes illustrate the seats

Extra thoughts:

  • lights will run at the bottom of the sculptures, shining on pathways.
  • changes colour of light when motion sensor detects the presence of physical movements from the passerby.
  • trail of light lights up as people walk along the sculpture (motion sensor too)
  • possibility of making them modular pieces to unify style, rather than random swirls.


Week 04: Discover Identity of Space with Nature

This week we dive back into the research of the three north residential halls: Binjai, Tanjong and Banyan. Our initial idea was to create a light sculpture based on the element forms of flowers from the trees. The purpose is to design a statement piece that people can identify with the NTU heritage trees.

The challenge we encounter was to integrate these three elements that is so diverse. Then we questioned ourselves, “why flowers??” What are the eminent qualities in them?

In addition to the last week’s insights on discovering nature through a medium, we first need to identify the characteristics of the representative trees of north halls.

Banyan Tree

  • Burmese Banyan (Ficus kurzii) species in Singapore
  • Strangler Fig that begins its life as an epiphyte (grows on other trees)
  • Envelopes and kills host tree as it decomposes. Banyan eventually leaves a hollow central core which is desirable for animals to take shelter in the wild.
  • Unable to germinate on ground but more on woodland
  • Leaves are large, leathery, glossy and elliptical
  • Circumference of 30 m and a height of about 35 m

 Characteristic: Fluidity/Adaptability in growth 

Binjai Tree

  • Mangifera caesia tree (Binjai in Malay) is native to Singapore, endangered species
  • Dome shaped crown, dense
  • Edible brown-yellowish fruit (part of mango family tree), used in sambal chilli and rojak
  • Grows on lowlands
  • Deciduous: Seasonal leaves shedding 
  • Leaves are rounded, large and leathery
  • Height of 30m tall

 Characteristic: Transience/Momentary 

Tanjong Tree

  • Tanjong (Mimusops elengi) tropical tree in SEA region
  • Evergreen
  • White star-like flowers produce sweet scent. Used as adornment, stringed them into necklaces
  • Red-orange fruits with velvety skin, eaten by birds
  • Medical values: leaves are used to ease headaches, the bark for the treatment of pimples and the roots used to sooth sore throats
  • Leaves are glossy, oval-shaped with wavy leaf margins.
  • Height of 20m, circumference of 1m

 Characteristic: Vitality 

We identify the design elements to be Fluidity, Transcendence and Vitality. To translate and communicate the elements into visual form.

The possible ideas to present the 3 elements are:

  • Interactive seat
  • Water fountain
  • Sheltered seating area
  • Light sculpture
  • Kinetic sculpture
Reference works 

We look into how nature themed installations/sculptures are used as a medium to represent/give meaning to places.

1. Warde by HQ Architects

Located in Valero Square, Jerusalem, the interactive light installation aims to revive a dead urban space that is lacking human crowds. They chose poppies as the form as poppies often thrive in neglected and disturbed environment. The poppies will open and close when there are any passerby, which will ignite the curiosity in them to come and interact with the space.

Warde by HQ ArchitectsWarde by HQ Architects

Warde by HQ Architects

Source: Can Art Revive a Dead Urban Space?

2. moistSCAPE by Freecell

The installation featured geometrical planes of steel structures with different species of mosses growing on it. The whole space provides an opportunity for viewers to walk in and experience the combination of nature and artificial materials.

moistSCAPE 3D Geometric Moss Art Installation by Freecell

Rear of moistSCAPE Moss and Steel BedMoss Surfaces Suspended in mid-air by Structural Steel Elements

Source: Moistscape – 3D Geometric Moss Art Installation

3. Living Pavilion by Ann Ha & Behrang Behin

The concept of this pavilion is to bring back nature into the city by adding some “green” into the space. This was constructed using milk crates and shade tolerant plants which enable the place to maintain cooler temperature and easy disassembly of the pavilion.



Source: FIGMENT 2010 City of Dreams: Living Pavilion


> Two ways of execution: Actual integration of three plantations, symbolic form of the 3 characteristics

> Cohesiveness of combining three different characteristics

> Hybrid tree?? Research!!

> Co-habitat space for the trees

> what kind of first impression you want to project upon looking at the sculpture/installation


Reference links:

Burmese Banyan in Singapore

The Banyan Tree: A tree of elegance, superstition and even murder

Binjai Tree in Singapore

Singapore Heritage Trees (Binjai tree)

Tanjong Trees in Singapore

Tanjong Trees – Tress from Seeds